Tag Archives: gospel of mark

Tragic Posture and Tragic Vision

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Tragic Posture and Tragic Vision: Against the Modern Failure of Nerve by John A Ruprecht, Jr.

Louis A Ruprecht Jr Tragic Posture and Tragic Vision

This wide-ranging meditation combines several elements: a rehabilitation of the concept of tragedy, a condemnation of the “tragic posture” as a feature of modern reflection, and theory about continuity and discreteness in religion. Author Ruprecht first sets himself against his contemporary theorists Alasdair MacIntyre and George Steiner, whom he takes as exponents of the (false) tragic posture of fatalistic pessimism. Then, in order to clarify what he understands as the (true) tragic vision, he begins with the classics, focusing especially on Sophocles’ Antigone as an exemplar. He moves from there into Hegel’s ideas about tragedy, and then to Nietzsche’s. He is not in perfect concurrence with either of these thinkers, but he sees their ideas as a tonic against the tragic posture, even if Nietzsche seems to court it in his later works.

Finally, Ruprecht takes issue with Nietzsche’s “Dionysus versus the Crucified” motto, postulating instead (like some of the Romantics whom Nietzsche criticized) that Jesus was a sympathetic development of Dionysus rather than an oppressive reaction against the pagan tragic ideal. He makes his case by championing the gospel of Mark as a tragic “performance,” focusing on the garden of Gethsemane, and indulging in a full comparison of the four canonical gospels with respect to this episode. In this longest section of the book, Ruprecht conspires with Frank Kermode (whose Genesis of Secrecy he repeatedly cites, though not always in agreement) to get me to view Mark as the best of the four Evangelists, whether or not he is the most “primitive.”

Particularly in the chapter on Nietzsche, and in a related appendix regarding the history of the Parthenon, Ruprecht insists on continuity over discreteness in religion and human experience generally. His opposition to the “tragic posture” is in large measure an objection to a modern exceptionalism (even if what is supposedly exceptional about modernity is its suckitude). I am rather sympathetic to this argument, without taking it to perennialist extremes — and Ruprecht doesn’t — but he also seems to want to view the question of technology (yes, he’s read his Heidegger) as a more peripheral or even cosmetic aspect of the modern condition, with its most significant consequences in degradation of the natural environment. This attitude makes me want to protest: Moore’s Law isn’t just a river in Egypt. [via]

The Genesis of Secrecy

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) by Frank Kermode, from Harvard University Press.

Frank Kermode The Genesis of Secrecy from Harvard University Press

This volume of Kermode’s Norton Lectures addresses “some of the forces that make interpretation necessary and virtually impossible, and some of the constraints under which it is carried on.” (125) Although he uses various literary instances (notably Henry Green’s Party Going, Joyce’s Ulysses, and Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49), his central and recurrent case study is the gospel of Mark.

Kermode treats various important hermeneutic dilemmas, such as the determining influence of institutional readings, the difficulty in delineating between history and fiction, the chicken-and-egg relationship between plot and character, and the difference between meaning and truth. First and foremost, though, he explores the necessity of both esoteric and exoteric interpretation. He suggests that the notion of esoteric sense in text may be especially pervasive in Western literature due to the influence of the gospels.

This is a short volume, but one worth savoring by anyone whose sense of the real, the sacred, or the beautiful is invested in a text. And it communicates important ideas about the nature of secrecy and its effects. [via]


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