Faint gibbering heard from somewhere near the restricted stacks
Tag Archives: hegemony
Nostalgia can be contained and marketed—but actual difference would threaten the hegemony of the one worldview. The “Gift Economy” of some nearly-extinguished “primitive tribe” makes excellent TV; our mourning for its disappearance can only boost the sales of whatever commodity might soothe our sense of loss. Mourning itself can become fetishized, as in the victorian era of onyx and jet and black-plumed graveyard horses. Death is good for Capital, because money is the sexuality of the dead. Corpses have already appeared in advertising—”real” corpses.
This fairly slim book consists of five lecture texts:
˙ “On the Origin of Origins” begins the discussion, using the Jefferson-Adams correspondence on religious topics as a point of departure. It also orients around the writings of Priestly and Dupuis, and pinpoints the question of Christian origins in “Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics.”
˙ “On Comparison” is a largely methodological piece, that incisively outlines the gambits of uniqueness and genealogy that have served the agendas of Protestant polemic and Christian supremacism in previous work on the topic.
˙ “On Comparing Words” discusses the philological arguments to date, and their subservience to theological efforts. Quite happily for me, Smith chose to use the term mysterion for illustrative purposes throughout this section. Among other things, I learned about the ancient Greek pun attributed by Athenaios to Dionysos Tyrannos: mysterion = mus terein, “mouseholes!” (p. 56 n)
˙ “On Comparing Stories” has a quick survey of “pagan Christs” literature, before focusing in on Frazer’s ‘dying and rising’ god motif, and its application to Christianity in the work of Pfleiderer; then a discussion of the problems of data for historically-oriented comparisons.
˙ “On Comparing Settings” applies all of the foregoing to the question of comparing early Christianities (note the significant plural!) to other religions of antiquity, also bringing in Smith’s locative/utopian distinction. Smith’s confessed appreciation for and dependence on the Christian origins work of Burton Mack is clearest in this section.
Smith writes, “The Protestant hegemony over the enterprise of comparing the religions of Late Antiquity and early Christianities has been an affair of mythic conception and ritual practice from the outset.” Aleister Crowley’s Gospel According to St. Bernard Shaw (a.k.a. Jesus sub figura 888) still deserves that same valuation, despite its opposition to the Protestant hegemony, as he was fighting fire with fire. It was not “a thorough revaluation of the purposes of comparison” in service to “the scholarly imagination of religion,” as Smith would prefer. But Crowley’s tack adds an additional dimension to the history of the enterprise, and for those who wish to soldier on in the mythic and ritual battlefields, Smith’s book is a stone that will sharpen any sword that can hold the edge. [via]