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Fragmentation and Memory

Meditations onyChristian Doctrine

Karmen MacKendrick

Publication Year: 2008

Philosophers have long and skeptically viewed religion as a source of overeasy answers, with a singular, totalizing Godand the comfort of an immortal soul being the greatest among them. But religious thought has always been more interesting-indeed, a rich source of endlessly unfolding questions.With questions from the 1885 Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church as the starting point for each chapter, Karmen MacKendrick offers postmodern reflections on many of the central doctrines of the Church: the oneness of God, original sin, forgiveness, love and its connection to mortality, reverence for the relics of saints, and the doctrine of bodily resurrection. She maintains that we begin and end in questions and not in answers, in fragments and not in totalities-more precisely, in a fragmentation paradoxically integralto wholeness.Taking seriously Augustine's idea that we find the divine in memory, MacKendrick argues that memory does not lead us back in time to a tidy answer but opens onto a complicated and fragmented time in which we find that the one and the many, before and after and now, even sacred and profane are complexly entangled. Time becomes something lived, corporeal, and sacred, with fragments of eternity interspersed among the stretches of its duration. Our sense of ourselves is correspondingly complex, because theological considerations leadus not to the security of an everlasting, indivisible soul dwelling comfortably in the presence of a paternal deity but to a more complicated, perpetually peculiar, and paradoxical life in the flesh.Written out of MacKendrick's extensive background in both recent and late-ancient philosophy, this moving and poetic book can also be an inspiration to anyone, scholar or lay reader, seeking to find contemporary significance in these ancient theological doctrines.

Published by: Fordham University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

It is a source of recurrent pleasure and occasional surprise to me that so many smart and interesting people are so willing to be engaged in my projects. They have made this book much better than it would have been without them—though even that is to make the doubtable assumption...

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Introduction: On Having Forgotten

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pp. 1-8

Invariably, I have forgotten how to write.
This invariant fact, emerging early in every writing project, is, nevertheless, just as invariably a surprise. I always forget that I have always forgotten. Beginning to write anything, I realize that I have no idea how to do so—how to draw together (sculpturally or choreographically or...

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1. The One and The Many

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pp. 9-31

As the introduction has already hinted, the effort to clarify conceptually the thematic commonality of this text proves exasperating, perhaps appropriately so. How can one say together, and in some kind of order, discussions of fragmentation and scatteredness in time? How...

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2. The Sin of Origin

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pp. 32-54

Glossing what he calls the ‘‘strange and wondrous’’ Leibnizian theory of damnation, Gilles Deleuze writes in The Fold, ‘‘the damned, Judas or Beelzebub, does not pay retribution for a past action but for the hate of God that constitutes the present amplitude of his soul...

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3. From Trauma to Revelation

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pp. 55-83

If we begin with the question of sin, whether original or derivative, an obvious consequent question is that of forgiveness. Forgiveness is an elusive notion; as the opening catechismic questions indicate, it appears sacramentally as reconciliation (formerly designated penance, itself an interesting terminological shift), and it is understood to obtain...

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4. Poppies and Rosemary

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pp. 84-105

The commandment to love, referred to in this chapter’s catechismic query and response, is given in several New Testament gospels,1 largely repeating Leviticus 19:18 (‘‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself ’’). Yet love seems even less readily commanded than does forgiveness...

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5. Dismembered Divinity

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pp. 106-131

In this chapter I want to talk about the relics of saints, about their paradoxical play between fragmentation and wholeness, vitality and mortality, sacrality and profanity, and about the kinds of memory at work in the display and understanding of these bodily bits, the kinds of temporality...

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6. Eternal Flesh

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pp. 132-148

In this last question and answer we find, with typical catechismic succinctness, one of the most intriguingly odd of Christian notions: once we correct for the lingering gender bias, we are faced with the notion that human ‘‘immortality’’ is something somatic, or, to put it differently, that human corporeality is something immortal. Here we seem to find...

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pp. 149-165152

Without our help, says Jabe`s, the work of writing is done and undone, carrying within itself elusive reminders of all of the books that could have opened out from any point of it. Without our help, but with our necessary participation, as we work, unwork, and...


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pp. 153-178

Works Cited

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pp. 179-188


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pp. 189-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247868
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823229499
Print-ISBN-10: 0823229491

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 632155214
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Fragmentation and Memory

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Subject Headings

  • Baltimore catechism.
  • Catholic Church -- Doctrines.
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