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Postmodernism and the Revolution in Religious Theory

Toward a Semiotics of the Event

Carl Raschke

Publication Year: 2012

While the academic study of religion has increased almost exponentially in the past fifty years, general theories of religion have been in significant decline. In his new book, Carl Raschke offers the first systematic exploration of how the postmodern philosophical theories of Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and Slavoj ?i?ek have contributed significantly to the development of a theory of religion as a whole. The bold paradigm he uses to articulate the framework for a revolution in religious theory comes from semiotics—namely, the problem of the sign and the "singularity" or "event horizon" from which a sign is generated.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

In the evolution of this manuscript I have been blessed with many assistants and contributing “theorists” who have played both crucial and occasional roles. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the following: the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University...

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pp. 1-9

The question of the “religious” today continues concomitantly to haunt, fascinate, and discomfit us. Ever since Jacques Derrida and Gianni Vattimo announced the “return of religion” as an “auto-immune” reaction to secularism in the early 1990s, scholars have wallowed in their own confusion, not only about whether it is really...


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pp. 11

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1. Religion and the Semiotic Revolution

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pp. 13-33

After the postmodern turn seems to have come full circle and we find ourselves yearning to know what “comes next,” we continue to be confronted foursquare with the aporia of the religious. Postmodern philosophy has exfoliated in hundreds of different directions,...

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2. Theory and the Deus Evanescens: Can There Truly Be a “Science” of Religion?

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pp. 34-51

Postmodern philosophy has tirelessly and for way too long been accused of being reckless and contrary to the “rational,” including the various templates of rationality that often go by the name of “science.” It might be assumed that the postmodernist movement has...

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3. Postmodernism and the Return of the “Religious ”

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pp. 52-69

For Derrida, the religious amounts to the spectral—what is ethereal and shadowlike. It is a fill-in-the-blank sort of phenomenality. As Richard Kearney observes, Derrida “prefers ghosts to gods.” He is more enamored with spacing rather than with holy radiance. He is...

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4. Radical Religion in the “Desert of the Real ”

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pp. 70-85

Since that fateful day in September 2001, a vast and tenebrous mist has suddenly spread out over the horizon of Western thinking in general, and the theory of the religious in particular. The sentiment was summarized in the title of Žižek’s well-known set of essays published...


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pp. 87

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5. Bataille and Altizer: The Sacrificial Background of Postmodern Religious Theory

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pp. 89-107

For decades the “postmodern” has been defined as indefinable, but that lack of definition is more a sophistical dodge than a commitment. Let us define it as the lightning storm of the twentieth century that at last became lyrical....

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6. Levinas and the Final À-dieu to Theology

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pp. 108-140

It is the “proper name ‘Sinai,’ ” which Derrida says is “as enigmatic as the name ‘face,’ ” which is “untranslatable.”1 The death of Levinas called forth this peculiar “spirit” for Derrida. But it is a spirit that does not allow us to simply say “farewell” to the celebrated postmodern...

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7. Deleuze and Nomadology

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pp. 141-164

A shadow is skulking through the borderlands of religious thought. It is Deleuze’s “nomad.” The nomad is more than a sign of impermanence, or what Deleuze understands as the permanently “deterritorialized.” The nomad signifies the errant and global movement of...

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8. Žižek and the Failure of the Subject

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pp. 165-183

The somewhat recent claim of Žižek to speak to the religious academy as a “theologian,” more precisely as a Christian thinker, has unsettled traditional practitioners of the profession. Žižek’s exchanges with John Milbank, the would-be guardian of orthodox Christianity...

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9. Badiou and the Prospects for Theory

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pp. 184-202

Badiou would seem to be a genuinely bizarre source of inspiration for “religious theory.” While most of our present-day celebrity postmodern thinkers, including even Deleuze, have been amenable to God-talk or religion-speak in some fashion, Badiou has resolutely...

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Conclusion. Toward a Revival of Religious Theory

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pp. 203-212

But if in considering the religious we find ourselves in such a strange “place,” seeking to peer over the generative rim of events, we must ask the question: how do we think at, and across, this horizon? How do we theorize the infinite, or illimitable, horizon of the event...


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pp. 213-227


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pp. 229-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780813933085
E-ISBN-10: 0813933080
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813933061
Print-ISBN-10: 0813933064

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012