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Silence, the Word and the Sacred

E. D. Blodgett

Publication Year: 1989

The result of a dialogue between poets and scholars on the meaning and making of the sacred, this book endeavours to determine how the sacred emerges in sacred script as well as in poetic discourse. It ranges through scholarship in areas as apparently disparate as postmodernism and Buddhism. The perspectives developed are various and without closure, locating the sacred in modes as diverse as patristic traditions, feminist retranslations of biblical texts, and oral and written versions of documents from the world’s religions. The essays cohere in their preoccupation with the crucial role language plays in the creation of the sacred, particularly in the relation that language bears to silence. In their interplay, language does not silence silence by, rather, calls the other as sacred into articulate existence.

Published by: Calgary Institute for Humanities

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

Established in 1976, the Calgary Institute for the Humanities has as its aim the fostering of advanced study and research in all areas of the humanities. Apart from supporting work in the traditional "arts" disciplines such as philosophy, history, ancient and modern languages and literatures, it also promotes research into...

About the Authors

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pp. viii-xi

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pp. 1-9

If to be human possesses a certain aretē, surely that defining characteristic is the ability both to speak and to speak about the significance of speech. The continuous return to Plato's Phaedrus in contemporary philosophical discourse is only one of the many reminders of this fact. But such a specifically human...

I: Experience of the Sacred by Poets and Writers

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The Words of Silence: Past and Present

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pp. 13-20

In the Saskatchewan parkland where I was born, the silence of living things surrounded me. We had no electricity or gasoline to make motors roar; horses and cows snuffled in barns, pigs in pole pens — chickens. I was the youngest child by four years and grew up largely alone. The winter snow falling, spruce...

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Poetry and Positivisms: High-Muck-A-Muck or "Spiritual Ketchup"

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pp. 21-50

Silence, the Word and the Sacred. There is to my mind a bird-like swiftness in the relations of these three terms — a there and a not-there on the highest branch of a topless tree. Yet, each is also a field of disturbance, an expanse for which "Map is not territory" (Korzybski). And so, earth and sky are not disposable...

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St. Teresa's Jouissance: Toward a Rhetoric of Reading the Sacred

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pp. 51-65

This is neither an essay nor a story. It is an act of bricolage, which means I approach my subject not as an expert but as a layperson. For I make no claims of possessing my subject. My knowledge of it is not intimate; it is marginal. As a bricoleur, I'll speak through and with a language that makes things, not miracles...

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Notes on a Poetics of the Sacred

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pp. 67-82

Generally, to enter into language — as Jacques Lacan would say, to inscribe oneself in the symbolic order—is to discover a form of the transcendent. One enters a formally structured "reality" which existed before one was born and yet has already furnished one with an identity as a type of Eve or Adam, Wolf or Raven, crook...

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The Word as Symbol in Sacred Experience

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pp. 83-109

I have cited this passage once before, when attempting to identify the setting of the contemporary hermeneutical problem (1967, x). The breaking up of the conceptual mirror in which the Western mind has been seeing itself has been going on apace, and I know of nothing that capsulates and situates our problem...

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The Spiritual Power of Oral and Written Scripture

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pp. 111-137

Ong's suggestion that the original spoken word has become "overgrown with its own excrescences" is indeed a provocative observation which connects with points made by great thinkers down through the ages. Plato in the Phaedrus recounts Socrates' discussion of the implications of shifting from the spoken to the written...

II: The Sacred Word in Specific Settings

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Evoking the Sacred through Language, Metalanguage, and the "Arts" in Native American and Arctic Experience

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pp. 141-147

Within and across the many still surviving Native American indigenous languages there resides a rich legacy which tragically, through ignorance or ill-will, is either ignored or purposely destroyed by a dominant English- or French-speaking majority. This situation may rightly be called tragic, due not to some vague romanticism...

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Le sacré et l'autre Parole : selon une voix feministe

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pp. 149-162

Est-il possible pour les femmes, aujourd'hui, de demeurer en silence face au sacré? On a toutes et tous en mémoire cet impératif usé: "Sois belle et tais-toi." Comment demeurer silencieuses? L'inclusion du mot "silence" comme premier mot dans le titre de ce colloque m'a plutôt intriguée et rendue...

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The Word that Transfigures

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pp. 163-168

The transfiguration of the cosmos is the central concern of the Orthodox tradition of Christianity. The various rituals that the faithful enact stem from the Divine Liturgy, which stands as both the "high" and the "popular" poem of this magnificent symbolic tradition. Its rich language and imagery are drawn from...

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God's "Back Parts": Silence and the Accommodating Word

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pp. 169-187

A tacit assumption underlies most current discussions of the relationship between silence and the word and that assumption is, I suggest, that the discovery of this relationship is essentially a modern invention. Certainly there is much to warrant our intuition that whenever we recognize the relationship between silence and...

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Fullness and Silence: Poetry and the Sacred Word

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pp. 189-204

A consideration of poetry as sacred expression gives rise to several issues. Perhaps the most obvious of these focuses on divine nature and on whether there is any appreciable difference between how the divine is presented in an identifiable religious document and how the divine is presented in poetry that may...

III: Conclusion

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Sublations: Silence in Poetic and Sacred Discourse

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pp. 207-220

My text is silence, and how, if it is possible to say, it comes to be in sacred and poetic discourse. I hesitate to define, even in a preliminary manner, what silence is. I should like to suggest, however, that perhaps there is no silence, as Jacques Derrida would say, hors-texte. And so the silence with which I wish to begin I have called an...


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pp. 221-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780889208797
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889209817
Print-ISBN-10: 0889209812

Page Count: 238
Publication Year: 1989

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Poetry -- History and criticism -- Congresses.
  • Silence -- Religious aspects -- Congresses.
  • Language and languages -- Religious aspects -- Congresses.
  • Holy, The, in literature -- Congresses.
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