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Sacred Uncertainty

Religious Difference and the Shape of Melville's Career

Herman Melville’s oeuvre sustains a fundamental tension among self, society, and others. Sacred Uncertainty explores religious difference that arises from these many voices, both within American culture and around the world. Melville’s work is notably shot through with allusions to other writers and thinkers, whom he regarded as his truest interlocutors—the figures of genius from whom he received, as he eloquently stated it in “Hawthorne and His Mosses,” a “shock of recognition.” There is almost certainly no more concrete or reliable way to get at Melville’s affirmations of (and arguments with) these interlocutors than in the markings and annotations that appear in his copies of many of their works, so Yothers examines Melville’s marginalia for clues to Melville’s thinking about self, others, and difference. His interrogations yield a richer understanding of one of the more vexing aspects of the great American novelist’s work.

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Sacred Violence

Torture, Terror, and Sovereignty

Paul W. Kahn

In Sacred Violence, the distinguished political and legal theorist Paul W. Kahn investigates the reasons for the resort to violence characteristic of premodern states. In a startling argument, he contends that law will never offer an adequate account of political violence. Instead, we must turn to political theology, which reveals that torture and terror are, essentially, forms of sacrifice. Kahn forces us to acknowledge what we don't want to see: that we remain deeply committed to a violent politics beyond law. Paul W. Kahn is Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities at Yale Law School and Director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights. Cover Illustration: "Abu Ghraib 67, 2005" by Fernando Botero. Courtesy of the artist and the American University Museum.

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Sacred Wilderness

Susan Power

A Clan Mother story for the twenty-first century, Sacred Wilderness explores the lives of four women of different eras and backgrounds who come together to restore foundation to a mixed-up, mixed-blood woman—a woman who had been living the American dream, and found it a great maw of emptiness. These Clan Mothers may be wisdom-keepers, but they are anything but stern and aloof—they are women of joy and grief, risking their hearts and sometimes their lives for those they love. The novel swirls through time, from present-day Minnesota to the Mohawk territory of the 1620s, to the ancient biblical world, brought to life by an indigenous woman who would come to be known as the Virgin Mary. The Clan Mothers reveal secrets, the insights of prophecy, and stories that are by turns comic, so painful they can break your heart, and perhaps even powerful enough to save the world. In lyrical, lushly imagined prose, Sacred Wilderness is a novel of unprecedented necessity.

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The Sacredness of the Person

A New Genealogy of Human Rights

Hans Joas

What are the origins of the idea of human rights and universal human dignity? How can we most fully understand -- and realize -- these rights going into the future? In The Sacredness of the Person, internationally renowned sociologist and social theorist Hans Joas tells a story that differs from conventional narratives by tracing the concept of human rights back to the Judeo-Christian tradition or, alternately, to the secular French Enlightenment. While drawing on sociologists such as Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Ernst Troeltsch, Joas sets out a new path, proposing an affirmative genealogy in which human rights are the result of a process of "sacralization" of every human being.

According to Joas, every single human being has increasingly been viewed as sacred. He discusses the abolition of torture and slavery, once common practice in the pre-18th century west, as two milestones in modern human history. The author concludes by portraying the emergence of the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 as a successful process of value generalization. Joas demonstrates that the history of human rights cannot adequately be described as a history of ideas or as legal history, but as a complex transformation in which diverse cultural traditions had to be articulated, legally codified, and assimilated into practices of everyday life. The sacralization of the person and universal human rights will only be secure in the future, warns Joas, through continued support by institutions and society, vigorous discourse in their defense, and their incarnation in everyday life and practice.

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Sacrifice

René Girard

In Sacrifice, René Girard interrogates the Brahmanas of Vedic India, exploring coincidences with mimetic theory that are too numerous and striking to be accidental. Even that which appears to be dissimilar fails to contradict mimetic theory, but instead corresponds to the minimum of illusion without which sacrifice becomes impossible.
     The Bible reveals collective violence, similar to that which generates sacrifice everywhere, but instead of making victims guilty, the Bible and the Gospels reveal the persecutors of a single victim. Instead of elaborating myths, they tell the truth absolutely contrary to the archaic sense. Once exposed, the single victim mechanism can no longer function as the model for would-be sacrificers.
     Recognizing that the Vedic tradition also converges on a revelation that discredits sacrifice, mimetic theory locates within sacrifice itself a paradoxical power of quiet reflection that leads, in the long run, to the eclipse of this institution which is violent but nevertheless fundamental to the development of human culture. Far from unduly privileging the Western tradition and awarding it a monopoly on the knowledge and repudiation of blood sacrifice, mimetic analysis recognizes comparable, but never truly identical, traits in the Vedic tradition.

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Sacrifice and Atonement

Psychological Motives and Biblical Patterns

by Stephen Finlan

Beneath the commonplace affirmation that Jesus “paid for our sins” lie depths of implication: did God demand a blood sacrifice to assuage divine anger? Is sacrifice (consciously or unconsciously) intended to induce the deity to show favor? What underlies the various metaphors for atonement used in the Bible?

Here, Stephen Finlan surveys psychological theories that help us to understand beliefs about sacrifice and atonement and what they may reveal about patterns of injury, guilt, shame, and appeasement. Early chapters examine the language in both testaments of purity and the “scapegoat,” and of payment, obligation, reciprocity, and redemption. Later chapters review theories of the origins of atonement thinking in fear and traumatic childhood experience, in ambivalent or avoidant attachment to the parents, and in “poisonous pedagogy.” The theories of Sandor Rado, Mary Ainsworth, Erik Erikson, and Alice Miller are examined, then Finlan draws conclusions about the moral responsibility of appropriating or rejecting atonement metapors and their effects today.

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Sacrifice and Delight in the Mystical Theologies of Anna Maria van Schurman and Madame Jeanne Guyon

Bo Karen Lee

In this compelling study of two seventeenth-century female mystics, Bo Karen Lee examines the writings of Anna Maria van Schurman and Madame Jeanne Guyon, who, despite different religious formations, came to similar conclusions about the experience of God in contemplative prayer. Van Schurman was born into a Dutch Calvinist family and become a superb scriptural commentator before undergoing a dramatic religious conversion and joining the Labadist community, a Pietistic movement. Guyon was a French layperson whose thought would be identified with Quietism—a spiritual path that was looked upon with suspicion both by the French Catholic Church and by Rome. Lee analyzes and compares the themes of self-denial and self-annihilation in the writings of these two mystics. In van Schurman's case, the focus is on the distinction between scholastic knowledge of God and the intima notitia Dei accessible only by radical self-denial. In Guyon's case, it is on the union with God that is accessible only through a painful self-annihilation. For both authors, Lee demonstrates that the desire for enjoyment of God plays an important role as the engine of the soul's progress away from self-centeredness. The appendices offer facing Latin and English translations of two letters by van Schurman and a selection from her Eukleria.

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Sacrifice and Survival

Identity, Mission, and Jesuit Higher Education in the American South

Sacrifice and Survival recounts the history and development of Jesuit higher education in the American South.

R. Eric Platt examines in Sacrifice and Survival the history and evolution of Jesuit higher education in the American South and hypothesizes that the identity and mission of southern Jesuit colleges and universities may have functioned as catalytic concepts that affected the “town and gown” relationships between the institutions and their host communities in ways that influenced whether they failed or adapted to survive.

The Catholic religious order known as the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) manages a global network of colleges and universities with a distinct Catholic identity and mission. Despite this immense educational system, several Jesuit institutions have closed throughout the course of the order’s existence. Societal pressures, external perceptions or misperceptions, unbalanced curricular structures rooted in liberal arts, and administrators’ slow acceptance of courses related to practical job seeking may all influence religious-affiliated educational institutions. The religious identity and mission of these colleges and universities are fundamentals that influence their interaction with external environs and contribute to their survival or failure.

Platt traces the roots of Jesuit education from the rise of Ignatius Loyola in the mid-sixteenth century through the European development of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit educational identity and mission, the migration of Jesuits to colonial New Orleans, the expulsion of Jesuits by Papal mandate, the reorganization of Jesuit education, their attempt to establish a network of educational institutions across the South, and the final closure of all but two southern Jesuit colleges and a set of high schools.

Sacrifice and Survival explores the implications of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, yellow fever, Georgia floods, devastating fires, the Civil War, the expansion of New Orleans due to the 1884 Cotton Centennial Exposition, and ties between town and gown, as well as anti-Catholic/anti-Jesuit sentiment as the Society of Jesus pushed forward to create a system of southern institutions. Ultimately, institutional identity and mission critically impacted the survival of Jesuit education in the American South.

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Sacrifice As Gift

Sacrifice as Gift is a timely presentation of a forgotten vision of eucharistic sacrifice, one that reconfigures the current philosophical and theological divide between sacrifice and gift.

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Sacrifice in the Modern World

On the Particularity and Generality of Nazi Myth

David Pan

This is an extremely exciting manuscript—path-breaking, bold, and comprehensive—that could be received in the intellectual world as a major theoretical statement, while also representing an insightful treatment of a specific cultural historical moment (Nazi Germany) but also key intellectual lineages that surround it. There's a lot at stake here, in the big picture (the question of sacrifice and the interpretation of Germany) as well as in the many rich building blocks of the argument (the treatments of Kant, Nietzsche, Adorno, Bataille, Girard, etc.).

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