Nikos Kazantzakis's novel The Last Temptation presents a dialectical vision of the role of the body in spiritual development. One aspect of the dialectic equates body with spirit, suggesting that bodily experience is spiritual experience, and that spiritual aspirants need not look past earth in their pursuit of the transcendental; this may be termed a "somatist" perspective. The other aspect of the dialectic, which may be described as "anti-somatist," proves more traditional, positing the body as a temporary and inferior ontological state—although one necessary for spiritual development. The text's somatist vision emerges clearly through its attention to physical details and its characterizations of Jesus and Magdalene, especially in its exploration of each character's sexuality. Dialogue, symbolism, narrative convention, and intertextual resonances contribute to the novel's anti-somatist vision. Together, these elements create a complex, paradoxical discourse about the spiritual significance of body.


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pp. 271-291
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