Sunday, September 20, 2009

Embracing Miracle-Making

Agamben's pearl, transgressive puppets, Paul(s)...these are not just materials but messianic time-machines.

Each of our presenters on Thursday -- Kathleen Biddick, Jonathan Gil Harris, and Julia Lupton -- challenged us to reconceive the "time" of messianic time as something rather untimely, all three embracing the un- as a site of energetic potential instead of a point of polarization, foreclosure, or a reminder of a dead and therefore irretrievable past. Call it miracle-making. Yet as Biddick spoke against the typological one, Lupton introduced us to Paul Shakespeare, and Harris celebrated the temporality that is not one -- the futurity of the now -- it became clear that the key is not in fixing mechanicity but in embracing it. The compulsion to love in Romeo and Juliet, the opening of Shakespeare to the other Pauls of the Jews and the philosophers, the perverse act of neighbor-love for excarnated Jews and Muslims...these are the traces of the miraculous in the messianic machine. As teachers and students, perhaps even as human beings, we might lose track of this miraculous potential. And for three papers interested in figuration, I think it is appropriate that Biddick ends her essay with the image of a threshold through which "the untimely and undead could pass." The seminar was a success largely due to the presenters' and the audience's participation in exploring its possibilities.

Thank you to the roughly forty attendees from various institutions and disciplines, those who helped organize the event, Twitterers, blog-posters (including a stimulating question about names), and, of course, our prophetic presenters.


Jeffrey Cohen said...

Thanks for posting this summation, Lowell. I was interested throughout by the persistent appearance of an unexpected term, its presence crystallized in a question asked by Matt Gabriel: with the untimely and with messianic irruption comes another companion, creativity. Julia's paper was best at foregrounding this aesthetic fellow traveler, when she performs Paul in a festive space within the paper itself (as a kind of staged actor). But each paper had these moments of performance, of art, that advanced the argument affectively as well as effectively.

Lupton said...

Thank you, Lowell, for the helpful and lovely summary of our seminar. This helps me think through the relations among our talks. Please keep in touch.

ashley denham busse said...

Our talk of "neighbor love" reminded me, too, of Cary Howie's
notion of touching, as a loving act in which "appropriation has been thoroughly relinquished." As he says, "such a touching...requires an ecstatic reorientation of the most basic (and finally damaging) ontological presuppositions: that this body has fundementally nothing to do with mine; that this body cannot be touched; that this body is impenetrable or forever lost" (pg. 7 of _Claustrophilia: The Erotics of Enclosure in Medieval Literature_). It will be fascinating to see how Howie's work intersects with -- or touches!-- these three fabulous essays.