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A Theology of Failure: Ontology and Desire in Slavoj Žižek and Christian Apophaticism

ROSE, CHRISTA,MARIKA (2014) A Theology of Failure: Ontology and Desire in Slavoj Žižek and Christian Apophaticism. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis offers a re-reading of the Christian apophatic tradition via the work of Slavoj Žižek in order to articulate an account of Christian theology and identity as failure, as constituted by a commitment to Christ as both its cornerstone and the stone on which it stumbles. In Dionysius the Areopagite’s marriage of Christian theology with Neoplatonism, the ontology of Neoplatonism is brought into uncomfortable but productive tension with key themes in Christian theology. These tensions are a crucial aspect of Dionysius' legacy, visible not only in subsequent theological thought but also in much twentieth century continental philosophy as it seeks to disentangle itself from its Christian ancestry. Twentieth century discussions of the relationship between apophatic theology and continental philosophy attempt to grapple with this inheritance.

The work of Slavoj Žižek, I argue, is an attempt to move beyond the impasses of twentieth century philosophy not by escaping but by returning to metaphysics, drawing on the work of Hegel and Lacan in order to articulate an account of the material world as an intrinsically ruptured economy. This form repeats itself in those structures which subsequently emerge from the material world – in particular, the structures of the individual subject and of the social order and the ways in which both are constituted by desire. This thesis traces the implications of this peculiar ontology through, first, the Derridean problematic of the gift and, second, the Žižekian problematic of violence (both of which, I argue, are structurally homologous with the Christian theological problematics of creation and fall). The thesis offers a critical and theological engagement with Žižek's ontological and erotic account of transformation before returning to Dionysius in order to demonstrate how Žižek's work makes possible a materialist reading of apophatic theology and Christian commitment to the church.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Žižek, Dionysius, Derrida, gift, violence, ontology, desire, Lacan, apophatic theology, negative theology, death drive, trauma, mystical theology
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Jun 2014 09:10

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