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A Theology Of Reading: The Hermeneutics Of Love (2001)

de Alan Jacobs

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If the whole of the Christian life is to be governed by the ?law of love?the twofold love of God and one's neighbor'what might it mean to read lovingly? That is the question that drives this unique book. Jacobs pursues this challenging task by alternating largely theoretical, theological chapters'drawing above all on Augustine and Mikhail Bakhtin'with interludes that investigate particular readers (some real, some fictional) in the act of reading. Among the authors considered are Shakespeare, Cervantes, Nabakov, Nicholson Baker, George Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Dickens. The theoretical framework is elaborated in the main chapters, while various counterfeits of or substitutes for genuinely charitable interpretation are considered in the interludes, which progressively close in on that rare creature, the loving reader. Through this doubled method of investigation, Jacobs tries to show how difficult it is to read charitably'even should one wish to, which, of course, few of us do. And precisely because the prospect of reading in such a manner is so offputting, one of the covert goals of the book is to make it seem both more plausible and more attractive.… (més)
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The one thing that is true is love. To base a doctrine of language on this statement is to move towards a theological theory of language.
--Gerhard Ebeling
Theology consists precisely in saying that for which only another can answer--the Other above all, the Christ who himself does not speak in his own name, but in the name of his Father. Indeed, theological discourse offers its strange jubilation only to the strict extent that it permits and, dangerously, demands of its workman that he speak beyond his means, precisely because he does not speak of himself. Hence the danger of a speech that, in a sense, speaks against the one who lends himself to it. One must obtain forgiveness for every essay in theology.
--Jean-Luc Marion
O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.
--W.H. Auden
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To read with intelligent charity.
(Prelude)
When asked by a scribe to name the greatest of the commandments, Jesus complies by citing two injunctions, one from Deuteronom (6:5) and one from Leviticus (19:18): "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt. 22:37-40, RSV).
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If the whole of the Christian life is to be governed by the ?law of love?the twofold love of God and one's neighbor'what might it mean to read lovingly? That is the question that drives this unique book. Jacobs pursues this challenging task by alternating largely theoretical, theological chapters'drawing above all on Augustine and Mikhail Bakhtin'with interludes that investigate particular readers (some real, some fictional) in the act of reading. Among the authors considered are Shakespeare, Cervantes, Nabakov, Nicholson Baker, George Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Dickens. The theoretical framework is elaborated in the main chapters, while various counterfeits of or substitutes for genuinely charitable interpretation are considered in the interludes, which progressively close in on that rare creature, the loving reader. Through this doubled method of investigation, Jacobs tries to show how difficult it is to read charitably'even should one wish to, which, of course, few of us do. And precisely because the prospect of reading in such a manner is so offputting, one of the covert goals of the book is to make it seem both more plausible and more attractive.

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