This article uses the term ‘equivocation’ to describe the sense in which Christian incarnational theology appears to have provided a resource or way of thinking about the embodied human condition. For British literary works produced across a period of over a thousand years, that is not wholly negative. Christian convictions about God's investment in the materiality of human existence bear witness to the perception of infinite human longings and seemingly endless possibilities, as well as our fearful limitations. British artists and commentators during this period have not all accepted the authority of a Christian approach, and in the last two or three centuries many have aspired to challenge the more negative or limiting emphases of its teaching. Arguably, the paradigm remains significant, yet it continues to provide both impetus and challenge to ongoing reflections on the nature of unavoidable human incarnation.
Cynthia Nielsen and Michael Barnes Norton
Gender, like race, is a controversial and volatile topic. We encounter one another as embodied and thus gendered beings. But what precisely is gender? What does it mean to be feminine? This chapter offers a philosophical analysis of the concept of gender and discourses about gender. The opening sections begin with a discussion of key terms and distinctions such as gender essentialism, gender as a social construction, the distinction between gender and (biological) sex, gender realism and nominalism, and so forth. Specific examples—both historical and contemporary—are employed to elucidate the claim that gender is socially constructed. Two sections are devoted to prominent feminist philosophers, Judith Butler and Linda Martín Alcoff. The topics addressed in these sections include: Butler’s notion of performing gender and her rejection of the gender/sex distinction, and Alcoff’s development of gender as positionality and fluid identity and her historically and materially sensitive version of gender realism.
Desire and love have always been important themes in Christianity, but there is no self-evident meaning for either of these concepts. This chapter examines some important contributions in the history of theology to the understanding of each, and offers some steps towards a constructive theology that regards desire as an integrative part of love. If the problem with the dominant tradition during antiquity and the Middle Ages was that it separated eros from a legitimate sexuality, the problem of modern Christianity is that it has reduced desire to sexuality. It is not helpful to separate agape from eros, as this implies a theology for which important aspects of human longing fall outside its frame. An account of love that avoids narcissism and an economy of the same includes desire; a love without desire lacks the motor that moves us forward towards the other.
Pamela Sue Anderson
A major obstacle inherent in patriarchy remains its barely perceptible reality for all of those women and men whose lives have been decisively ordered by the rule of the father. Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, captures the imperceptible reality of racial domination with imagery of a fishbowl. Her imagery reveals the ways in which apparently invisible structures of domination can suddenly become visible. With Morrison's cogent use of imagery in mind, this article examines patriarchy by revealing the transparent structure of male domination that has contained women's lives, and the ways in which feminism has emerged with this revelation. The bare outlines of the former are made evident here in a reading of English literature and theology; the latter can be seen as if the writer and reader were outside that ordered life, tackling ‘the obstacle which does not speak its name’.
This article explores the literary revisioning work as it is displayed in the work of two women writers whose attention has been largely focused on the Jewish and Christian traditions. Alicia Ostriker and Michèle Roberts are women whose work arises out of direct political involvement with the women's movement. Both are authors who are deeply immersed in contemporary critical debates and both acknowledge their conversational relationships with other female creative artists. As such, it is possible to view their work as representative of a revisionary movement within contemporary women's literature concerned with nothing less than the radical revisioning of religious traditions.
This chapter traces the academic development of postmodern theology and gender studies, from the feminist theologies of the 1960s–1980s through the ‘linguistic turn’ to the emergence of the concept of ‘intersectionality’. Beattie argues that gender theory restores to theology the forgotten wisdom of its own tradition with regard to language and the interpretation of scripture. However, she cautions against the Manichaean seductions of postmodernism, arguing that the theology of gender must be rooted in the goodness of creation, including the human created male and female in the image of God. Analysing differences between Protestant and Catholic theologies in terms of grace and sacramentality, and with reference to Christian mysticism, she argues for a contemplative, sacramental theology of gender that is open to the divine mystery, animated by desire while remaining attentive to the distorting effects of sin on desire, and actively expressed in love of neighbour and of creation.
This article explores the key methodological approaches evident in theologies of sexuality since theological reflection upon sexuality emerged as a distinctive discipline in the latter part of the twentieth century. It charts the movement from a radical valorization of sexuality by conservative, liberal, and gay and lesbian theologians to a fundamental questioning and rejection of the very notion of sexuality. It argues that there is a need for Christian theologians to stop focusing on sexuality as such and turn their attention to right ordering of desire as part of the project of Christian discipleship.