A Theology Of Reading: The Hermeneutics Of Love

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Westview Press, Jun 17, 2009 - Religion - 448 pages
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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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Contents

I
1
II
9
III
37
IV
43
V
69
VI
77
VII
91
VIII
101
IX
113
X
125
XI
145
XII
153
XIII
173
XIV
183
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Page 104 - Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.
Page 40 - To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.
Page 9 - 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. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.
Page 80 - It is not the office of a man to receive gifts. How dare you give them ? We wish to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten.
Page 96 - Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in...
Page 96 - There is neither a first nor a last word and there are no limits to the dialogic context (it extends into the boundless past and the boundless future). Even past meanings, that is, those born in the dialogue of past centuries, can never be stable (finalized, ended once and for all) — they will always change (be renewed) in the process of subsequent, future development of the dialogue.
Page 96 - ... what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns...
Page 55 - What are you going through?' The love of our neighbour in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: 'What are you going through?
Page 30 - Where the cantus firmus is clear and plain, the counterpoint can be developed to its limits. The two are 'undivided and yet distinct', in the words of the Chalcedonian Definition, like Christ in his divine and human natures. May not the attraction and importance of polyphony in music consist in its being a musical reflection of this Christological fact and therefore of our vita christiana'?

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About the author (2009)

Alan Jacobs is professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois. He is the author of What Became of Wystan: Change and Continuity in Auden’s Poetry, A Visit to Vanity Fair and Other Moral Essays, and many essays of literary and cultural criticism. He is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Theological Horizons. With his wife and son, he lives in Wheaton, Illinois.

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