By Alan Jacobs
If the complete of the Christian lifestyles is to be ruled by means of the “law of love”—the twofold love of God and one’s neighbor—what may it suggest to learn lovingly? that's the query that drives this special booklet. Jacobs pursues this demanding activity through alternating principally theoretical, theological chapters—drawing especially on Augustine and Mikhail Bakhtin—with interludes that examine specific readers (some actual, a few fictional) within the act of analyzing. one of the authors thought of are Shakespeare, Cervantes, Nabakov, Nicholson Baker, George Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Dickens. The theoretical framework is elaborated generally chapters, whereas numerous counterfeits of or substitutes for surely charitable interpretation are thought of within the interludes, which gradually shut in on that infrequent creature, the loving reader. via this doubled approach to research, Jacobs attempts to teach how tricky it truly is to learn charitably—even should still one desire to, which, in fact, few folks do. And accurately as the prospect of interpreting in one of these demeanour is so offputting, one of many covert pursuits of the ebook is to make it appear either extra believable and extra beautiful.
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Additional resources for A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love
X'he idea of a God who not only sppa-thizes with all we fee! and en&re for our fellow-men, but who wilt pour new life into our too-languid love, and give firmness to our vacillating purpose, is an extension and muiriplicarion of the effcets produced by h m a n sympathy. (Es-rtzys 187-1 88) To this useful image Marian Evans coneasts Dr. Gumming's God, who, "instead of sharing and aiding our human sympathies, is directly in collision with them; who instead of strengthening the bond between lnan and man, by encouraging the sense that they are both alike the objects of His love and care, thrusts himself bemeen them and forbids them to feel for each other except as they have relation to f-fim" (188)- Perhaps, then, the "Epilogue" to Admlt Bcde is to be read as documenting Dinahk escape from the clutches of this ugly and dangerous notion of God.
I will later claim that we may indeed love books as friends, though not quite in the neo-histotelian sense that Wgyne Booth develops, and that that love guides our interpretations. But if our love is on4 preferendal-if we select some books as the proper and worthy recipients of our love, while excluding others from that charmed circle, as is always the case with Aristotelian fonns of love-it fails to achieve genuine Christian charity. Charity demands that we extend the gift of low to all books, and receive the gift of low when it is offered to us; in that sellse Kierkegaard is right to contrast the prefereiltiali~of friendship or elm with the expansiveness of But (as we shall see in Chapter 3) there is no single form that either the giving or the receiving takes, and moreover there is no inconsistency in having certain favorite hooks while seeking to love all other books in the way appropriate to them.
This position is easily and often misunderstood: Kierkegaard and Barth may be thought to say-like Dr. Cumming-that any ltwe that does not invoke the Christian God as its authorizing &marantoris i p f n c t o idolatrous, a demonic counterfeit of genuine love. And of course it would be sirnply obtuse not to recognize what Marian Evans negleca in her article but George Eliot often depicts in her fiction, that some erotic attachments are indeed idolatrous, or ersatz: They embody (for instance) possessive desire rather than loving regard for the other.