The Sign of the Cross: From Golgotha to Genocide

Transaction Publishers
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This book presents a unique effort to create a new understanding of the Christian sign of the cross. At its core, it traces the conscious and unconscious influence of this visual symbol through time. What began as the crucifixion of a Jewish troublemaker in Roman-occupied Judea in the first century eventually gave rise to a broad spectrum of readings of the instrument used to accomplish such a punishment, a cross. The author argues that Jesus was a provocative, grandiose masochist whose suffering and death initially signified redemption for believers. This idea gradually morphed into a Christian sense of freedom to persecute and wage war against non-believers, however, as can be seen in the Crusades ("wars of the cross"). Many believers even construed the murder of their savior as a crime perpetrated by "the Jews," and this paranoid notion culminated in the mass murder of European Jews under the sign of the Nazi hooked cross (Hakenkreuz). Rancour-Laferriere’s book is expertly written and argued; it will be readable to a large audience because it touches on many areas of controversy, interest, and scholarship. The work is critical, but not unfair; it employs psychoanalysis, art history (the study of the symbol of the cross in works of art), religion and religious texts, and world history generally. The interweaving of these various themes is what gives this work its ability to draw in readers—and will ultimately be what keeps the reader interested through the conclusion.
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About the author

Daniel Rancour-Laferriere is emeritus professor of Russian at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of Out from Under Gogol's Overcoat: A Psychoanalytic Study, The Mind of Stalin: A Psychoanalytic Study, The Slave Soul of Russia: Moral Masochism and the Cult of Suffering, Tolstoy's Pierre Bezukhov: A Psychoanalytic Study, Tolstoy on the Couch: Misogyny, Masochism, and the Absent Mother, and Russian Nationalism from an Interdisciplinary Perspective.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Transaction Publishers
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Published on
Dec 31, 2011
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Pages
313
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ISBN
9781412843997
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / History / General
Religion / History
Social Science / Sociology of Religion
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The religious dimension of Tolstoy's life is usually associated with his later years following his renunciation of art. In this volume, Daniel Rancour-Laferriere demonstrates instead that Tolstoy was preoccupied with a quest for God throughout all of his adult life. Although renowned as the author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilych, and other literary works, and for his activism on behalf of the poor and the downtrodden of Russia, Tolstoy himself was concerned primarily with achieving personal union with God. Tolstoy suffered from periodic bouts of depression which brought his creative life to a standstill, and which intensified his need to find comfort in the embrace of a personal God. At times he was in such psychic pain he wanted to die. Yet Tolstoy felt that he deserved to suffer, and he learned to welcome suffering in masochistic fashion. Rancour-Laferriere locates the psychological underpinnings of Tolstoy's suffering in a bipolar illness that led him actively to seek suffering and self-humiliation in the Russian tradition of "holy foolishness." With voluntary suffering, and Jesus Christ as his model, Tolstoy advocated "nonresistance to evil," and in his daily life he strove never to return evil actions or words with physical or verbal resistance. On the other hand, being bipolar, Tolstoy in some situations would drift in a manic direction, indulging in delusions of grandeur. Indeed, the aging Tolstoy occasionally went so far as to equate himself with God, as can be seen from his diaries and personal correspondence. The pantheistic world view which Tolstoy achieved at the end of his life meant that God was within himself and within all people and all things in the entire universe. By this time Tolstoy was also utilizing images of a mother to represent his God. With this essentially maternal God so conveniently available, there was nowhere Tolstoy could be without Her. For, in the end, Tolstoy's quest for God was a compensatory search for the mother who died when he was barely two years old. Tolstoy's Quest for God is an original and penetrating contribution to the study of one of the world's supreme writers.
The religious dimension of Tolstoy's life is usually associated with his later years following his renunciation of art. In this volume, Daniel Rancour-Laferriere demonstrates instead that Tolstoy was preoccupied with a quest for God throughout all of his adult life. Although renowned as the author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilych, and other literary works, and for his activism on behalf of the poor and the downtrodden of Russia, Tolstoy himself was concerned primarily with achieving personal union with God.Tolstoy suffered from periodic bouts of depression which brought his creative life to a standstill, and which intensified his need to find comfort in the embrace of a personal God. At times he was in such psychic pain he wanted to die. Yet Tolstoy felt that he deserved to suffer, and he learned to welcome suffering in masochistic fashion. Rancour-Laferriere locates the psychological underpinnings of Tolstoy's suffering in a bipolar illness that led him actively to seek suffering and self-humiliation in the Russian tradition of holy foolishness. With voluntary suffering, and Jesus Christ as his model, Tolstoy advocated nonresistance to evil, and in his daily life he strove never to return evil actions or words with physical or verbal resistance. On the other hand, being bipolar, Tolstoy in some situations would drift in a manic direction, indulging in delusions of grandeur. Indeed, the aging Tolstoy occasionally went so far as to equate himself with God, as can be seen from his diaries and personal correspondence.The pantheistic world view which Tolstoy achieved at the end of his life meant that God was within himself and within all people and all things in the entire universe. By this time Tolstoy was also utilizing images of a mother to represent his God. With this essentially maternal God so conveniently available, there was nowhere Tolstoy could be without Her. For, in the end, Tolstoy's quest for God was a

Imagining Mary breaks new ground in the long tradition of Christian mariology. The book is an interdisciplinary investigation of some of the many Marys, East and West, from the New Testament Mary of Nazareth down to Our Lady of the Good Death in the twentieth century. In Imagining Mary, Professor Rancour-Laferriere examines the mother of God in her multireligious and pan-historical context.

The book is a scholarly study, but it is written in a clear, straightforward style and will be comprehensible to an educated – and, above all, intellectually curious – general audience. It will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered, for example, about the flimsy scriptural basis of many beliefs about Mary; or the tendency of many mariologists to depict Mary as an incestuous "bride of Christ"; or the theological notion of Mary’s "loving consent" to her son’s crucifixion; or the idea that Mary was a "priest" officiating at the sacrifice of her son; or the unfortunate association of Mary with Christian anti-semitism; or the curious appeal of Mary to the terminally ill; and so on. Special attention is given to the psychology of representations of Mary, such as: the psychological basis for promoting Mary to the status of a "goddess"; the psychology of Mary’s compassion for her son at the foot of the cross; and the psychological conflict in Mary’s personal relationship with her son Jesus.

These topics are admittedly diverse, but they all have long been on the minds of mariologists. The author takes a questioning approach to received wisdom about marian themes – including the assumption that one has to be a theist in order to understand the great appeal of Mary down the centuries. Indeed, Imagining Mary may be regarded as a first step in the direction of an atheist mariology.

The religious dimension of Tolstoy's life is usually associated with his later years following his renunciation of art. In this volume, Daniel Rancour-Laferriere demonstrates instead that Tolstoy was preoccupied with a quest for God throughout all of his adult life. Although renowned as the author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilych, and other literary works, and for his activism on behalf of the poor and the downtrodden of Russia, Tolstoy himself was concerned primarily with achieving personal union with God.Tolstoy suffered from periodic bouts of depression which brought his creative life to a standstill, and which intensified his need to find comfort in the embrace of a personal God. At times he was in such psychic pain he wanted to die. Yet Tolstoy felt that he deserved to suffer, and he learned to welcome suffering in masochistic fashion. Rancour-Laferriere locates the psychological underpinnings of Tolstoy's suffering in a bipolar illness that led him actively to seek suffering and self-humiliation in the Russian tradition of holy foolishness. With voluntary suffering, and Jesus Christ as his model, Tolstoy advocated nonresistance to evil, and in his daily life he strove never to return evil actions or words with physical or verbal resistance. On the other hand, being bipolar, Tolstoy in some situations would drift in a manic direction, indulging in delusions of grandeur. Indeed, the aging Tolstoy occasionally went so far as to equate himself with God, as can be seen from his diaries and personal correspondence.The pantheistic world view which Tolstoy achieved at the end of his life meant that God was within himself and within all people and all things in the entire universe. By this time Tolstoy was also utilizing images of a mother to represent his God. With this essentially maternal God so conveniently available, there was nowhere Tolstoy could be without Her. For, in the end, Tolstoy's quest for God was a
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