Karmen MacKendrick is Professor of Philosophy at Le Moyne College. She is the author of several books, including Counterpleasures and Immemorial Silence, both also published by SUNY Press.
In a trio of paired chapters, each juxtaposing an illustrative story or case study to a theoretical exploration, MacKendrick examines three somatic figures of speech: the touch, the fold, and the cut. In the first pairing, resurrection stories in the Gospel of John are set against a chapter on touch, which draws on the work of Jean-Luc Nancy to argue that touch is, paradoxically, the most lasting of the sensory modes in which the resurrected body is presented.
T. S. Eliot's "Ash Wednesday" is then paired with a Deleuzean meditation on the fold. The final pair of chapters examines the sacred heart, an extraordinarily popular Catholic devotional image with an intriguing set of devotees-medieval mystics, sweet old ladies, and tattooed punks-in light of theoretical work of Foucault on the idea of inscribed bodies, of the cut.
Theologically and philosophically sophisticated, indeed masterly, the book never loses its ground in real, specific bodily experience, performing both at the highest levels of abstraction and at the most quotidian levels of everyday life.
With questions from the 1885 Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church as the starting point for each chapter, Karmen MacKendrick offers postmodern reflections on many of the central doctrines of the Church: the oneness of God, original sin, forgiveness, love and its connection to mortality, reverence for the relics of saints, and the doctrine of bodily resurrection. She maintains that we begin and end in questions and not in answers, in fragments and not in totalities--more precisely, in a fragmentation paradoxically integral
Taking seriously Augustine's idea that we find the divine in memory, MacKendrick argues that memory does not lead us back in time to a tidy answer but opens onto a complicated and fragmented time in which we find that the one and the many, before and after and now, even sacred and profane are complexly entangled. Time becomes something lived, corporeal, and sacred, with fragments of eternity interspersed among the stretches of its duration. Our sense of ourselves is correspondingly complex, because theological considerations lead
us not to the security of an everlasting, indivisible soul dwelling comfortably in the presence of a paternal deity but to a more complicated, perpetually peculiar, and paradoxical life in the flesh.
Written out of MacKendrick's extensive background in both recent and late-ancient philosophy, this moving and poetic book can also be an inspiration to anyone, scholar or lay reader, seeking to find contemporary significance in these ancient theological doctrines.