Theological Imagination, Narrative Expression, and Critical Discourse
In addition to laying out a general groundwork for the Catholic imagination as a critical lens—and suggesting a variety of ways that the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar aids critics in articulating such a theological vision—the chapter also attempts to locate the particular phenomena of postmodernism and deconstruction within the intersection of theology and narrative art. Balthasar anticipates the tendency of current critical theory to privilege and emphasize the amorphous breadth of both linguistic and cultural expression; and he anticipates the critical tension between those who read Catholicism as theological truth and those that might read Catholicism as a “fluctuating signifier,” as a cultural and/or literary text. Under this general theme, a dialog is opened with such diverse critics as William Lynch, Paul Giles, Michel De Certeau, and Jacques Derrida. Like them, Balthasar's theology plots a route for appreciating the aesthetic complexity and theological possibility of a broadly canvassed intertextuality and interdisciplinarity. However, Balthasar's program also defends the critical uniqueness of certain theological commitments (e.g., the transcendentals, the Incarnation, and the trinitarian structure of being) and looks to the arts to demonstrate the formal expression and aesthetic span of these phenomena. The chapter concludes with the proposition that it is the recognition of these essential questions that both challenge and aid the articulation of a Catholic imagination and that a turn to representative work in literature, poetry, and film will aid in such an articulation.
Keywords: Catholic imagination, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Analogical imagination, Incarnation, literary criticism, critical theory, Trinity, trinitarian, personhood, postmodernism, sacramental, Flannery O'Connor, Lars von Trier, David Lodge, Walker Percy, William Everson, Denise Levertov, William Lynch, Rene Girard, theological aesthetics, Theo‐drama, Theo‐logic
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