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Words FailTheology, Poetry, and the Challenge of Representation$
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Colby Dickinson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780823272839

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823272839.001.0001

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On Language and Its Profanation

On Language and Its Profanation

Beyond Representation in the Poetic Theory of Giorgio Agamben

(p.48) 3 On Language and Its Profanation
Words Fail

Colby Dickinson

Fordham University Press

The third chapter, in many ways, extends this trajectory of thought into a dialogue with the work of the Italian theorist Giorgio Agamben. Beginning with his characterization of a “scission” within language that posits philosophy as that which can know its object without possessing it and poetry as that which can possess it without knowing it, this chapter demonstrates how his earlier work on poetry maintains a necessary correlation with his later philosophical and theo-political writings. In this context, I explore his development of a poetic “atheology” that is a sort of materialist metaphysics, the potential last refuge of meaning in an otherwise nihilistic world—one that contains dire implications for the fields of poetry, philosophy, and theology. The establishment of poetry as a last refuge of meaning over and against the “destruction of experience” in the modern era is a bold claim to be sure, expressing Agamben’s attempt to reformulate the possibility for meaning to emerge beyond its inscription in language, as well as the conditions under which theology could be understood as a profane endeavor that tries to speak to this situation of human existence.

Keywords:   Agamben, atheology, glossolalia, meaning, poetry, philosophy, scission

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