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Inner AnimalitiesTheology and the End of the Human$
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Eric Daryl Meyer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823280148

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823280148.001.0001

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Gregory of Nyssa: Reading Animality and Desire

Gregory of Nyssa: Reading Animality and Desire

(p.39) 2 Gregory of Nyssa: Reading Animality and Desire
Inner Animalities

Eric Daryl Meyer

Fordham University Press

Chapter 2 takes up Gregory of Nyssa’s homiletic Commentary on the Song of Songs with special attention to Gregory’s exegetical strategies for dealing with extensive animal imagery in the context of erotic poetry. Gregory’s interpretation utilizes the strangeness of the animal imagery to cover the naked indiscretion of the Song’s sexual content for his listeners; attention to animal metaphors allows Gregory to produce contemplative wisdom from an erotic text. Simultaneously, however, Gregory disparages a straightforwardly sexual reading of the Song as a capitulation to base and beastly desires. In the end, Gregory’s reading is structured around a dynamic tension as it is desire rather than rationality that ultimately draws a human being into endless pursuit of union with God. Although this holy desire is a function of the animal portion of human life, Gregory can never acknowledge it as such without undermining his fundamental commitment to anthropological exceptionalism.

Keywords:   Contemplative Theology, Derrida, Jacques, Gregory of Nyssa, Hermeneutics, Late Antiquity, Mysticism, Song of Songs, Theological Anthropology

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