A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love by Alan Jacobs

By Alan Jacobs

If the total of the Christian existence is to be ruled through the “law of love”—the twofold love of God and one’s neighbor—what may it suggest to learn lovingly? that's the query that drives this precise publication. Jacobs pursues this demanding activity through alternating mostly theoretical, theological chapters—drawing in particular on Augustine and Mikhail Bakhtin—with interludes that examine specific readers (some actual, a few fictional) within the act of studying. one of the authors thought of are Shakespeare, Cervantes, Nabakov, Nicholson Baker, George Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Dickens. The theoretical framework is elaborated primarily chapters, whereas a variety of counterfeits of or substitutes for certainly charitable interpretation are thought of within the interludes, which steadily shut in on that infrequent creature, the loving reader. via this doubled approach to research, Jacobs attempts to teach how tricky it's to learn charitably—even should still one desire to, which, in fact, few folks do. And accurately as the prospect of interpreting in any such demeanour is so offputting, one of many covert ambitions of the booklet is to make it look either extra believable and extra appealing.

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It is a gift that we honor, and whose giver we honor, by receiving it with gratitude. It is not always appropriate, it is not always charitable, to take that which is offered to us in a spirit of pleasure and recreation and use it according to a rigid criterion of studious application. , lnust be accepted in the spirit in which they are given, according to criteria established by the giver. Charitable reading does not require the reader to abdicate personal responsibility in fiavor of authorial dictadon.

One of the fundamental problems for any understanding of ethics is, according to MacIntyre, how sogxeane who b o w s what is best for him or her to do, but aaonctlzeless does not act accordingl;~;is to bc explained. Within the framework stlccessilvely sophsticated 11y Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle such failure must be explicable . . either By same impcrfcction in that particular person's kncrwledge at that particular time of what is good and best w By some imperfection in the education and disciplining of the passions.

What tlJe~l&CS be lover" For cefigiab ~ z o t h i ~cr'zg11he loved ~nlessit is k n u w ~ , n Lore's Knowledge and elsewhere, Martha Nussbaum uses the fiction of Proust, Henry Jarnes, Dickens, and others to butmess her claim that emotion should not be set in opposition to reason-that, in fact, a truly rational person will experience certain emotions as the consequence of proper understanding. Moreover, Nussbaum arbwes, there are some kinds of knowledge that are accessible to us when and only when we experience cerrain emotions, for example, love.

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