Kathleen Biddick questions the political-theological turn in contemporary political philosophy with its focus on efforts to “deconstruct Christianity.” She argues that the Christian institutional imaginary (inaugurated by Paul’s ekklesia and adumbrated by the medieval management of the Eucharistic Real Presence) is constitutive of incarnational theology. She traces how contemporary theorists such as Roberto Esposito and Giorgio Agamben cleave this entanglement by relying on the secularizing model of political theology proposed by Ernst Kantorowicz in his classic, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (1957). They use Kantorowicz’s periodization to bracket off the body as an immune medieval historical form from the twelfth century. Biddick tells a tale of three bodies (corpora) to show the entangled combustibility of the Christian institutional imaginary and incarnational theology. Ranging from the newly fabricated corpus of the Talmud institutionalized by Rabbi Rashi of Troyes (1040-1105) to the Corpus Iuris Canonicis, confected among Christian schoolmen in the generation after Rashi’s death, to the composition of the first liturgy for the new feast, Corpus Christi (1246), and to the midrash of a young Torah student who combusted as he read the book of Ezekiel, she traces how these corpora collided and burst into flames in the mid-thirteenth century. These historical ashes question Agamben’s archaeology of glory and his vision of the Empty Throne. She concludes with a meditation on Paul Celan’s “aschen-glorie” and remembers that the Empty Throne is not empty, it is covered in ash.
Research Article| May 01 2013
Kathleen Biddick; What Does “Deconstructing Christianity” Want?: The Institutional Imaginary of the Incarnation. the minnesota review 1 May 2013; 2013 (80): 83–94. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-2018396
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