Sunday, 19 August 2007


I hope I have invented a new term for the eucharist in postmodernity.

Read more here - I hope this is an academic standard essay.

The basic idea is that this derives from transignification (sometimes spelt with a double s, but then so should transubstantiation). Transignification is where there is a signifier of bread and wine, or substitutes, with the ritual of the eucharist, especially the prayer of consecration, where this collected signifier points to the real presence of Christ. To cut a very long story short, this is fine if signs and symbols are understood as structuralist, for example one revealed by Marcel Mauss. However, with the poststructuralist turn and the freewheeling nature of signs, with a heavy focus on the signifier, the signified and the sign itself becomes ambiguous at best. The upshot is that (along with a historical survey that justifies both real presence and real absence under more stable circumstances) real presence gets replaced by neither and both of real presence and real absence, appearing and reappearing in an instance that it takes to vanish again - the mirror image of eternity. An obvious model here is the quantum world, but this is within semiotics.

This essay took four days to write, with quite a few hours thrown in. I gave the last inute completed first draft to a member of St Mary's Barton-on-Humber In Depth Group on August 13th 2007, although it is a mess compared with the final draft. The final one has had paragraphs reordered, and much text edited, removed, and corrected. The reason I wrote this was because a strong pitch was made at the previous In Depth Group for transignification, and though I said "nothing" happened at the eucharist I later realised that my use of Marcel Mauss was in fact compatible with transignification (probably why the priest-in-charge approved (so far?) of the social anthropological approach. Plus whilst Marcel Mauss, the social scientist (nephew of Emile Durkheim), has provided a key piece of my theology for some time, I have never been happy with its structuralism. Levi-Strauss used him. So somehow I want Mauss without the structuralism, and for this I have brought in Jean Baudrillard, who died in March this year. Many people think Baudrillard is sloppy and writes like a madman (I know he is dead - academic convention keeps writers alive) but I think he understands the impact of the media world we live in, and how semiotic relationships reverse around in postmodern conditions. He hyperreals his own writing, but fortunately there is the Horrocks and Jevtic cartoon 1996 book Baudrillard for Beginners (also entitled Introducing Baudrillard) to tell people what he was on about.

By the way, for the last few years or more I wrote "simulcra" and it seems I have not been alone. There is another 'a' in there, so it is simulacra and therefore simulacration, or my view of the eucharist in postmodernity.

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