Journal Article

PRESENCE OF GOD? TOWARDS THE POSSIBILITY OF A THEOLOGICAL AESTHETIC IN AN ANALYSIS OF GEORGE STEINER

Karl-Josef Kuschel

in Literature and Theology

Volume 10, issue 1, pages 1-19
Published in print March 1996 | ISSN: 0269-1205
e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/10.1.1
PRESENCE OF GOD? TOWARDS THE POSSIBILITY OF A THEOLOGICAL AESTHETIC IN AN ANALYSIS OF GEORGE STEINER

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This article is a critical examination of George Steiner's book Real Presences (1989). This book is, for a literary critic, a bold and provocative attempt to describe anew the experience of language and art as an experience of transcendence. To Steiner, every seriously taken work of art is an opus metaphysicum. The article shows that Steiner's venture implies a sharp criticism of a literary approach which has cut out completely the religious dimension from its methodological discourse. The article also contains a criticism of a theology (Karl Barth and the consequences of his thought) which continually views the artistic and the aesthetic with a mistrust and stands over against them with a rejection justified on the grounds of revelation theology. The critical theological query against Steiner's book consists in the demand to describe more precisely the concept of transcendence. Steiner's approach runs the risk of taking over every great work of art for a “religious” experience of transcendence, and ignores too much the role of the recipient for whom a work of art can bring about different experiences. Only an unambiguous definition of what transcendence is can make a work of art into a medium of a transcendence-experience. In exact theological terms, a work of art is the place of probability, of seeming truth [Wahr-Scheinliches], in the double sense of the word.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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