Resisting Oppression through the Meditative Body: A Theological Anthropology of Transformational Anger in Judith Butler and Julian of Norwich
This dissertation offers a constructive theological reflection on transformational anger. It proposes two theories of transformational anger that aim to contribute to the alleviation of suffering in marginalized communities, especially those marginalized by sex, sexuality and gender. First it proposes a theory of the transformational power of anger drawn from the work of Judith Butler; second, it demonstrates that there is also a theory concerning the transformational anger of the meditative body in the work of Julian of Norwich. While Julian's and Butler's theories have distinct merits, I fuse the two in order to propose a third theory of transformational anger that integrates Butler's theories with Julian's meditative training of the mind and body. Chapters 1 through 3 investigate the work of Judith Butler to show how she articulates new relationships between anger and subjectivity, ones that alleviate suffering. Chapter 1 outlines several important concepts as background for Butler's theories of anger. These include her ideas about gender binaries, genealogy, the materialization of reason, and scenography. Butler shows that a series of binaries--which may seem at first sight unrelated to gender--establish the cultural acceptance of inequality. Matter and Reason prove to be especially important among those binaries. They function like a root system that predetermines the shapes of the leaves that gender will take. Consequently, the investigation of those binaries is a radical investigation into gender. Chapters 2 and 3 explain how the root system of binaries moves into psychic life through a consideration of Butler's account of melancholic anger and her ethics of survival. These investigations show that although people feel anger towards the demands of this root system, Western culture provides no outlet for their expression, which causes them to psychically redirect that hostility inwards as self-punishment. I then propose a theory of anger and its role in the alleviation of suffering by introducing a new category--transformational anger--that is not present in Butler's account of melancholy, but that takes its direction from her account. In my account of transformational anger I suggest a role for public mourning of the loss of fluid relationships, those that would operate outside of the demand for rigidly opposed ideals of masculinity and femininity. Mourning loosens the rigidity of internalized anger. This results in a more fluid and less violent relationship between parts of the self. Applied to communal dynamics, public mourning creates more fluid and less violent relationships between classes of bodies that are marked by masculinity and femininity, and hence a method of survival for those bodies most vulnerable to violence. The second part of the dissertation applies the theory of transformational anger to a reading of Julian of Norwich's A Revelation of Love. In chapters four through seven Butler's lens reveals the previously unexamined role of anger in Julian's text. It allows us to see that Julian's project is systematically directed by her scandalized grief: she is scandalized and grieved that she feels sensitivity to divine and human suffering, but that the all-powerful deity's failure to prevent suffering shows that he does not feel sensitivity to her human suffering. She therefore questions whether the deity is responsible for suffering. While Julian initially rejects her sense of scandal and outrage as sinful, thinking about Julian together with Butler's method of genealogy enables us to see that Julian's anger is at work throughout A Revelation and its insistent return to her experience of outrage at God's seeming indifference to human suffering. As Julian repeatedly returns to her own feeling of outrage, she gradually converts the role of her scandal from a sinful act into the guiding message of her theology. Through these returns she progressively revises the root system of traditional Western binaries that would exclude her anger towards the deity as unintelligible. Julian's reiterations of outrage model an extensive training of awareness and bodily sensation that seek out tensions in her background thoughts and feelings, which are at odds with each other about basic human categories. Through her mature meditative awareness she sees the inconsistency of the Western binaries that frame categories of meaning; this then allows her to revise these binaries and to replace them with new theological ideas. Because these new ideas erode authoritative binaries in the Western imaginary, they also oppose common church teachings about the responsibilities that the deity and human beings hold for suffering, replacing traditional sources of authority with new ones that encourage her anger rather than exclude it. This dissertation therefore emphasizes more than previous scholarship the shifts in sources of authority that occur across Julian's Revelation. Her revision of binaries, her new theological ideas, and her changing patterns in relation to authority model a melancholic anger that turns into transformational anger enabled by the meditative body. Butler's framework reveals that Julian's idea of mother Jesus plays two key roles in the transformational anger at work in the Showings. According to the first role, Julian calls the motion of this transformational anger mother Jesus--a term that is shown to be a practice rather than a personified ideal. Further, reading Julian against the framework provided by Butler suggests that before Julian introduces the idea of mother Jesus late in the text, the revisions that she previously made to Western binaries have already evacuated the feminine and the masculine of their usual meanings. As a result, mother Jesus occupies a third position to which the Western imaginary cannot easily apply categories of femininity or masculinity. According to the second role, mother Jesus is a practice that answers Julian's anger towards the unequal sensitivity that she perceives between divine and human sensitivity to suffering. The dissertation suggests that in this role Julian uses aspects of motherhood as an ideal in the Western imaginary to represent sin or debt. She provisionally uses the maternal ideal in order to erode the boundary between blameworthy human beings and the innocent deity. Motherhood serves to transfer responsibility for suffering from human beings to the deity in the form of divine motherhood. As a result, mother Jesus may owe human beings salvation, for in the Western imaginary femininity is an imperfection, and so may be considered a debt. Through these investigations I show that Butler and Julian use transformational anger through different skill sets to expose the arbitrary nature of binary social ideals. I propose their combination as a contribution to studies in Butler and in Julian as well as to the theologies of marginalization, especially in relation to sex, sexuality and gender, that those two may inform.