"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

14 March 2009

The Hermeneutics of Suspicion

Reading Chapter 4 of Death on a Friday Afternoon, I was struck by the following passage, possibly because my friend Pamela and I have discussed the topic a few times as she's been studying for her MA comps this semester.

Neuhaus speaks of "the toxic cultural air of a disenchanted world in which the mark of sophistication is to reduce wonder to banality. Even more, the acids of intellectual urbanity turn sacrifice into delusion, generosity into greed, and love into self-aggrandizement. In academic circles, this is called 'the hermeneutics of suspicion,' meaning that things are interpreted to reveal that they are not in fact what they appear to be. At least things that seem to suggest the true, the beautiful and the good are not what they appear to be. They must be exposed and debunked if we are to get to 'the truth of the matter.' The false, the self-serving, the ugly and the evil, on the other hand, are permitted to stand as revealing 'the real world.'"

All I can say to this is yes, indeed. We call happy endings and lovely poetry "cheesy," and only accept as real that which is cynical and ugly and despairing. How sad. Because the only real story there is to tell, despite its having to take place in a broken world, is filled with loveliness and ends more happily than we can even imagine.


Marcy Froemke said...

So true, my friend. Beautifully said!

alaiyo said...

Thanks, dear friend!

Lydia McGrew said...

That's one reason I like Elizabeth Goudge. She isn't a great novelist, but she has some really lovely novels that teach some great things, especially if one doesn't mind a little sentiment--e.g., _The Little White Horse_ and _The Dean's Watch_.

But a really great novel that I just recently read--at which I suppose the hermeneutics of suspicion folks would turn up their noses or worse, ruin by their "interpretations"--was _Gilead_ by Marilynne Robinson. Highly recommended.