SH: Even as your postmodern appropriation of Luther’s Hidden God invites the silenced and suffering to speak, so you believe that a recovery of the Incomprehensible God of the mystics, especially the apophatic and love mystics, can bring the repressed stories of the marginalized, the heretics, the dissenters, the fools, the martyrs, and the avant-garde artists back into the theological conversation. When they are invited to speak in their own terms, you have argued, they utter difference, transgression, and excess as an alternative discourse to “the deadening sameness and totalizing systems of modernity.” Is it then this criticism of modern totalizing systems that has turned your attention to “the fragment”?
DT: With Joyce and other modern critics we see the abandonment of a nostalgia for a lost totality. The peculiar form of the fragment first became important for artists, then for philosophers, and now for theologians. It is a form, a literary or religious form, that can challenge any totality system, especially the totalizing systems of modernity. There are three kinds of contemporary thinkers for whom the category “fragments” is crucial: the first, the radical conservatives see fragments with regret and nostalgia as all that is left of what was once a unified culture. The second, the postmodernists, see fragments as part of their love of extremes and thereby as emancipatory toward and transformative of the deadening hand of the reigning totality system, the rationality of modern onto-theology. The third group, of whom Walter Benjamin and Simone Weil are the most suggestive in the early twentieth century, see fragments theologically as saturated and auratic bearers of infinity and hope, fragmentary of genuine hope in some redemption, however undefined. I am most interested in Benjamin and Weil in developing my own theory of fragmented forms.
Whoa. Tracy is, I believe, a friend of Andrew M. Greeley’s, and Greeley’s theology is mostly taken from Tracy. Sounds like he’s going interesting places. Reminds me of the sorts of things that Bob Sweetman would talk about when he was my history prof back in the early 90s. In fact, the very bio I linked to just now mentions a paper of his called “Of Tall Tales and Small Stories: Postmodern ‘Fragmatics’ and the Christian Historian.” Whoa.