Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Calling the Bluff, Raising the Stakes

Ted Prescott, a sculptor at Messiah College, illustrates an alternative Christian strategy for dealing with critical theory in the humanities:
Evidently we will always have theorists with us, like the poor. Unlike the poor, theorists seem to have plenty to eat. If works of art are food for theorists, it seems obvious that something happens to those works as they are broken down and reconstituted by theoretical digestion... My argument is not with theory or theorists. I have been engaged by my theoretical encounters... and have learned from them. My arguments is with the belief that theories legitimize art, reveal its meaning, and should discipline our perceptions. The best response to such totalizing belief is not more theory. It is art's "wild prayer of longing" (240-241).
That last quote is from W.H. Auden's For the Time Being. Apparently, Prescott is unfamiliar with the more common way for Christians to grapple with critical theory: Folding the hand, surrendering the chips.