24 September 2006

Elaine Scarry

[from Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain, 1985]

Belief is the act of imagining. It is what the act of imagining is called when the object created is credited with more reality (and all that is entailed in greater “realness,” more power, more authority) than oneself. It is when the object created is in fact described as though it instead created you. It ceases to be the “offspring” of the human being and becomes the thing from which the human being himself sprung forth. It is in this act that Isaac yields against all phenomenal assessment to Abraham, that Abraham yields to God, and that the reader yields to the narrative: it is not simply the willingness to give one’s interior to something outside oneself but the willingness to become the created offspring of the thing in whose presence one now stands, as Isaac at that moment is not the many things Isaac is but only Isaac-son-of-Abraham, as again Abraham the patriarch, Abraham the husband, Abraham the father of Isaac, Abraham the father of the twelve tribes of Israel all now converge into Abraham-the-created-offspring-of-God, and as the reader in his or her many capacities ceases to be the many things that he or she is and becomes in the stunned and exhausted silence of Genesis 22:1-19 the created offspring of the text, and of this text and of the many stories through which the framework of belief is set in place.

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