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Longing in exile : the dialogue with despair in the fiction of Walker Percy and Elie Wiesel / by Robert Joseph Modini.

Publication | Digitized | Library Call Number: PS3566.E6912 Z64 1984

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    Both Percy and Wiesel probe, in their fiction, the unique struggle of those who seek to retrieve a vision of redemption in a postmodern, post-Holocaust world. Their protagonists engage in a dialogue with despair that derives its tenacity from the innate tension between a pervasive sense of futility and an equally persistent longing for a redemptive response from God. Wiesel's sense of loss concerning the sacred tradition of Judaism is acute. It centers on God's bewildering absence during the Holocaust. Since that time, the people Israel, who have always been sustained in exile by their vision of redemption, are not in danger of becoming exiled from that very vision. Percy explores a loss which increasingly inhibits individual sensitivity to the sacred in the postmodern world. The reductive processes militating against one's inward witness to the sacred in creation have become intensified in recent times. Paradoxically, only the full recognition of one's desperate state can rescue one from the spirit of self-abstraction to which we have all become vulnerable. Such recognition, often painful and disorienting, proceeds from an acute awareness of one's spiritual exile. Both authors retrieve a biblical vision of longing in exile in which the sense of homelessness remains the only witness to a sacred reality that transcends the reductive theories by which we otherwise live. Wiesel struggles to renegotiate the ancient longing for the Messiah without denying the somber revelations of Auschwitz. Percy demonstrates that a sense of exile from "the lovely ordinary world" opens one to a deeper understanding of this exile and the sacred longing that gives it meaning. Both seek a language of exile that, transcending the "small talk" of our time, can voice this longing. Each exhibits a concomitant respect for the sacred silence that, as indispensable backdrop, gives such language its depth of meaning. Lastly, the biblical model of the Suffering Servant, found in both Judaism and Christianity, serves as implicit prototype for the modern exile in the function of both. This figure, interceding for fallen creation while maintaining a vision of creation's return from exile, transforms his forsakenness into a willingness to share the burden of others. This model becomes the symbolic touchstone with which Judaism and Christianity might intensify their dialogue in a post-Holocaust milieu.
    Modini, Robert Joseph, 1943-
    Thesis (Ph. D.)--Syracuse University, 1984.
    Includes bibliographical references (p. 239-245).
    Photocopy. Ann Arbor, Mich. : UMI Disseration Services, 1984. 23 cm.
    Dissertations and Theses

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    Electronic version(s) available internally at USHMM.
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    245 p.

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