From the dark archives, 1998: Potter questions Percy’s semiotic

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  1. Quin Finnegan says

    This strikes me as an extremely insightful comment. One aspect of Percy’s foray into Semiotics was his need to cast the basic relationship in ‘triadic’ terms, which struck me as it must strike most people: an attempt to model the philosophy on the Holy Trinity. Does Percy somewhere say this himself? I’m not sure this is necessarily misguided, but it certainly makes the gnostic assessment ironic.

    I think you’re spot on about all of us being gnostic to one degree or another; one theologian who has brought this to light with regard to scripture is Lonergan. His ‘Way to Nicea’ touches briefly on the gnostic aspects of John’s gospel in particular, and I’ve always wondered about Revelation’s relation to gnostic thought processes in particular. I marvel that John must have been guided by the HS away from the simplifications that gnosticism is rife with (cf Gospel of Thomas) and towards the extremely complex meditation that is this strangest of all books.

    The contrast of narrative with philosophical musing in Percy’s work has struck me as well. It’s one reason I’ve always regarded Thanatos Syndrome as something of a triumph, though many Percy scholars give it mixed marks. Anyway, the narrative form of the canonical gospels must be part of what the Church Fathers saw as their real value. This has occurred to me several times lately while reading Girard. The gospels really are a revolutionary form of narrative.

    One more note on narrative and gnosticism: a great, great novel that shouldn’t be missed is Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading, in which the main character, Cincinnatus C., is convicted and sentenced to death for ‘gnostic turpitude’. The entire novel takes place as Cincinnatus looks forward to his end, and the result is sometimes galling, at other times laugh out loud funny as Nabokov disects the anxiety that absolutely nobody will ever escape, especially in its relation to writing and how it affects the creation of a narrative.

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