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Sexual Restitution of the Withdrawn God: Religion as a Route to Sensualism in Victorian Culture

By Min-Tser Lin


Though austere moralism based on Evangelical teachings characterized the bourgeois culture of nineteenth-century England, many Christians of the age actually suffered a disrupted relationship with God. With the fear of "God's death," it was believed that the moral universe which He guaranteed was falling apart. Thus the Christians embarked on a restitution of the disappeared God back into where He was sup-posed to be. However, the Victorians did not realize that the God who ensured such a symbolic construct as the Christian moral discourse should be "dead". In other words, the Christian moral code works effectively only because God serves as its unreachable point of reference, with only a symbolic, even linguistic, existence. The desperate attempt of some Victorians to invoke God's living presence only disturbed the placid, symbolic operation of the Christian moral doctrines with intense emotive charge. Psychoanalytically speaking, the psychical excitation or tension usually bursts out in violent sexual acts and, in the present case, takes the religious form. The present essay will start with a Lacanian reinterpretation of the Freudian myth, "the murder of the father in the primal horde," to explain how the Christian God sublimates Himself from a so-called Imaginary presence to a Symbolic pact. Then it will be argued that the Victorian attempt at His reinstatement only brought Him back to an aggressively sexual relationship with the followers. At last, the essay will describe how this potential for eroticisation in Victorian religious experiences was explored and exploited in both religious and non-religious (especially pornographic) discourses

Topics: Christianity, psychoanalysis, the Imaginary, the Symbolic, Victorian pornography
Publisher: 臺中市:國立中興大學外國語文學系
Year: 2014
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