Lefty Zeitgesity-ness

Terry Eagleton in an interview for The Oxonian Review (???) has some interesting things to say, even if the questions put to him are a bit dry (the mark of a good interviewee!):

I suppose one of the advantages of a left downturn, ironically, is that it gives you time to think around politics, not to fetishise it. Politics isn’t the be-all and end-all. I never really believed that it was, but when the left is on the ascendancy, it’s hard not to believe. So there are ironically gains from the situation at the moment that you can then begin to lay in ideas or think around the topic, and I suppose that’s partly what I’ve been doing. Not deserting politics but trying to add a depth to it, and also, in doing so, breaking with the holy trinity of class, race, and gender. Vital topics though they are, they’ve become such tram-lines on which the cultural left has been moving.

That’s pretty striking stuff, and probably too controversial for many of my fellows on the left interested in those particular three. It’s on a rising wave of this kind of sentiment I think that SR/OOO has gotten such a commanding hold.

Eagleton then gets asked about his faith and religion and he beings up a certain sort of lefty religious Zeitgeist that has been brewing for a few years, which I’ve noticed in a few things I’ve been reading in just these past few days:

I suppose it’s a certain theological mainstream that interests me, and the political implications of such. And of course that’s been coming much to the fore in the past few years. If you think of the number of agnostic and very theistic leftists from Agamben and Zizek to Habermas and Badiou, who have been raising theological themes, it’s very much part of the Zeitgeist.

On the subject of leftists embracing religious ideas, I read this review of Quentin Meillassoux’s latest book The Number and the Siren which did my head a number. I’m reading Meillassoux’s After Finitude at the moment for a PhD chapter I’m writing and think it’s so far beyond praiseworthy I don’t know where to even begin. His newest book sounds even more bizarrely mind-expanding, if you can believe it. I’m going to quote a large slab of Adam Kotsko’s review to give you a sense of the appropriate scope of Meillassoux’s weirdness:

In Meillassoux’s reading, Mallarmé is reflecting on the task of the poet in the wake of the “shipwreck” of traditional poetic form occasioned by the rise of free verse. Where he breaks with most contemporary interpreters, however, is in seeingUn Coup de Dés as part of Mallarmé’s attempt to create an artistic form that could found a modern ritual with all the power and meaning of the Roman Catholic Mass. This project centered on the composition of a liturgical poem called “the Book” that would be part of a numerologically structured ceremony of public reading.

Many critics view this ambition of Mallarmé’s as crazy and embarrassing, something that he surely got out of his system by the time he wrote his final great work. Meillassoux, however, not only claims that Un Coup de Dés is a continuation of the project of the Book, but that—thanks to Meillassoux’s own investigation, which effectively unlocks the meaning of the poem—Mallarmé has in fact actually succeeded in an achievement that could found a new poetic religion that would be secular modernity’s answer to Christianity.

Stéphane Mallarmé is, in short, a modern-day Jesus, and Meillassoux is his St. Paul.

Yes, Meillassoux (lefty, atheist intellectual) has a book out about a poet starting a new religious order. Alright, Terry – let’s ride that wave.