Slavoj Žižek’s Passion (for the Real) and Flannery O'Connor's Hermaphrodite

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Žižek has argued in his books on Christianity and modernity that institutional Catholic Christianity has placed its members in a double bind by insisting on belief in a nonexistent God of Being. The laws of this God of the Symbolic are perverse in that they impose impossible requirements on all believers. By the mid-twentieth century, however, Catholicism was experiencing the revolutionary reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Dogmatic Law at this time gave way to a renewed emphasis on the community of love associated in early Christianity with the Holy Spirit. This God of the Real is inherently Trinitarian: God-Father-Thing, Spirit as community of believers, and Christ as the imaginary Real gap between them. The American gothic writer Flannery O’Connor in her short story “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” provides a meditation on this Real Trinity. In O’Connor’s story a hermaphroditic circus freak becomes an emblem of the deadlock of sexual difference and a monstrous Christ-figure in the Žižekian sense. Its place is theologically incoherent and represents the passion for the Real emerging out of the perverse situation of mid-century Catholic orthodoxy.
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