Cover of Alan Cole: Fetishizing Tradition

Alan Cole Fetishizing Tradition

Desire and Reinvention in Buddhist and Christian Narratives

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State University of New York Press


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This innovative work documents the literary gesture that "fetishizes tradition," making long-standing religious traditions appear present and available through the reading experience. Taking as examples Paul's Letter to the Romans, the Gospel of Mark, the Sutra on the Land of Bliss (Sukhavativyuha), and the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (Liuzu tanjing), Alan Cole shows how these texts invite readers into the fantasy that they can leave behind tradition's established rites, rituals, sacrifices, institutions, and festivals in order to take up just the text and its narrative as the key to salvation. Ironically, then, one's salvation is determined by how one receives the (new) message of salvation. Crucial to making these more virtual forms of tradition appear plausible is the reconstruction of tradition's "truth-fathers"-God or the Buddha, as the case may be-so that they appear to endorse the legitimacy of these new ways of being traditional. Relying on a wide body of critical theory, this book presents an intriguing way to rethink key elements in Christian and Buddhist thought.

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