Aporias of Religion in Barker: God, Deconstruction, and the Re-writing of the Bible
Howard Barker’s tragic theatre is preoccupied with the questions of religion, the divine, the sacred, nihilism, faith, and spirituality. Positing the death of God as the condition of possibility of his art of tragedy, and setting death and desire as its ontological premises, Barker’s drama manifests prominent metaphysical dimensions and concerns. This “a-theological”—and not atheist—approach, however, does not make him ignore God and the pivotal place He/it occupies in human history and personal-collective consciousness and unconscious. In this chapter, I will argue how Barker’s aporetic approach to the issues of metaphysics, God, and religion should be characterized in terms of a twofold method: deconstructionist and evental, rather than in terms of negative theology. The aporias, here, stem from the complex relationship between Law and Event. Tracing the pervasive presence and recurrent iterations of God, religion, sacred in various plays, it will be demonstrated how God, to Barker’s characters, is not merely a transcendental signified, but is rather indelibly interwoven with embodied experiences of pain, contradiction, and eroticism/desire. Crucially, this is evidenced by the fact that often the first steps taken by Barker’s characters (including Stucley) in their re-definition of their self are their re-definition of the nature or role of God in their world. Accordingly, this chapter takes as its focal point the subtle manners in which, in Barker, the transcendental-metaphysical (whether interpreted as God, realm of ideals, or spirit/soul) and the material-sensuous are depicted to be inherently linked. As is attested by Stucley’s revisionary re-writing of the Bible, pivoting on the moment (and/or act) of “sexuation” of the deity/god (Christ), Barker’s deconstructionist re-conception of the metaphysical/transcendental involves exposing the repressed material-bodily basis of it—including the female/feminine.