Poetics of the Flesh

Poetics of the Flesh

Book Pages: 216 Illustrations: Published: October 2015

Author: Mayra Rivera

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Religious Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Postcolonial Theory

In Poetics of the Flesh Mayra Rivera offers poetic reflections on how we understand our carnal relationship to the world, at once spiritual, organic, and social. She connects conversations about corporeality in theology, political theory, and continental philosophy to show the relationship between the ways ancient Christian thinkers and modern Western philosophers conceive of the "body" and "flesh.” Her readings of the biblical writings of John and Paul as well as the work of Tertullian illustrate how Christian ideas of flesh influenced the works of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Michel Foucault, and inform her readings of Judith Butler, Frantz Fanon, and others. Rivera also furthers developments in new materialism by exploring the intersections among bodies, material elements, social arrangements, and discourses through body and flesh. By painting a complex picture of bodies, and by developing an account of how the social materializes in flesh, Rivera provides a new way to understand gender and race.


“Rivera’s book is a poetic love song of our incarnate life. It’s a song I’ll gladly sing.” — Jacob J. Erickson, Christian Century

"...Rivera’s text makes significant and noteworthy advancement, not only in theological anthropology, critical theory, and materiality, but also in an apophatic theology grounded in the immanent indeterminacy of multiplicity and relational, worldly ontology.... [A]n enjoyable 'must read' for many theologians, philosophers, and advanced graduate students."  — Brad Bannon, Reading Religion

"Situating the body in its spiritual, organic and social spheres of corporeal existence, the book thus argues toward a poetics of the flesh based on the relational materiality of the body and the world that makes a welcome move beyond the prevailing discourse around essentialist boundaries." — Jajati K. Pradhan and Seema Singh, Journal of Postcolonial Writing

“Indispensable. I highly recommend this book for those interested religious studies, theology, postcolonial and feminist theories, continental philosophy, and critical theory.”

— Justine Bakker, Religious Studies Review

"Rivera has contributed another “must-read.” Its elegance is evident on the page itself, for the argument flows easily in the seemingly effortless interweaving of three complex terrains: biblical theology, a phenomenology of the flesh and its postmodern legacies, and the politics of ethnic, racial, and sexual identity that beckons our attention at the so-called end of metaphysics. No one can engage this subtle, labyrinthine, and mellifluous text without being made more aware of the possibilities of a new relational matrix for interpreting the world and disentangling its many injustices." — Peter Casarella, Modern Theology

"Rivera identifies flesh as the root of many long-standing critiques of the body in theology and philosophy, and she sets out to unlock Christian imagination from conflations of flesh with sin, feminine and colonized bodies, and evil. The fruit of her labor is a beautiful invitation to reimagine and dwell in the rich complexity of enfleshed life within this world." — Jodi L. A. Belcher, Anglican Theological Review

"[Poetics of the Flesh] represents an important milestone in theology and philosophy for the contemporary reader." — Hector M. Varela Rios, Perspectivas

"This is an amazing, stunning, and rich work of philosophical erudition, intellectual suppleness, existential and intellectual passion." — M. Shawn Copeland, Syndicate

"[A] wonderful book that is not only thoughtful in content but also delightful in form." — Tat-siong Benny Liew, Syndicate

"In Rivera’s gorgeous poetic-prose, incarnate flesh becomes another name for possibilities of implicatedness, the depths and limits of planetary intimacy." — Jacob J. Erickson, Syndicate

"Poetics of the Flesh constitutes a distinctive and significant contribution not just to contemporary constructive philosophical Christian theology, but to other interdisciplinary conversations where materiality and embodiment figure prominently." — Ellen T. Armour, Women's Studies

“Rivera takes what makes others nervous about flesh and puts it forward in productive terms. . . . Her work reverberates with visions of humanity as precarious and fragile, receptive to the world in perilous and promising ways.”

— Shelly Rambo, Journal of Religion

"Mayra Rivera’s Poetics of the Flesh is an elegant exploration of the sensual, political, and theological fashioning of our materiality. Moving from ancient Christian texts to the most up to date material feminisms and postcolonial discourses, this book insistently returns us to the unsettled and elusive vitality of flesh even in the most unpromising theoretical contexts, and opens up the promise and possibility that our flesh, formed by those contexts, might through its practices change them in turn."  — Karmen MacKendrick, author of Divine Enticement: Theological Seductions

"Mayra Rivera has written a timely book, which brings to bear a novel notion of incarnation on matters of the flesh as a continually metamorphosing relational coexistence of matter and spirit, rhythm and texture, the epidermal and the cellular, the organic and the inorganic, the somatic and the carnal, and so on. Poetics of the Flesh charts a viscously embodied voyage from the Gospel of John and the writings of Tertullian to the more recent thought of Frantz Fanon, Luce Irigaray, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Édouard Glissant, and Judith Butler, in which Mayra Rivera reclaims the flesh as a pivotal site for the co-constitutive animation of body and world. In doing so, Rivera’s wonderful book makes indispensable contributions to postcolonial and religious studies, continental philosophy, and critical theory."  — Alexander G. Weheliye, author of Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human


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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Mayra Rivera is Associate Professor of Theology and Latina/o Studies at Harvard University and the author of The Touch of Transcendence: A Postcolonial Theology of God.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii

Introduction. Both Flesh and Not  1

Part I: Regarding Christian Bodies  15

1. Becoming Flesh: The Gospel of John  19

2. Abandoning Flesh: The Letters of Paul  29

3. Embracing Flesh: Tertullian  43

Part II: The Philosophers' (Christian) Flesh  55

4. Incarnate Philosophy  59

5. The Ends of Flesh  87

Part III: A Labyrinth of Incarnations  111

6. Inescapable Bodies  117

7. Carnal Relations  133

Conclusion  153

Notes  159

Bibliography  193

Index  203
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6013-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5987-6
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