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Rewiring the RealIn Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo$
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Mark Taylor

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231160414

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231160414.001.0001

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Counterfeiting Counterfeit Religion

Counterfeiting Counterfeit Religion

William Gaddis, The Recognitions

(p.12) 1 Counterfeiting Counterfeit Religion
Rewiring the Real

Mark C. Taylor

Columbia University Press

This chapter presents a reading of William Gaddis's The Recognitions (1955), one of the most theologically sophisticated novels ever written and one of the richest and most difficult works of fiction in any language. Gaddis' ambition was to write the last Christian novel. To read this prescient work is to gaze into a mirror and discover ourselves anew. The events recounted in The Recognitions take place in the time between belief and unbelief. While modernization and secularization make belief impossible for many erstwhile faithful, the memory of belief and the assurance it brings defer the advent of a thoroughly postmodern age of unbelief. Though never explicitly stated, Gaddis suspends his narrative between a series of polarities: pagan/Christian, Devil/Christ, Catholic/Protestant, Europe/America, completion/incompletion, original/counterfeit, transcendent/immanent, depth/surface, negation/affirmation, Homoiousian/Homoousian, unbelief/belief, and fake/real. Gaddis sought to subvert such simple oppositions by showing how each term folds into the other to create a nonsynthetic third that joins without precisely uniting differences. Far from merely dismissing religion, Gaddis recognizes that the convolutions of contemporary society and culture cannot be understood apart from the ancient theological preoccupations from which they have emerged.

Keywords:   Christian novel, religion, belief, unbelief, William Gaddis

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