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Book Title: Mystical Languages of Unsaying|
The author of the book: Michael A. Sells
Edition: University of Chicago Press
Date of issue: May 2nd 1994
ISBN 13: 9780226747873
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 4.47 MB
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The subject of Mystical Languages of Unsaying is an important but neglected mode of mystical discourse, apophasis. which literally means "speaking away." Sometimes translated as "negative theology," apophatic discourse embraces the impossibility of naming something that is ineffable by continually turning back upon its own propositions and names. In this close study of apophasis in Greek, Christian, and Islamic texts, Michael Sells offers a sustained, critical account of how apophatic language works, the conventions, logic, and paradoxes it employs, and the dilemmas encountered in any attempt to analyze it.
This book includes readings of the most rigorously apophatic texts of Plotinus, John the Scot Eriugena, Ibn Arabi, Marguerite Porete, and Meister Eckhart, with comparative reference to important apophatic writers in the Jewish tradition, such as Abraham Abulafia and Moses de Leon. Sells reveals essential common features in the writings of these authors, despite their
wide-ranging differences in era, tradition, and theology.
By showing how apophasis works as a mode of discourse rather than as a negative theology, this work opens a rich heritage to reevaluation. Sells demonstrates that the more radical claims of apophatic writers—claims that critics have often dismissed as hyperbolic or condemned as pantheistic or nihilistic—are vital to an adequate account of the mystical languages of unsaying. This work also has important implications for the relationship of classical apophasis to contemporary languages of the unsayable. Sells challenges many widely circulated characterizations of apophasis among deconstructionists as well as a number of common notions about medieval thought and gender relations in medieval mysticism.
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Read information about the authorMichael Sells studies and teaches in the areas of qur'anic studies; Sufism; Arabic and Islamic love poetry; mystical literature (Greek, Islamic, Christian, and Jewish); and religion and violence. The new and expanded edition of his book Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations appeared in 2007. He has published three volumes on Arabic poetry: Desert Tracings: Six Classic Arabian Odes, which focuses upon the pre-Islamic period; Stations of Desire, which focuses upon the love poetry of Ibn al-'Arabi; and The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, Al-Andalus, which he coedited and to which he contributed. His books on mysticism include Early Islamic Mysticism, translations and commentaries on influential mystical passages from the Qur'an, hadith, Arabic poetry, and early Sufi writings; and Mystical Languages of Unsaying, an examination of apophatic language, with special attention to Plotinus, John the Scot, Ibn al-'Arabi, Meister Eckhart, and Marguerite Porete. His work on religion and violence includes: The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia; and The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy, which he coedited and to which he contributed. He teaches courses on the Qur'an, Islamic love poetry, comparative mystical literature, Arabic Sufi poetry, Arabic religious texts, and Ibn al-'Arabi.
(University of Chicago, Divinity School)
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