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David Lawton

228 pages | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | 3 illus.
Paper 1993 | ISBN 978-0-8122-1503-8 | $24.95s | Add to cart
Not for sale outside North America and the Philippines

"If David Lawton is right in saying that freedom of religious opinion leads to aggressive fundamentalisms, which are likely in their turn to use blasphemy as an ideological and political weapon, then what we have is a problem that may turn very nasty indeed."—Frank Kermode, New Republic

"Blasphemy is the most subtle meditation on colonialism and European cultural imperialism (internal and external) that I know. In the American context, much of this book is as apposite to the activities of Ms Tipper Gore as it clearly is to the Rushdie case."—Daniel Boyarin, author of Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity

"A remarkable book, full of fascinating and sometimes colorfully lurid detail, but with an urgent and even necessary message for the present moment. Wise, generous, and humane, precisely because it does not let us rest easy upon any of our assumptions,"—John Ganim, University of California, Riverside

From Jesus Christ to Salman Rushdie, from Moses to Freud, blasphemy has been a force in producing many forms of Western cultural identity. Blasphemy continues to influence our relations with other cultures, yet it is not so much an idea as a shifting rhetorical figure. It stands for whatever we deplore: we define the truths we uphold in terms of the blasphemies we attack.

"Blasphemy is an orthodoxy's way of demonizing difference," writes Lawton. In this provocative book, the author tracks the history of blasphemy from the trial of Christ through the fatwa imposed on Salman Rushdie. He concludes that blasphemy is far from an antique concept, but a living, dangerous rhetoric that still defines the boundaries of popular culture.

David Lawton is Professor of English at the University of Tasmania.

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