Dissertation > Literature > Literary Theory

The Perception of the Sacred in Simple Society and Its Significance for Literary Theories

Author ShiWenYing
Tutor LiuLiLi
School Nankai University
Course Literature and Art
Keywords simple society the Sacred ideas the Sacred and the Profane aesthetic modernity the sacred re-enchantment
Type PhD thesis
Year 2012
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The Sacred means the nature of being mysterious and awesome, which is moreoften derived from an overwhelming supernatural power, and it is believed to beexisting in some experiential objects. Being devoid of the sacred is the Profane,which stands in contrast with the Sacred or serves as the opposite of the Sacred.This paper focuses on the definition of the Sacred ideas in simple society. TheSacred ideas mean far more than the religious beliefs or mythical thoughts in thecommon sense, and it is so inclusive that all ideas and thinking about transcendentalspiritual presence can be incorporated into it.Drawing upon real-life materials provided by many modern and contemporaryanthropologists and borrowing theories and ideas from numerous western scholars,the author aims to give a description of various manifestations of the Sacred in simplesociety, which include mana, soul, ghost, spirit, god, etc. and summarize the basictraits of the Sacred, namely, its being transcendental, idolatrous and mutuallyparticipating.But basing himself on the literary standpoint, the author intends to study how theSacred ideas throw light on literary theories, rather than pursue anthropological orreligious research. As a matter of fact, many topics of today’s literary theories can trace back to a sacred starting point or find their root in the Sacred ideas, such as theorigination of literature, the inspiration in the creation of literary works, the socialfunction of literature and literary techniques like personification, deformation andsymbolization.However, the aesthetic appreciation of the Sacred ideas does not equal theagreement with those ideas from ethical point of view. From a modern perspective,the Sacred ideas of simple society are non-ethical, that is to say, they are irrational,non-individual, and non-universal.The difference between aesthetic evaluation and ethical evaluation results fromthe sacred ideas encountering the modern society, and it is also a reflection that thethree pole values, namely, truth, goodness and beauty, evolve separately and becomeindependent of one another in the modern society. Relevant to this is the contradictionbetween civil modernity and aesthetic modernity and the tension between the rationaldisenchantment in “hard rules” and the sacred re-enchantment of “soft culture”. Ithas been proved that democracy and freedom, especially the separation of church andstate, becomes the precondition for revival of traditional culture. Only if we performuniversal justice in social rules, and allow differences and diversity in culturalselection, can a wonderful world of “sharing universal beauty” and “harmony but not sameness” becomes a reality.

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