A special project of The Immanent Frame to mark its tenth anniversary. Co-curated by Courtney Bender and Nancy Levene.
Continuing to reinforce the centrality of white Protestant capitalist culture to American identity sometimes requires Americans to turn their hostile gaze on the heathen Hindu, sneaking in through that seemingly innocuous—not to mention irresistibly sexy—fitness practice, yoga. Other times, Hindus become allies of the white supremacist American nationalist machine as the gaze turns to the terrorist Muslim. Large swathes of Americans find themselves united by anxiety about immigration, as well as perceived threats to capitalist and patriarchal forms of domination. Hence, there are many Americans, past and present, who propagate militant forms of nationalism all while selling themselves as the protectors of American social values. Altman’s book significantly adds to our understanding of the long history of this pervasive anxiety and alienation in American culture.
When we think of the ways of “generating an experience of full attentiveness” in devotional contexts we often tend to distinguish between affective and intellectual modes, and to produce typologies that are structured by this very axis. This, too, is something we will have to reconsider. What Marno teaches us with his reading of Donne’s devotional poetics is a new way of perceiving the correlation between sensation, affect, and cognition. Attention, as I see it now, forms a key to this. It is to be seen as a movement of the mind that creates the “spiritual body” as the empty space of a temporal interaction of these three seemingly disparate realms that, in devotional poetics, converge in a transformation of human existence. Obviously, a historical question ensues at this point: Do the early modern pressures on faith and doctrine evoke this new profile of attention, i.e., the foregrounding of “attending to” as the very act in which prayer turns into the place where doctrine and faith are being transformed and where attention survives in the distractions of the world.