Introduction [chapter]

1994 God Between Their Lips  
I have been trying for years to understand the relations I have livedrelations between spirituality and desire, between sex and sorrow, between gendered lack and escape through wounds. This book, as part of such an effort, explores desire between women as a form of "spiritual materialism" in writings by Luce Irigaray, Charlotte Bronte, and George Eliot. To begin with my study's underlying paradox, "spiritual materialism": I wish to understand why the act of grasping materialities-a sob in the
more » ... dy or the body itself-has so often required a spiritual discourse; why materialism, as a way of naming matter-on-its-own-terms, and material relations that still lie submerged, hidden from view, evoke the shadowy forms we call "spiritual."* Reaching toward these relations, I am *My definition of "spiritual" and its relation to the term "religious" is given on pp. 7-9 ; the distinction I draw between these terms is one largely based on religion's ties to institutional forms and to the established theological doctrines anchored in these institutions, making "religious" a narrower term than "spiritual" for my purposes. This particular distinction has been stressed by contemporary feminists who wish to explore and affirm women's non patriarchal attachments to whatever they deem to be "divine." (For examples of this trend, see Spretnak, ed., The Politics cif Women's Spirituality [ 1982] and Umansky and Ashton, eds., Four Centuries of Jewish Women's Spirituality [1992]). Though I could have used "mystical" throughout this study to convey my sense of escape, shadow, and inarticulate utterance-and, indeed, I often do-l take the term "spiritual," again, to be broader: inclusive of what is mystical, yet more malleable in the sense that it can more easily encompass Bronte's biblical focus and Eliot's Feuerbachian sympathies. Both of these spiritual investments touch upon the mystical, to be sure, as will become evident, but both are bound up as well with the kinds of Victorian religious thought and devotion that are not recognizably mystical in form. (I should say explicitly at the start that my book will not address Victorian and contemporary "spiritualism," which lies beyond the scope of this study.) Finally, Victorianists will no XV XVI doubt recognize that I begin my book on a note of inversion (or at least what might seem like one), turning inside out Carlyle's famous phrase "natural supernaturalism" in the paradox I offer. Thinking I had coined the phrase spiritual materialism, I was intrigued to learn that the phrase has also been used by Chogyam Trungpa in his book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.
doi:10.1515/9780804788151-004 fatcat:d5dpct52sna6temzljye7bveiy