Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds, Vol 3, No 1 (2007)

2 Twisted: The Book and the Gene

Ann Burlein

Abstract


Why do we speak so insistently of the genome in terms of the Book—even going so far as to literalize this language? Drawing on Bakthin’s insight that our thought begins when we double-voice the words of others, using and re-accenting, this article argues that double-voicing religion is how the scientific secular is made. The insistence on treating scriptural metaphors as somehow real (even though we have long known better) arises from the need to use and thereby re-accent “internally persuasive words” in order to create new ways for words to mean. This article investigates two kinds of dialogue between the science of the gene and the book. Internally, invoking scriptural metaphors enables medical genetics to represent itself as having at long last sutured the gap between thought and being that Foucault deemed central to Western modernity. Externally, invoking the biblical signifier enables medical science
to stabilize its popular reception by using “the family” to colonize affect.

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