Pages 56

The term "pagan aesthetic" was coined by the French philosopher Jean-Franois Lyotard (1924–98) to describe the revolutionary potential of figural manifestations in confrontation with closed systems of language, literature, and discourse. In Instructions paens and Rudiments paens: Genre dissertatif (1977), Lyotard grounds a theory of political resistance within the critical capabilities of aesthetic form. Setting up a challenge to the closed linguistic formulations of Hegelian dialectics, this perspective calls the event-oriented focus of history making into question, ultimately locating critical possibility within the inextricable, ontological alterities of artistic critical/self-critical expression. Recognizing the contentions between Marxism, psychoanalysis, and different moments in Judeo–Christian exegesis, Lyotard's concept de-emphasizes their paradoxical claims, and focuses on their collective performance as metanarratives of patriarchal power. Heralding the concomitant rise of the Western Republic with the modern invocation of "the pagan" as a mode of political dissension, Lyotard emphasizes the affective, feminine character of the concept. As an intervention against what he calls the Eucharistic terrorism of sovereign narratives, resistance to transcendental identifications can be, and are, performed by the disempowered through strategies of mimetic parody.