All four of today’s texts present the story of a sinner–committing adultery, despair, anger, everything possible (in the case of Incestuous Daughter)–who is, in most cases, redeemed. Consider the way the sinner’s situation is presented in these different narratives: how might you see each as a participant in a sin-assemblage (and, later, a redemption-assemblage)? And what might the fact that the sinner is not simply acting autonomously suggest?
Each of these texts from today present a large range of sins and sinners, but as the question suggests each sinner was a participant in a sin-assemblage, in which the participants were not the sole cause of the sin, although they may have different levels of responsibility to the act of sin they engage in. In “The Adulterous Falmouth Squire” the text notes how “the devyll caught hym in a croke” (line 66), which the audience could take to be the temptation that the sin presents. That in itself places another actant in the assemblage of the sin of adultery. In “The Jealous Wife,” the wife’s jealousy as well as confusion at her husband’s statement that “bot of a woman that I wote, / I love wele more, God it wrote, / than any erthly thing” (94-96) all work toward her sins. The fact that the sinners are not simply acting autonomously suggest that the redemption as well is not a sole action of the sinner; there must be other factors and actants.
In the case of the Incestuous Daughter there are “Fowre devylles” (186) which seem to have control over her with chains. This could be perceived as lessening the daughter’s guilt in her sin or as simply being indicative of the natural state of fallen man (though of course her state appears worse than most). In the redemption assemblage there must be the “grace of God allmyght” (211) and this must be conveyed to the sinner through the word which “the bysschop spake” (213). When the word lands in her heart she also must react correctly in order for the redemption assemblage to be successful. It seems to be the “tere” (214) or in other words the repentance which drives the demons away: “the fendys fley and were adrad” (217). No matter what the outcome of the sin-assemblage, as sinner “may in his last dey/ to a preste his lyve sey, / God wyll forgete hym nought” (280-2). In this way the redemption assemblage seems more powerful than the sin assemblage, but less inevitable because all fall to the sin assemblage, but not all are redeemed.
This idea that sin and redemption can exist as actants in an assemblage call for a very interesting analysis of their existence in object oriented ontology. OOO is rooted in the idea that the connections and the relations between objects and phenomenons within an assemblage are at the heart of the object, rather than a pure or strong essence. The sins that are commited by the human do not solely work to reflect a purely evil impulse within a human, nor is the heart of the sin inherently an evil phenomenon. Sin seems to be a reactive element, effected through the assemblage by other humans or divine impulses beyond the control of the human sinning. Although the human must be contributing to the action of the sin, the sinner themself is not the sole manifestation or essence of the sin. This would mean that sin does not reflect an internal shortcoming, but the shortcomings of the networks or assemblages that the sinner is a part of. This same concept could be applied to redemption when it is analyzed as an actant within an assemblage. Redemption is the result of the actants within the assemblage working together to push the person being redeemed to interact with redemption. When these assemblages are considered in their relational qualities rather than through the idea of an inherent impulse or essence, the phenomenon is a result of the assemblage, not a reflection of a pure internal essence that “deserves” redemption or a divine impulse or influence.
I disagree that sin and redemption are actants rather I would see them as infinitely opposing, yet corresponding and cascading affects of a nuetrally occuring.but polarly affecting event or assemblage. Im not sure if that makes sense. What I mean is, that if sin is not done alone but through assemblage with other bodies, then sin itself is not agentive without the connection to or.influence of something else. Like cohen suggests, talking about Cleges and the Christmas blows, that material agency in theological or moral terms is seen in a negative sense (sin) and passivity and repression are poaitive (tenpurence). While inaction and faith may provide comfort in the idea of salvation, the negative material act of sinning simultaneously inacts the immaterial potential agency of redemption. This is what I mean when I say assemblages act infinitely in polar directions, taking on polarity only when the nuetral act in question is deconstructed and examined outside the assemblage as an individual and singular agent.