Fictions of Home
Fictions of Home
The Metaphysics of Home: Religion, the Canon, and Existential Trauma
As we have seen, home is a spatiotemporal imaginary, and as such it is concerned with our place in the world, both in the sense of our geographical location and of our position within the larger scheme of things. Accordingly, an inquiry into the nature of belonging may quickly lead us beyond questions of daily existence, toward the realm of metaphysical speculation. More specifically, inquiries into the nature of home are likely to spark questions of a religious nature because religions tend to hold forth the promise of a final, transcendental home. In the Judeo-Christian tradition , for instance, humanity appears as tragically fallen: expulsed from Eden , and exiled in the desert of earthly existence (an idea powerfully expressed, for instance, in John Milton 's Paradise Lost ). As John Durham Peters observes, there is thus at least one similarity between Judeo-Christian and poststructuralist thought, for in both these traditions human identity is seen as inherently incomplete and discontinuous with itself ("Exile, Nomadism, and Diaspora " 22 ). 13 According to Peters , Christian discourse in particular has come to be suffused with nomadic imagery, with St. Paul's ideas being particularly influential: "The human body for him is a temporary, mobile dwelling in which mortals sojourn on earth" ( 27 - 28 ). In this view, humans are wanderers on the face of the earth, and only in death, when we have finally left our nomadic bodies behind, is it possible for us to recover our transcendental home in God, with whom we will forever rest in peace.
Steven Spielberg 's E.T. explicitly draws on this religious narrative of alienation and belonging in order to enhance the significance of little Elliott's quest. As already noted briefly, Elliott's own father is absent from the home; he has left the mother and moved to Mexico with his new partner. Elliott longs for the absent father, and E. T. assumes the role of a Messiah who will guide the boy towards a new sense of belonging. Indeed, as Thomas Sebeok has noted, E.T. 's emotional power depends to a large extent on its "subliminal religious infrastructure" ( 662 ). Spielberg 's film tells the story of an otherworldly being who, we will find, has the power to heal little Elliott's wound when the boy cuts himself on a sawblade; a being who dies, is resurrected, and who, in the final scene, ascends once again to his heavenly home (Alexander 25 ; Tomasulo 275 ). The film's religious subtext is also apparent visually, as when E. T.'s glowing heart alludes to the iconographic tradition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus ( FIGURE 2 ). 14 In fact, even the film's advertising campaign has incorporated this religious dimension, with official posters pointing to Michelangelo 's depiction of the creation of man in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel ( FIGURE 3 ). In E.T. - as in many texts about home - a protagonist's attempt to find a place in the world thus assumes a profoundly metaphysical dimension, and it is arguably for this very reason that the eponymous heroine of D.H. Lawrence's