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Iconoclasm, Byzantine and Postmodern: Implications for Contemporary Theological Anthropology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 March 2013

Christopher Denny
Affiliation:
St. John's University, Queens, NY

Abstract

Medieval Byzantine debates regarding icons included fine distinctions between image, prototype, and symbol as these terms related to personhood. Iconodules and iconoclasts differed regarding the ability of art to represent the person. Must artistic representations of a person, to be justified, be consubstantial with the person represented and thus circumscribed, as iconoclasts believed? Or is it sufficient to refer to artistic representations as being symbolic of their human subjects? Embracing the victorious iconodule distinction between a person and artistic representations of the person raises questions regarding the manner in which an image can reveal a human being. Post-structuralist philosophers Maurice Blanchot and Kevin Hart have inverted this problematic. They begin the interpretation of icons and personhood not from the traditional understanding of the honor or worship paid to Christian icons. Instead, they examine the icon's deconstruction of the viewer. What results is an iconodule defense of a post-Cartesian “anthropological iconoclasm.”

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The College Theology Society 2009

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References

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66 I thank Kevin Hart and the members of the 2005 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar, “Religious Experience and English Poetry, 1633–1985,” held at the University of Notre Dame, for the conversation and fellowship that helped bring this article to fruition. I also thank the anonymous reviewers of this manuscript for their helpful suggestions.