Antidotes to Captivation and Spell-Bound Forgetting: The Counter-Idolatrous Figure of the Human in Modern Jewish Theology and Art

Raphael, Melissa R ORCID: 0000-0003-1623-4971 (2015) Antidotes to Captivation and Spell-Bound Forgetting: The Counter-Idolatrous Figure of the Human in Modern Jewish Theology and Art. In: Ethics of In-Visibility. Imago Dei, Memory, and Human Dignity in Jewish and Christian Thought. Religion in Philosophy and Theology, 77 (289). Mohr-Siebeck, Tübingen, pp. 101-117. ISBN 9783161538100

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Culturally visible images of bodies (especially women’s) are increasingly those that have been subject to processes of technological and cosmetic correction towards a perfection that is alien to, and denies or ‘kills,’ their humanity. At the same time, those bodies that do not conform to the prevailing aesthetic norm fall from view and therefore from social memory and power – another form of death. By contrast, under the Second Commandment, Jewish theology insists on the finitude of the human form as the creation of a divine or eternal imagination, as distinct from the idolatrous attempt to create an amortal or infinite form by the operation of a finite imagination. This article suggests that, whether referring generally to the creation of the human in God’s image, or particularly to that of the assembly of Jewish bodies that is the people Israel, Jewish theology offers a prophetic critique of representations of people remade, without pathos, in the image of a hubristic culture’s own aspirations to power. Understanding the criticism of idolatry, after Maimonides, as a form of cognitive captivity and forgetting – as not so much the corruption of a religion as the corruption of the cultural imagination by false religion – this article presents a range of Jewish ethical, narratival, and artistic sources that, together, can be interpreted as offering a counter-idolatrous theology of appearance.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: idolatry; judaism; art; image; gender; body
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BM Judaism
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Melissa Raphael
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2015 12:09
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:55

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