IMAGES AND OTHERS Idolatry: Nietzsche, Blake, Poussin
7:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Rawles Hall 100
This lecture aims at a diagnosis of the return of idolatry and its evil twin, iconoclasm, in contemporary global political culture, and especially in the contemporary tendency to conceive of war in religious, Manichean terms, as a struggle between Good and Evil. Working through the transvaluations of the idolatry/iconoclasm complex in the philosophy of Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols and Thus Spake Zarathustra) and the paintings of William Blake, the lecture stages a re-reading of Nicholas Poussin's classic scenes of idolatry in The Adoration of the Golden Calf (London: National Gallery) and The Plague at Ashdod (Paris, The Louvre). This reading is designed to overturn the canonical view of Poussin as a conventional moralizer whose pictures endorse the brutal iconoclasm mandated by the Second Commandment, and reveal him (as in Blake's description of John Milton) as a true poet, and of the devil's party. The lecture concludes with a return to contemporary scenarios of ethnic cleansing in the war for possession of the holy land of Israel-Palestine.