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ThingsReligion and the Question of Materiality$
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Dick Houtman and Birgit Meyer

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823239450

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823239450.001.0001

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Idolatry Nietzsche, Blake, and Poussin

Idolatry Nietzsche, Blake, and Poussin

(p.112) Idolatry Nietzsche, Blake, and Poussin

W. J. T. Mitchell

Fordham University Press

This chapter addresses the difficult relationship between words and images, as religiously encoded in the Second Commandment (“You shall not make for yourself a graven image”) and as inscribed at the heart of art history as the clash between logos and icon, meaning and image. A discussion of two paintings by Nicholas Poussin (1594–1665) that depict scenes of idolatry leads to the argument that Poussin's dilemma exemplifies the central problem of art history: How are we to make use of visual representation without lapsing into meaningless idolatry? Poussin's solution, it is suggested, is to focus not merely on what idolaters and iconoclasts believe (or are believed to believe by their adversaries) but also on what they actually do to one another-particularly acts of violence inflicted on alleged idol worshippers.

Keywords:   Idolatry, Iconoclasm, Totemism, Fetishism, Second Commandment, Nicholas Poussin, William Blake, Friedrich Nietzsche, Palestine, Israel

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