Saturday, 7 February 2015

James Francis: Ancient Seeing/Christian Seeing: The Old and the New in John of Damascus

In recent years, much has been written on the topics of visuality in classical antiquity and early Christianity.  Investigation into the nature of representation, the dynamic interchange between viewer and viewed, and the interrelation between image and text have emerged as hallmarks in this regard both in classical studies, as in the work of Simon Goldhill, and late antique/early Christian studies, as in that of Jaś Elsner.  One obvious cardinal point regarding visuality and the “history of seeing” is the Iconoclast controversy and the definitive Christian articulations of acceptable representation and seeing that emerge from it.  This communication will apply key insights from studies of visuality to the theology of John of Damascus in his Apologies Against Those Who Attack Holy Images. It will outline the points at which John’s work reflects and builds upon classical understandings of representation and seeing, and where and how it departs from this inheritance.  Ultimately, this communication poses the question whether Iconoclasm produced a specifically Christian visuality.

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