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date: 21 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Understanding iconoclasm simply as the breaking of images fails to adequately address why reformers of all eras have sought to decapitate, maim, and otherwise erase sacred art. This chapter takes a long view of iconoclasm as the active interrogation of objects by objects—through case studies from ancient, medieval, and reformation art to today’s contemporary crises—to consider the power of religious art from the frankly object-centered perspective of “applied criticism,” censorship, and renunciation. Following a chronological overview of the many historical iconoclasms, it weighs the issues at stake through the lens of close looking, before closing with a range of objects whose hammer’s inflections intimate the potency of a methodology premised on fertile absence. Interpretation via the matrix of lack, fragility, and mystery is the proposition iconoclasm tenders whenever art and religion intersect.

Keywords: art, censorship, icon, iconoclasm, idol, idolatry, images, relics, Reformation

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