Nina Power

7, 14, 21, 28 August 2024, 6:30-8.30pm

Event type: course

Event location: Verdurin. Self-study option available.

This is an event series.

“One can see that the iconoclasts, whom one accuses of disdaining and negating images, were those who accorded them their true value, in contrast to the iconolaters who only saw reflections in them and were content to venerate a filigree God.”

Jean Baudrillard

This four-part course will examine one of the deepest anthropological, religious, political, and aesthetic aspects of human existence: the question of images, their effect on us and what use we make of them. Iconoclasm, the prohibition and/or destruction of images, is no mere historical phenomenon. While in the West there appears to be a total disinhibition of images – after all, hardcore pornography is widely available, and images of horror, violence, and murder, fictional and real, are freely shown – we have nevertheless witnessed flashes of a new iconoclasm, perhaps as a response to the now-overwhelming flood of visual stimuli afforded by contemporary media.

This course, through collective reading and discussion, will seek to understand this deep human impulse, tracing it from the beginning of image making 45,000 years ago to religious and political controversies that persist today. Special mention will be made of the Eikonomachía (icon struggle) of the Byzantine period, and we will discuss various strategies adopted by Christianity, Islam, and Eastern modes of thinking in relation to prohibition and the seduction of human image-making.

The course will arrive at the modern day. Do we have any capacity left to critically analyse the power of images, or are we crushed by their weight? Is the recent spate of politically motivated destruction or sabotage of statues best understood as iconoclasm or do we need different approaches?

Course structure, Fees, and information

Iconoclasm is a four-part, in-person course led by Nina Power, held in a small group at Verdurin in August 2024. Sessions will last two hours and consist of a thirty minute lecture followed by group discussion of source texts.

Registration for in-person participation is £100. Concessions are available.

We will also offer a self-study version of the course consisting of recorded lectures and readings after the course has taken place in person.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the course content, concessionary fees, or would like to register your interest in the self-study option.

Indicative reading list

Iconoclasm, David Freedberg (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2021)

Georges Bataille, various, including The Tears of Eros (City Lights, 1989)

Simulacra and Simulation, Jean Baudrillard (University of Michigan Press, 1994)

Iconoclasm, Identity Politics and the Erasure of History, Alexander Adams and Frank Furedi (Societas, 2020)

Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm, Leslie Brubaker (Bristol Classical Press, 2012)

Iconoclasm: Rejecting the Past, Ingrid Dunér (Stolpe Publishing, 2024)

Iconoclasm from Antiquity to Modernity, Kristine Kolrud & Marina Prusac (Routledge, 2014)

Politics of Iconoclasm: Religion, Violence and the Culture of Image-Breaking in Christianity and Islam, James Noyes (I.B. Taurus, 2016)

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