Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Brian Goes to Syracuse: Thomas Jefferson versus literature

Brian offers a good quotation from Thomas Jefferson on (loosely interpreted) the graduate student's version of temptation (novel-reading) at Brian Goes to Syracuse: Thomas Jefferson versus literature. As a fiction writer, I am inclined to think that Jefferson was writing in a state of political delirium. Then again, as an art historian, I rather like to imagine a painting along the lines of the standard theme of the Temptations of St. Anthony, only with a haggard graduate student sitting in a cell surrounded by volumes of unread Foucault, Derrida, Žižek and the like, while enticing paperbacks by Toni Morrison, Robertson Davies, and Dorothy Sayers float about in the sky or throw themselves in front of the sufferer. (If I were better with Photoshop and had nothing else to do, this would be fun to construct.)

Grunewald's version of the Temptation of St. Anthony, from the Isenheim Altarpiece. What I've never understood is why saints might really find the average demon (as depicted by Northern Renaissance artists like Grunewald, Bosch, and company) particularly enticing, especially when, as here, the demons look pretty threatening. Then again, the demons are always interesting looking.



Blogger Julia said...

What writer or artist can resist a demon? (Paradise Lost comes to mind). When I think about it, the only (non-fallen) angels from literature I liked were in Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy, and that is probably because they were so human in character. And you?

December 21, 2005 11:26 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

Well, yes... I admit I always prefer pictures of well-detailed demons to the average bland angel, but then I'm not a saint. I also don't know that I would really trust any demon very far.

I guess that while I like looking at Bosch, Grunewald, and the like's depictions of the demonic forces, this doesn't mean I quite want to live in their world. (I already spend enough time there.) No demons crawling and cavorting around on my bed, thank you.

December 21, 2005 4:26 PM  

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