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The Grotesque in Art and Literature : Theological Reflections [Paperback]

By James Luther Adams (Editor), Wilson Yates (Editor) & Robert Penn Warren (Editor)
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Item Number 143518  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   302
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.98" Width: 5.98" Height: 0.81"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2000
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802842674  
EAN  9780802842671  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
While there has been a growing interest in the use of grotesque imagery in art and literature, very little attention has been given to the religious and theological significance of such imagery. This fascinating book redresses that neglect by exploring the religious meaning of the grotesque and its importance as a subject for theological inquiry.

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More About James Luther Adams, Wilson Yates & Robert Penn Warren

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Adams was the Edward Mallinckrodt Jr. Professor Emeritus of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

James Luther Adams lived in the state of Massachusetts. James Luther Adams was born in 1901 and died in 1994.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > Art History > Criticism   [1568  similar products]
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A fascinating look at the grotesque's religious implications  Feb 4, 1998
Standing always at the edge of society's consciousness is a group of artistic works that repel as they fascinate: the grotesque. Dismissed by the "respectable," and often condemned for their absurdity, incongruity, and perceived immorality, they nonetheless hold powerful sway in the popular imagination. Sordid pagan tales of incest and bloodletting, the medieval carnival, commedia dell'arte--these popular uprisings of the grotesque imagination reveal, through their marginalized position in the cultural scene, deep seated impulses that polite society has suppressed.

Yates surveys four major theoretical approaches to the grotesque-Wolfgang Kayser's grotesque as demonic "other," Mikhail Bahktin's edenic carnival, Geoffrey Harpham's notion of the grotesque as the process of becoming, and Ewa Kuryluk's feminist interpretation of the grotesque as an expression of subdued or oppressed "anti-worlds." Yates uses these theorists to identify major themes in grotesque art that speak to religious impulses: bafflement over the meaning of human existence; the dread of non-existence; man's ability to create; and our perception of the world as fallen.

Roger Hazelton's "The Grotesque, Theologically Considered" seems to express the central insight of this book: that the grotesque, like theology, forces us to reflect on mystery properly conceived. As Hazelton says:

Mystery is not a synonym for residual ignorance which will be dispelled when the sciences get around to it. Neither can it simply be equated with the unknown or unknowable. . . . Theology and grotesque art . . . find a certain affinity in a common persuasion that mystery remains a real and radical feature of our existing in the world-something not reducible to the aims and methods of technical expertise . . . thus compelling other kinds of human response and acknowledgment.

For Hazelton, the grotesque, in expressing the mystery of Being recalls to us theology's enunciation of "that abiding, confiding trust and loyalty called faith."

Also notable in this collection is Wolfgang Stechow's consideration of Hieronymus Bosch, whose Garden of Earthly Delights was placed by Spain's King Philip II at the altar of the Escorial. Bosch has long been a puzzle to art critics and the faithful alike. Praised by a Spanish monk at the time of its completion as a bold representation of man "as he is on the inside," the painting, with Dante's Inferno, ranks among the best commentaries of the grotesque nature of sin. The book also boasts an excellent examination of the gravedigger's scene from Hamlet and a previously unpublished play by Robert Penn Warren, Ballad of a Sweet Dream of Peace: A Charade for Easter.

The only disappointment in the collection is the essay that James Luther Adams wrote in the '70s before abandoning the project for a quarter century. "The Grotesque and Our Future" studiously avoids discussion of the deeper insights about man and religion the grotesque affords, instead confining himself to banal policy pronouncements. He quotes approvingly the call for a "revitalized United Nations" as the antidote to 20th century violence, a suggestion that gains a grotesque irony in the post-Sarajevo era. Surveying the cultural scene, he finds nothing more "typically and pathetically grotesque" than the spectacle of "the president's daughter tutoring two inner-city children at the White House." (One feels Dr. Adams has not looked hard enough.) Given the fact that we seem to be experiencing a uprising of the grotesque in popular music and movies--notice for example, Quentin Tarantino--this essay is a missed opportunity to discuss what the grotesque may say about our culture's future.

Still, in all, The Grotesque in Art and Literature is fascinating reading: well written, insightful, synthesizing various disciplinary approaches in an attempt to gain a view of the whole subject. Moreover, the subject of the grotesque may well become one of great interest to believers in the postmodern era. As American culture itself becomes more and more grotesque, there may be much insight to gain from art and literature that stands on the cultural edge and gazes back to the center.


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