This talk examines a few examples of the visual exegesis of the Adam and Eve biblical narratives to draw out the inter-relationship of aesthetics and hermeneutics, between reading strategies and modes of representation. It also examines the connection between reading, art, and ideology, and how this particular narrative scene in art re-enforces sexual differentiation and gender identity, as well as how chisel and paint challenges or reinforces such paradigms. Despite changes of medium, style, context, and perspective, a number of features of the interpretation are consistent. Still, there can be no doubt that certain scenes in the biblical narratives, the creation and the expulsion narratives, for example, provide occasions for re-readings and new emphases. We see this in the arresting lyrical beauty of the creation of the female in Maitani’s sculpture (Orvieto Duomo) and most originally in Masaccio’s exile (Brancacci chapel, Florence), where the psychological realism of abjection replaces shame.
Brenda Deen Schildgen, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at UC Davis, 2008 recipient of the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement, is a recipient of NEH, PEW, and National Center for the Humanities fellowships. In summer 2014, she directed a National Endowment for the Humanities Institute on Dante in Florence. Author of more than fifty articles focused on Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio as well as Chaucer, Augustine, and biblical hermeneutics, she has published in Dante Studies, Modern Philology, Journal of Comparative Literature, Religion and Literature, and New Literary History. Among her books are the most recent, Divine Providence, A History: Bible, Virgil, Orosius, Augustine, and Dante (2012); Heritage or Heresy: Destruction and Preservation of Art and Architecture in Europe (2008); Dante and the Orient (2002); Power and Prejudice: The Reception of the Gospel of Mark (1999).
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