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A Critical Study of Modern Orthodox Scholarly Criticism of Western Art

GOGUADZE, TAMAR (2016) A Critical Study of Modern Orthodox Scholarly Criticism of Western Art. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 18 May 2021.


The present work seeks to explore the modern Orthodox Christian view of western art with a particular reference to western painting since the times of the Italian Renaissance to the present day. The fact that the phenomenon of western art is relatively new appears as a main challenge while attempting to examine the validity of modern views expressed in the name of the Orthodox tradition by references from patristic sources. Therefore the method of this thesis is to divide the concept of western art into its constituent components and find the patristic responses to each of them in the light of the Fathers’ appreciation of their contemporary art, literature and philosophy outside the church.
As an interdisciplinary exploration of artistic creativity this work has its goal throughout to trace the positive aspects presented by the masterpieces of western art that can aid the Christian process of theosis as well as enhance the Orthodox theological contribution to the ecumenical dialogue between the East and West on the grounds of common aspects manifested in the phenomenon of human creativity. Drawing on categories of western aesthetics as well as Orthodox theology, this work is particularly interested in the nature of Orthodox arguments for and against artistic creativity per se and their relationship to the ‘Patristic mind’ of the Church rather than seeking the direct quotations of the Fathers over the subject in vain. The historical background of the modern disagreement over the issue will be taken into special consideration.
Focusing on western art from an Orthodox perspective is fundamentally at odds with many conservative expectations of human creativity that are usually associated with iconography and liturgical art in Orthodox theology. Yet, the number and quality of works dedicated to explorations of iconography provides a sufficient material for enlightening both Orthodox and western readers on the mystical power of spiritual illumination generating from Orthodox icons as well as its artistic and historical analyses. The topic of this work – art outside the liturgical boundaries of the church –has been deliberately chosen. The central argument of this work is that human creativity in general has a divine origin since it has been inherited from the creative energy of God. The power of artistic influence cannot be doubted especially in a modern society that subconsciously seeks a liberation from the custody of the machinery of technical civilization. Therefore, the search for true and authentic goodness in sincere artistic manifestations of beauty and truth can find an important place in the Orthodox Christian consciousness without a need for its inclusion in worship. If taken seriously great masterpieces of western art offer an immense contribution to the theological study of spiritual senses and their relationship to the process of theosis.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 May 2016 14:30

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