By Cary Howie (auth.)

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Additional info for Claustrophilia: The Erotics Of Enclosure In Medieval Literature

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Under the Altar It might be appropriate to take back—indeed, to withhold—what was just said about not needing firsthand experience, sensory experience, of the Greek temple. Euripides dramatizes, ironically and as irony, a participative and resistant relationship of setting-forth and setting-back in the temple of Iphigeneia in Tauris. Installed as a priestess of Artemis by Thoas, king of the Taurians, after her deliverance from Agamemnon’s sacrifice, Iphigeneia delivers her opening monologue from within the temple: There are rituals here; the goddess Artemis is pleased with them: a holy service: only the name is good.

Closure—and here is the greatest risk of disorientation—would name, for me, what Heidegger has called the work of art. Contrasting the Greek temple with instrumental equipment, he observes that . the temple-work, in setting up a world, does not cause the material to disappear, but rather causes it to come forth for the very first time and to come into the open region of the work’s world. The rock comes to bear and rest and so first becomes rock; metals come to glimmer and shimmer, colors to glow, tones to sing, the word to say.

This immobilizing, asocial thrill has its place in the language of desire: it is what the fetish provokes and distils. What I am suggesting here is that Heidegger’s work of art has a fetishcomponent, and that this component poses the largest challenge to any ethical appropriation of the work of art or its analogs, namely saints and beloved bodies. Heidegger observes that “in the earth. ”64 This self-seclusion invites the fetishistic gaze. It can lead either to immobility or to flight. If its most stubborn traces, in Euripides’s play, are the skulls under the altar, as the deathly immobility that the artwork in its purity can confer upon the human, and if Thoas’s docile gaze cannot get past his robe, transfixed there by what the robe concretizes and suppresses, this only means that disclosure is sometimes, and sometimes fatally, not desirable.

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Claustrophilia: The Erotics Of Enclosure In Medieval by Cary Howie (auth.)
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