Few today would argue with the main thrust of Arnold's projection that poetry, broadly speaking, has replaced religion as a kind of metaphysical antidote to the supposed certainties of modernity's predominantly scientific worldview. Not as beleaguered as religion by the particular demands of scientistic thinking, it is the arts that remain the place where one might still respectably ponder the imponderables. Arnold's consecration of art, however, was not simply the gut response of a poet to his own society's general loss of confidence in religion. His conflation of the religious and the aesthetic depended upon connections between art and religion that had for a long time punctuated the history of thought about art in the Western tradition. It had long been observed, for example, that art's particular modes of discourse, e.g. image, story, and symbol, might give special access to values and meanings of a religious and theological nature. Further, the peculiar power of these discourses to move us deeply was thought to have an ethical and religious relevance.
My Research Foci
Rebekah Smick, PhD
Associate Professor of Philosophy of Arts and Culture
BA (Brandeis University), MA (Columbia University), PhD (University of Toronto)
Rebekah Smick specializes in pre- Kantian art theory and criticism, in particular the relation of early modern visual arts theory to poetics and rhetoric in the Western tradition. Her research and teaching investigate the aesthetic values of beauty and grace in the early modern period, the link between knowledge and imagination, the aesthetic function of metaphor, and the place of compassion. She is especially interested in delineating the connections made during the early modern period between aesthetics, metaphysics, ethics, and theology. She is author of Antiquity and Its Interpreters (Cambridge UP, 2000) and is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Michelangelo’s Vatican Pietà as Image in the Theology and Aesthetics of Compassion.