The Bible & Visual Culture


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The symposium initiates an interdisciplinary and collaborative project joining the fields of Biblical Studies and of Visual Culture and Art History.

Valuable insights into the rich narrative and poetry of the Bible are often gained through an appreciation and critical study of the cultural afterlives of its characters, events, imagery, and doctrines. Artistic expressions of biblical themes and ideas can convey the essence of the biblical text, and involve the viewer more personally and vividly, than a purely literal reading of it.

Moreover, visual expressions of the Bible can draw the viewer into the very subject matter itself, serve as an interpretative or exegetical tool, and illuminate the text (in the sense of adorning, illustrating, and casting light upon it), as well as provide a commentary on the religious and theological values of the producer, percipient, and the social and cultural context of the artwork. Conversely, the study of biblical texts can illuminate the artwork, helping to establish, for example, its iconographical and narrative significance, and didactic, liturgical, and devotional intent or function.

While the disciplines of Biblical Studies and Art History and Visual Culture are mutually beneficial, rarely do they interact significantly in the context of serious academic research and teaching. Furthermore, little research has been conducted on the nature of the complex relationship that exists between the textual and visual articulation of biblical thought, or in order to develop a theoretical framework in which to examine the various types of correspondence between word and image.

With this in mind, this interdisciplinary symposium and project make use of existing methodologies in the disciplines of the History of Art and Visual Culture and Biblical Studies, and explores new approaches that encourage the systematic investigation of visual expressions of biblical subject matter.

The project is headed by an historian of art and visual culture and a biblical specialist who are the directors of two research centres that have come together to promote this project – the Centre for Studies in the Visual Culture of Religion, based in the School of Art at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and the Centre for Contemporary Approaches to the Bible, based in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at the University of Wales, Lampeter.

The symposium and project are seeking to attract students interested in investigating the visual afterlives of the Bible, and exploring the relationship of the Bible and visual arts in the contemporary world. You may have a variety of reasons for doing so, including:

  • a general interest in the cultural afterlives of specific characters, themes, or books of the Bible;
  • an interest in the visual expressions of biblical themes, distinct and unique to geographical or national areas, or distinct to specific denominations;
  • an interest in gender issues in the Bible conveyed through art;
  • a curiosity about how artistic representations of biblical themes can challenge traditional theological interpretations;
  • you may be a teacher who wishes to acquire insights into the importance of the visual in teaching areas that relate to religion;
  • you may be interested in exploring biblical art located in your local or national gallery;
  • you may be a historian of art and visual culture who wishes to acquire cognizance of the biblical texts and culture informing religious art in the Christian tradition;
  • you may be an artist who is seeking to engage biblical subject matter and ideas in your work.

Speakers

Revd Dr John Baggley is a Roman Catholic priest who has written extensively on the way theology, prayer, liturgy, and iconography form part of an integrated whole in the Orthodox Christian tradition.

Ms Katie Edwards is completing her PhD at the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield on the Bible and film, and has delivered several papers in the USA and in Europe on this topic.

Prof. John Harvey is an historian of art and visual culture and an art practitioner. He is Professor of Fine Art at the School of Art, University of Wales, Aberystwyth and Honorary Visiting Research Fellow at Lampeter. His research interests include post-Reformation religious art, the visual culture of popular piety, and the visual transliteration of biblical texts.

Dr Martin O’Kane lectures in biblical studies at Lampeter, His research interests include the Bible and the visual arts and he is chair of the research seminar group ‘The Bible and Visual Culture’ for the European Association of Biblical Studies.

Dr Gesa Thiessen is Reader in Theology at Milltown Institute of Theology, Dublin and Honorary Research Fellow at Lampeter. She is author of Theology and Modern Irish Art and Theological Aesthetics.

Dr Ulrike Vollmer has pursued studies in theology, film and the Bible in Freiburg, Leeds, and Sheffield. She is interested in cinematic interpretations of biblical texts, especially of those texts that centre around female figures, as well as in discovering possibilities for fruitful dialogue between the Bible and film.

The Bible and Visual Culture 

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