Thursday, January 5, 2012

* "Violence Against the Past": Baldacchino Barbarism

The Empire Strikes Back : 

Rome and Us


Adam Kirsch

The New Yorker,  January 9, 2012

"For Hughes, [Robert Hughes, author of Rome: A Cultural, Visual and Personal History] the most glorious example of such Christian reconstruction came in the seventeenth century, when Gian Lorenzo Bernini was given permission to strip the bronze cladding off the Pantheon's portico, in order to melt it down for the majestic baldacchino in St. Peter's.  This, too, was a kind of violence  ---a violence against the past, committed in the name of a present that believed itself more authentic, more powerful, even than the Roman Empire." (p.74)

"Indeed, the physical fabric of Rome is perhaps the best example of Walter Benjamin's dictum 'There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.' " (p. 74)

"But today, in a post-9/11, recession-battered country, what transfixes the imagination of American writers is the end of the Empire  --- the "decline and fall"  --- that Edward Gibbon made the central moral of the whole Roman experience."  (p.68)

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