In modernity, and especially with Kant and his philosophical tradition, including that of aesthetic philosophy and its concomitant network of discourses and practices (art history, art criticism, etc.) art came to be socially sanctioned through the analogue of the “soul,” the genius, wisdom, and “spirit” of the artist, which (if exercised with a certain propriety or decorum) might truly “magnify the Lord” even where it seems to merely magnify its own ego: romanticism as a “secular” religiosity. The entire modernist discourse of the fine arts can be seen as a secular theologism or a theology of the political ethics of the self in the service of the modern nation-state.

My paper is entitled “Enchanted Credulities” so as to highlight the uncannily comparable enchantments attending the fabrications of both religiosity and artistry religion as an art and art as a religion: projections of possible worlds which simultaneously acknowledge and deny their fabricatedness. what you’ve read are a series of openings in an ongoing critical engagement with some very ancient yet enduringly complex questions. These are problems and conundrums that remain unresolved in many contemporary discussions and debates, and which antedate what we understand as either “religion” or “art” today.

Donald Preziosi is a member of the History Faculty at the University of Oxford and emeritus professor of Art History and Critical Theory at UCLA. His current book project examines the antithetical relations of artistry and religiosity.

Further Reading