29/10/2014 Expressive individualism, the cult of the artist and Milton’s Lucifer

17.00-18.00, 4 The Square, Upper Seminar Room

Patrick Madigan SJ
(Heythrop Journal)

Part of: Literature, Theology and the Arts Research Seminars. Upper Seminar Room, Wed 5.00 p.m.

The American Sociologist Robert Bellah and the Canadian Philosopher Charles Taylor have identified 'Expressive Individualism' as the default life style of our time, especially in the West.  This paper explores the origins of this cultural development through the cult of the artist as 'genius', which flourished during the 19th-century; this cult has been democratized and universalized in our time. It then takes one step further back to the depiction John Milton gives of Lucifer in his poem PARADISE LOST. In Milton's portrayal Lucifer rejects not only Jesus as the highest creature, he rejects the creator.  He declares 'I know none before me; I am self-begot'.  In embracing 'expressive individualism' as an ethic for our time, therefore, we may be implicitly committed to Milton's Lucifer as an archetype for human fulfilment.

First published: 17 October 2014