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Re: Spectacles of Empire

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  • ottoerlend
    Jon Newton wrote: I have been absent from this group for about 2 years. Has anyone any comments on Frilingos Spectacles of Empire ? Jon Newton, You might
    Message 1 of 4 , Oct 13, 2006
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      Jon Newton wrote:

      "I have been absent from this group for about 2 years. Has anyone any
      comments on Frilingos' 'Spectacles of Empire'?"


      Jon Newton,

      You might find the following link interesting:

      http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/4418_4445.pdf


      Regards

      O. E. Nordgreen
      Oslo, Norway
    • Lyn
      Actually, Spectacles of Empire is a well written and insightful work. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is doing work on Revelation in relation to the
      Message 2 of 4 , Oct 14, 2006
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        Actually, Spectacles of Empire is a well written and insightful work.
        I would highly recommend it to anyone who is doing work on Revelation
        in relation to the Roman world. If you want more information on it, I
        believe there was recently a review of it on RBL.

        L. Huber
        Elon University

        --- In revelation-list@yahoogroups.com, "jonknewton" <jonknewton@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > I have been absent from this group for about 2 years. Has anyone any
        > comments on Frilingos' "Spectacles of Empire"?
        >
        > Jon Newton
        > Tabor College NSW, Australia
        >
      • David L Barr
        I want to endorse Lyn s comment about Chris book. I had a chance to review it for CBQ; I ll paste it below for those interested. David L. Barr Wright State
        Message 3 of 4 , Oct 16, 2006
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          I want to endorse Lyn's comment about Chris' book. I had a chance to review
          it for CBQ; I'll paste it below for those interested.

          David L. Barr
          Wright State University

          -----Original Message-----
          From: revelation-list@yahoogroups.com
          [mailto:revelation-list@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Lyn
          Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2006 3:44 PM
          To: revelation-list@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: [revelation-list] Re: Spectacles of Empire

          Actually, Spectacles of Empire is a well written and insightful work.
          I would highly recommend it to anyone who is doing work on Revelation in
          relation to the Roman world. If you want more information on it, I believe
          there was recently a review of it on RBL.

          L. Huber
          Elon University

          ---------------------Review forthcoming in Catholic Biblical
          Quarterly---------------
          Christopher A. Frilingos, Spectacles of Empire: Monsters, Martyrs, and the
          Book of Revelation (Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion;
          Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). Pp. viii + 184. $35.


          This is a difficult book, difficult to grasp and even more difficult to
          apprise briefly. Not only does it employ a set of methods and materials
          rarely used by New Testament scholars, but it also marshals its arguments in
          an allusive fashion designed to produce insight in the reader rather than in
          a strictly propositional form. This is a case not so much argued as shown
          (a method quite in keeping with its major concern with spectacle). Still,
          there is an argument.
          Frilingos attempts to do two things. First, he explores the role of
          spectacles in Roman culture and politics, and, second, he shows how the
          Apocalypse fits that culture. To state the case baldly (and perhaps badly):
          just as joining in the bloody spectacle of the arena produced better Romans,
          so joining in the bloody spectacle of the Apocalypse produced better
          Christians. So unlike most commentators, F. explores what John's work shares
          with its culture, indeed, sees it as "an expression of Roman culture" (p.
          12).
          Frilingos wants to know what ancient Christians found appealing about the
          book of Revelation (p. 1). Why was this spectacle of "monsters and martyrs"
          so compelling? This leads him to ask further questions: What did it mean to
          view a spectacle? How did John's world understand sight? How were seeing
          and being seen related to concepts of virtue (and especially to
          masculinity)? How do characters in the Apocalypse function as spectators
          (the first act of the martyr is to view something).
          Armed now with a new set of questions, the reader is asked to enter the
          arena. In fact, we are led to consider the many spectacles of death: animal
          hunts, public executions, and gladiatorial contests, even popular romances
          (especially Apuleius' The Golden Ass and Longus' Daphnis and Chloe). And we
          are asked to view this "vast spectacle" with new eyes, following the
          Aristotelian model of the hierarchy of the senses wherein sight is both the
          most important and the most masculine (p. 39). Vision, you see, was not a
          passive experience but an active gaze, indeed a tactile and material
          experience (p. 73). Whether explained in the Platonic fashion (where a fire
          within the eyes reached out and touched objects) or the Epicurean (where
          images flow off objects and strike the eyes), seeing places the seer in
          intimate contact with the seen. Thus a spectacle is never just something
          that happens to someone else; the viewer is always involved.
          Whereas we may consider the arena as a stage for sheer brutality, to the
          Roman this suffering was "integral to the development of manliness" (p. 79).
          It inspired bravery and the pursuit of victory-the domination of one's foes.
          Seeing the victory was to act the man. This connection between seeing and
          manliness extends also to the romances, where the seer is the male gaze; the
          seen the female body. Further connections of the female with blood and
          penetration only reinforce the manliness of conquest (pp. 67-70).
          Two dense chapters on the role of the Lamb form the heart of the book. The
          Lamb is both the one penetrated ("as if slain," p. 69) and the one who
          penetrates (by his gaze, pp. 80-83), both feminized (pp. 75-78) and
          masculinized (pp. 78-87). Yet this masculinization is "arrested," for the
          Lamb does not appear at the final battle and it is the heavenly warrior who
          penetrates all by the sword of his mouth. The Lamb is both the spectator
          and the spectacle thus rendering "the concept of the 'masculine gaze'
          problematic" (p. 114). The Apocalypse, it turns out, is at once a thoroughly
          subversive work and one that fully employs the spectacle of empire.
          There is much more, and much more subtle, argument than I have been able to
          review here. F. presents an original thesis, well argued, supported with
          material from contemporary sources. And if it is over-drawn, as I think it
          is, it is nonetheless a provocative and healthy correction to the present
          consensus that emphasizes only John's rejection of Rome. The book should be
          widely read and discussed. The book's value is extended by excellent and
          extensive notes and a good bibliography. It has an adequate index-good on
          names but weak on topics (there is no index for "Jesus" or "witness," for
          example, but "Lamb" and "martyr" can be found). And in addition, the book is
          a pleasure to read.

          David L. Barr, Wright State University, Dayton OH 45435
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