Abstract

This essay is concerned with the notion of community as revealed in two foundational texts, the Shield of Achilles in Iliad 18 and the Ark of the Covenant episode in the Book of Exodus. The extensive ekphrastic discourse in each text receives primary attention. Across religious and other boundaries, shared and differentiating factors are identified that relate to the development of communities. Conceptual grounding is located in Victor Turner's "communitas" framed as a well-coordinated union of individuals apprehended according to basic human and social traits. Also utilized is the cultural theory of Giorgio Agamben, who maintains the relevance for communities of the "quodlibet" seen as a value that is indispensable. Agamben also emphasizes singularity or "whatever you want, that is lovable." Clearly, the community of Agamben, derived from postmodern contingencies, entails protocols at variance with those of Turner, devoted researcher of traditional African tribal societies. Yet the avant-garde community of Agamben may have antecedents that are historically remote. In turn, sites at history's threshold may be illuminated with reference to cultural nuances detected by Agamben. With these discursive coordinates in view, discussion turns to a pair of texts associated with cultural idealization. The examples also stage their communities as mired in internal conflicts, ambiguities, flux, and attempts at definition and revision.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-4286
Print ISSN
0093-3139
Pages
pp. 55-74
Launched on MUSE
2008-10-02
Open Access
No
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