Why do biblical themes continue to have such an impact on the popular imagination? Why do Mary-like mothers and Jesus-like sons play such a prominent role not only in the late Middle Ages and the Reformation but also in the Enlightenment; the nineteenth century, with its faith in science; and even our time, in such movies as The Terminator and the Star Wars sagaâto the extent that we can count them among Western society's leading cultural archetypes? And what does the figure of the father-God reveal about the social and familial institutions of male-dominated society?
In this provocative and engaging book, Albrecht Koschorke suggests that the story of the Holy Family has become a cultural code embedded in secular society. The Western nuclear family consists of the Christian prototype of mother, father, and child. Thus the Holy Family has come to be a model for modern family dynamics. The holy child stands at the center of centuries of art history, just as the child stands at the center of parental attention today. Similarly, the roles of modern women and men provide dramatic parallels to the surrogate mother Mary and to Joseph, a proxy for the absent father. But as the position of the father in Christianity remains ambiguous, Koschorke argues, the Holy Family model actually disrupts the nuclear "ideal," with reverberations throughout Western culture, including art, literature, film, popular culture, and political ideology. The anomalies of the Christian nativityâa present but nonbiological father and an absent spiritual father, for exampleâsupport the ideology of the state as a powerful and patriarchal determinant of society.
Ranging over two millennia of history and culture, Koschorke deftly contrasts the cultural archetype of the Holy Family with the theories of Freud and Weber and with the literary works of Rousseau, Kleist, and others in an exploration that illuminates issues of historical, religious, artistic, psychological, and cultural significance.
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