The Failure of the Ark: Disney's Lion King without Animals
January 7, 2014
Satirical Perspective on Noah's Gargantuan Task
December 4, 2013
Character, Ethics, and Watching Films
January 9, 2014
My Favorite Image of the Flood - Gustav Dore. "Sending out the Dove"
December 4, 2013
Depending on where your eye is drawn first, scanning the image narrates a sequence of ethics and emotions that jars, provokes, and problematizes: the heaving ark, the quiet white dove, and the human corpses like maggots littering the foreground.
When I lecture on the biblical flood story, I always begin with a sequence of images. Starting with 10-15 typical and widely available pictures, we look at Noah, the ark, the animals, and the rainbow. These images are easily culled from Children's Bibles, Sunday School felt boards, and Christian marketing ads for home products. The last type of images is especially entertaining for the students and particularly useful for my purposes. You can buy Noah's Flood wallpaper, Noah's Flood baby mobiles, Noah's Flood wooden toys, Noah's Flood bedding, Noah's Flood onsies, and Noah's Flood bath fixtures. It becomes abundantly clear that Noah's Flood is made for American childhood. The images provide what for many is a trip down memory lane into learning the ABCs and a first exposure to the taxonomy of the animal kingdom.
Before flipping to my last image, I ask the question: "What is Noah's Flood about?" I invite a silent meditation, allowing students time to consider how the mixture of memory, childhood, and the peacable animal kingdom combine with the adult themes of the Genesis Flood story.
Then enter my favorite image of the flood, Gustav Dore's "Sending out the Dove." You don't need my blog to do what the image does masterfully on its own. Just look at it.
I tend to teach into moments that I myself am blown away by, and this is one of the biggies for me.
The image is peaceful and disturbing all at once. Depending on where your eye is drawn first, scanning the image narrates a sequence of ethics and emotions that jars, provokes, and problematizes: the heaving ark, the quiet white dove, and the human corpses like maggots littering the foreground. The ark is still embroiled on its dangerous journey over a swollen ocean, triumphantly backlit. Who are the courageous and fortunate ones who rode through the destruction of the world? As the divine power of destruction recedes, human bodies begin to wash up on the rocks. There will be no burial. There is no family to receive the dead. What can humanity and specifically one human life, possibly mean in the face of such judgment, of such senseless death on a massaive scale? The dove hangs over the the scene, suspended in the heart of this arrangement of questions. Does the dove herald good news to the weary sailors in the ark? Or does the dove hover over human vermin, making a mockery of grace? In any case, I always pause to note this seemingly sacred use of negative space. The dove is shaped by a lack of ink. Into this hole spills most of my passion, my sorrow, and my longing.