(Un/Civil Religion) The U.S. Capitol Is An Animal Being

I’m probably imagining it, but since the January 6 insurrection when I look at still photos of the building, the material object that is the Capitol looks to me like a living creature, like some kind of animated object, an animal. The structure has a head and arms and legs, like a monster. It takes in and emits force but without a mind of its own. Anthropomorphism and zoomorphism are things in the history of architecture, as per here and here and here and here. In Renaissance theory and going back to Vitruvius, it involves bodily proportion and sentience. The human body is the measure of all things, including architecture. Off the top of my head, the only example I can think of comes from the Babylonian Talmud, comparing the altar in the courtyard to a ravening wolf and the Temple to a crouching lion. Amid all the talk about the violation of the sacredness of the place, I am sure that my own sense of that ascription of that living character to the U.S. Capitol has something to do with the animating power of Religion, both Civil and Uncivil.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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3 Responses to (Un/Civil Religion) The U.S. Capitol Is An Animal Being

  1. dmf says:

    it was something to have the ‘secular’ press going on and on about how sacred the place is supposed to be, no escape from nationalist theology…

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