This new blog project will present a series of ‘biographies’ of beauty, exploring the narratives that are built up around beautiful people – real, mythological and fictional – and particularly the way that these narratives connect their beauty to sin and sinfulness. Not so much biographies of beautiful people as of their beauty itself.
The project will analyse the way that historical interpretations and cultural representations of beautiful people create a narrative of their beauty as something bewitching and dangerous, and depict this power as stemming from the original sinfulness of beauty. I use the Christian phrase deliberately; religion has had a significant part to play in this process and these blogs will examine the ways in which religions both adopt beauty to aestheticise their systems, and also vilify beauty – in case people forget to worship anything else.
This attitude is not exclusive to religion, and I will also look at the way beauty is used in narratives of financial, social and political power. As a whole, then, I hope that this will form a biography of beauty, detailing the conflicting reactions it inspires and the way in which such reactions have evolved – or been manufactured.
We will begin with the Queen of Sheba.