The Face of Christ: Deleuze and Guattari on the Politics of Word and Image

Janell Watson


In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari manifest a strange fascination for paintings of Christ, as well as for the biblical Hebrews, their God, and his written word. For the two French theorists, however, the portraits of Christ do not represent the son of God, but rather deploy faciality, marking the predominance of a regime of signs necessary to the politics which underpin Western Christianity. Deleuze and Guattari's critique of representation can be used to address several conceptual difficulties encountered by the new generation of art historians which has taken conceptually sophisticated positions in regard to Byzantine and medieval holy artworks. The question of the power of holy artworks, their relationship to holy texts, and their effect on ordinary beholders had been neglected, these art historians claim, although, unlike Deleuze and Guattari, they do not reject the theory of representation outright. The first section of this paper shows how the notion of faciality upholds Deleuze's critique of representation, while identifying resonances between his critique and problems expressed by a number of art historians. The second section of the paper continues to map out an encounter between the concerns of Deleuze and Guattari and those of art historians, in regard to the political history of Christian visual art.


Christ; Gilles Deleuze; Felix Guattari

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391