Expressive individualism, the cult of the artist as genius, and Milton’s Lucifer

Patrick Madigan


I start off with what the American Sociologist Robert Bellah and the Canadian Philosopher Charles Taylor call ‘Expressive Individualism’, and which they present as the default lifestyle of our time, especially in the West. I give some examples and then ask about the origin of this lifestyle. I first trace this back to the cult of the artist revered as a ‘genius’, which flourished during the 19th-century; this cult has been democratized and universalized in our time. I then trace its origins one step further to the depiction John Milton gives of Lucifer in his poem "Paradise Lost"; in Milton’s altered portrayal, Lucifer rejects not only Jesus as the highest creature, he rejects the Father as father. He declares ‘I know none before me: I am self−begot’. In so far as we embrace ‘expressive individualism’ as an ethic for our time, therefore, we are implicitly committed to Milton’s Lucifer as an archetype for human fulfillment; I suggest this might be a toxic model.

Słowa kluczowe

indywidualizm ekspresywny; teoria geniuszu; romantyzm; Lucyfer Miltona

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