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When art and religion meet

We have an early form of aestheticism to thank for the rise of religion

By Andy Martin  

In January 1857, at a trial in Paris, the prosecuting counsel shot himself in the foot. He made a stronger case for the defence than did the defence. The defendant was not so much an alleged perpetrator as a book. The book in question was Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. The book was accused, by virtue of its depiction of adultery, of being an offence to society, to morals, and to religion. It was liable to encourage adultery among wives (the depiction of husbands’…

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