This essay, by the editor of Common Knowledge, responds to a piece by Dionigi Albera that, in turn, responds to Jeffrey Perl’s introduction, published in May 2017, to CK’s multipart symposium on xenophilia. Albera argues that the ambivalence that Perl observes in many instances of xenophilia needs genealogical explanation, and Albera turns for this purpose to analysis of the relationship between Aphrodite and Ares in Greco-Roman mythology. In the present piece, Perl extends that exploration in analysis of a series of images in which the gods of love and war, along with their illegimate children Eros and Phobos (or philia and phobia), are given comical and often vulgar treatment by artists ranging from Botticelli and Mantegna, in the fifteenth century; to Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, in the sixteenth; to Rubens, Jan Bruegel the Elder, and Poussin, in the seventeenth; to Lagrenée, in the eighteenth; to David and Guillemot, in the nineteenth; to Jeff Koons in our own day. Perl and Albera agree with these artists that the antithetical pair, Aphrodite and Ares, have a fully logical, if furtive relationship in mythology, iconography, and psychology. The idealization to which the comic images respond—that when warriors make love, there is no warfare—is laughed, again and again, out of court. But Perl’s concern, unlike Albera’s, is that this cynicism on the part of artists and advanced intellectuals means that, despite their ostensible preference for peace over conflict, they will always find cause to undermine every effort to make way for peace.
Jeffrey M. Perl; Beyond Xenophilia: A Response. Common Knowledge 1 January 2020; 26 (1): 65–87. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-7899724
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