Iconoclash: Transfiguring the Icon in <i>The Spoils of Poynton</i>
Smeele, Wietske Maria
Iconoclash is an act of creation that originates in destruction. This paper explores the role of iconoclash in the movement of art objects and the intimacy between collector and collected in Henry James’ The Spoils of Poynton (1897). Bruno Latour first proposed “iconoclash” as a term for the common but rarely explored relationship between destruction and creation of sacred or artistic objects. Drawing on Jane Bennett’s notion of assemblage and Miguel Tamen’s concept of a society of friends to identify a multi-species body that functions as a single entity, this paper examines how Mrs. Gereth’s citizenship in such body transforms a typical destructive act into an attempt to maintain the icon’s continuity. Similarly, Fleda Vetch’s commitment to social convention necessities her transformation from idolater to agent of iconoclash as she attempts to recreate the icon that has been destroyed. These acts of iconoclash are not performed out of a desire to destroy the object of worship, but rather to maintain its totality: whether this is Mrs. Gereth’s reconfiguration of the original icon, or Fleda’s desire to transfer the supremacy of the icon into a single art piece, the result remains that the iconicity of the collection relies on its entirety.