Iconoclasm is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments.

Join us for an all-new lecture series that examines the very human experience of iconoclasm through the lenses of history, art, philosophy, psychology, literature, law and more.

You will enjoy ten recorded lectures by ten Oxford academics from across subject disciplines; then, you can take part in a series of live interactive Q&A online sessions with the speakers.

How this lecture series will work

A new recorded lecture will be released weekly each Monday, for the ten weeks of the series. (See release dates below.)

There will be three live, online Q&A sessions for you to join - your chance to ask questions of the speakers. These will be held from 5-6pm (UTC) on three Fridays: 23 October, 13 November and 11 December.

The recorded lectures will remain online and available to watch and review until Friday 18 December. (For reasons of data privacy, the Q&A sessions will not be recorded.)

Programme details

Monday 5 October: Lecture

The Ethics and Logic of Iconoclasm
Marianne Talbot, Director of Studies in Philosophy

Unless we believe that all statues must fall or that no statues must fall it would be useful to have a decision-procedure to help us decide which statues must fall. This is where logic and ethics come together. 

Monday 12 October: Lecture

Iconoclasm in the poetry of Tony Harrison
Dr Sandie Byrne, Director of Studies in Literature and Creative Writing

Tony Harrison aims blows, sometimes acerbically or aggressively, at the icons of established institutions and discourses, including the class system, the distinction between 'correct' and 'low' speech, the distinction between 'high' and popular culture, and the state apparatuses which perpetuate repressive conditions of production. Harrison does so in formal verse of great energy and verve, and of moving lyricism.

Monday 19 October: Lecture

The making and breaking of early medieval images
Dr Toby Martin, Departmental Lecturer in Archaeology

After Constantine the Great’s conversion to Christianity in the early 4th century, the new faith spread throughout Europe. With it travelled not just missionaries but new kinds of image with special powers pertaining to spiritual beliefs as well as identity and status. This lecture considers how the potency of objects and images changed in these centuries, and how the making and breaking of these things fits into the wider phenomenon of iconoclasm.

Friday 23 October, 5-6pm (UTC): LIVE Q&A

Join Marianne Talbot, Sandie Byrne and Toby Martin for a live online Q&A session, chaired by Dr Elizabeth Gemmill.

Monday 26 October: Lecture

Image breaking to image making: The Eastern Orthodox controversy over icons  
The Rev’d Canon Dr Robin Gibbons, Director of Studies in Theology and Religious Studies

Tension has always existed over the use of imagery in Christianity. The Decalogue forbids imaging God, but theological understanding of Christ as human and divine - and the cult of the saints – encouraged the prevalence of imagery within Christian Art. Iconoclasm took place in Byzantium in two distinct waves in the eighth and ninth centuries. The rise of Islam influenced the Iconoclast, but the controversy was also deeply theological. In the end, the icon makers won!

Monday 2 November: Lecture

Iconoclasm and Art History: A Thousand Years of Destruction, Deconstruction and Development
Dr Janina Ramirez, Director of the Certificate and Diploma in History of Art

This lecture will examine the impact that different types of iconoclasm exerted on medieval art. From the annihilation of imperial images to the desecration of religious iconography, we will move from Late Antiquity to the fifteenth century and explore how past attitudes towards the destruction of art are of great resonance today.

Monday 9 November: Lecture

Medieval Friars as Iconoclasts
Dr Elizabeth Gemmill, Associate Professor in History

When St Francis publicly stripped off his clothes to symbolise his rejection of material goods he heralded a new model for religious life in medieval Europe, one based on institutional as well as personal poverty. The advent of the friars was a reaction to the growing consumerism and the attachment to physical objects that were characteristic of urban culture in the period. But did the friars really break the mould?

Friday 13 November, 5-6pm (UTC): LIVE Q&A

Join speakers Robin Gibbons, Janina Ramirez and Elizabeth Gemmill for a live online Q&A session, chaired by Dr Sandie Byrne.

Monday 16 November: Lecture

Freud: The conscious and unconscious iconoclast 
Dr Alistair Ross, Director of Studies in Psychodynamic Studies and Psychology

Sigmund Freud, who once described himself as ‘godless’, was committed to destroying anything that was an illusion, most often religion. He put his faith in science, not realizing this too was an illusion, thus becoming a conscious and unconscious iconoclast. 

Monday 23 November: Lecture

Iconoclasm, visual culture and climate change
Debbie Hopkins, Associate Professor in Human Geography

Climate change is an environmental issue which many people find hard to envisage. Visual  culture - the creation of constructs and representational models - will play a vital role in communicating the complexity of the subject to the wider public. This lecture will explore how iconoclastic thinking will contribute to our understanding of climate - one of the most urgent issues of our time.

Monday 30 November: Lecture

Intersectionality as iconoclasm: Lessons from human rights law 
Dr Shreya Atrey, Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law

This lecture will explore the theory and method of 'intersectionality' as practiced in human rights law to ask how long-standing and cherished ideas in human rights law have been challenged by intersectionality. Why has orthodoxy been challenged and what has it entailed? We explore from the perspective of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in the world. 

Monday 7 December: Lecture

Cultural Revolutions: Iconoclasm in the modern world?
Professor Tom Buchanan, Professor of History

In 1790 Edmund Burke, recoiling from the French Revolution, wrote that 'people will never look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors'. Despite Burke's warning, projects of radical change have consistently resulted in violent assaults on the symbols, narratives and physical vestiges of the past. This wide-ranging lecture, focusing on the revolutions of the twentieth century, will explore the debate launched by the French Revolution in the light of contemporary concerns about how the past is represented in our public spaces.

Friday 11 December, 5-6pm (UTC): LIVE Q&A

Join speakers Alistair Ross, Debbie Hopkins, Shreya Atrey and Tom Buchanan for a live online Q&A session, chaired by Dr Toby Martin.


Description Costs
10 lectures, 3 live interactive sessions - introductory offer: £100.00


If you are a UK resident in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Shreya Atrey


Shreya is an Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law and a Fellow of Kellogg College. She is affiliated to the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights Law and is an associate member of the Oxford Human Rights Hub. Her research is on discrimination law, feminist theory, poverty and disability law. Her monograph, Intersectional Discrimination (OUP 2019), presents an account of intersectionality theory in comparative discrimination law.

Professor Tom Buchanan


Tom Buchanan is Professor of Modern British and European History at the University of Oxford, and Director of Studies in History and Politics at OUDCE. He is the author of three books and numerous articles on British involvement in the Civil War, and of Europe’s Troubled Peace, since 1945 (2nd edition 2012). He published East Wind: China and the British Left, 1925-1976 with Oxford University Press in 2012. He is currently completing a book on Amnesty International and human rights activism in post-war Britain. He has published an article entitled “The Three Lives of Homage to Catalonia” in The Library, 3, 3, (2002).

Dr Sandie Byrne


is Associate professor of English Literature and Director of Studies in English, OUDCE and a Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford. She is the author of a number of books and articles on nineteenth-and twentieth-century writing.

Dr Elizabeth Gemmill


Elizabeth was appointed in October 2006 as a University Lecturer in Local History in the Department for Continuing Education, and in 2010 as Director of the Department's Weekly Class Programme. She is a Fellow of Kellogg College. She was named in 2012 as ‘Most Acclaimed Lecturer’ in the Department for Continuing Education by Oxford University Student Union.

The Revd Canon Dr Robin Gibbons


The Revd. Canon Robin Gibbons is Director of Studies for Theology and Religious Studies at OUDCE. He is a member of the Theology and Religion Faculty, Regents Park College and an Honoraray Canon of Christ Church Oxford. 

Dr Debbie Hopkins


Dr Debbie Hopkins is an Associate Professor in Human Geography. Her position sits between the Sustainable Urban Development programme and the School of Geography and the Environment (SoGE). Debbie is also works with the Transport Studies Unit (TSU, Oxford) and the UK Centre for Research on Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS), is an Associate Editor (transport and mobilities) of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, and an International Research Affiliate at the Centre for Sustainability (Otago, New Zealand).

Dr Toby Martin


Toby obtained his BA in Archaeology and Anthropology as well as his MSt in European Archaeology from the University of Oxford, and studied for his PhD at the University of Sheffield. Since 2013 Toby has worked as a Research Fellow and a Lecturer at the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology. His research focuses on the early medieval period, with a particular interest in the social role of objects in Europe in the centuries that followed the collapse of Roman imperial rule.

Dr Janina Ramirez


Dr Janina Ramirez gained her degree in English literature and language (specializing in Old and Middle English) from St Anne’s College, Oxford. She then completed her post-graduate studies at the renowned Centre for Medieval Studies, York. She is a well-known author and television presenter, and course director for the Undergraduate Certificate and Diploma in History of Art at the University of Oxford, 

Dr Alistair Ross


Alistair Ross is a BACP senior accredited counsellor and supervisor and was Chair of BACP’s Professional, Ethics and Quality Standards Committee.  He is an accredited Baptist minister, on the editorial board of Practical Theology and an international board member of the Society for the Exploration of Psychoanalytic Therapies and Theology (SEPTT).  He is Dean and Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford and an associate member of the theology faculty in Oxford.

Ms Marianne Talbot


Marianne Talbot took her first degree at London University, then her B.Phil at Oxford (Corpus Christi College). She has taught for the colleges of Oxford University for 30 years (1987 – 1990 at Pembroke College, 1991 – 2000 at Brasenose College). She has been Director of Studies in Philosophy at OUDCE since 2001. She is the author of Bioethics: An Introduction, and Critical Reasoning: A Romp Through the Foothills of Logic. Marianne’s podcasts have been hugely popular. Two of them have been global number one on iTunesU. One of these (The Nature of Arguments) has been downloaded 7 million times.