The most recent issue of the journal has now been released! Please have a look at our newest volume which includes articles about changes in the role of Queen Igraine in different sources and about a fifteenth century psalter’s use of popular prints in a new context. You’ll also find reviews of five newly released books, including one by an author who wrote for the very first volume of Hortulus, Clemena Antonova. Let us know what you think, and don’t forget to take a look at the call for papers for our spring issue on Enemies!
Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal of Medieval Studies is a refereed, peer-reviewed, and born-digital journal devoted to the culture, literature, history, and society of the medieval past. Published semi-annually, the journal collects exceptional examples of work by graduate students on a number of themes, disciplines, subjects, and periods of medieval studies. We also welcome book reviews of monographs published or re-released in the past five years that are of interest to medievalists. For the spring issue we are highly interested in reviews of books which fall under the current special topic.
Our upcoming issue will be published in the spring of 2014, and concerns itself with the reader-selected theme of “Enemies.” We invite you to consider this theme broadly. Some possible topics include considering how enemies were constructed and identified; what forms enemies could take, including supernatural enemies; how individuals or groups became or stopped being enemies; or how enemies worked with or against other categories of identity.
We particularly encourage the submission of proposals that take a strongly theoretical and/or interdisciplinary approach, and that examine new and previously unconsidered aspects of these subjects. Possible topics may be drawn from any discipline: history, art history, archaeology, literature, linguistics, music, theology, etc. Work from every interpretive angle is encouraged – memory, gender, historiography, medievalism, consilience, etc. Most importantly, we seek engaging, original work that contributes to our collective understanding of the medieval era.
Contributions should be in English and roughly 6,000 – 12,000 words, including all documentation and citational apparatus; book reviews are typically between 500-1,000 words but cannot exceed 2,000. All notes must be endnotes, and a bibliography must be included; submission guidelines can be found here. Contributions may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org and are due February 13, 2014. If you are interested in submitting a paper but feel you would need additional time, please send a query email and details about an expected time-scale for your submission. Queries about submissions or the journal more generally can also be sent to this address.
Review by A.W. Strouse
Department of English, CUNY Graduate Center
At a recent symposium of the BABEL Working Group, I remembered something that Bob Dylan says in the 1967 biopic Don’t Look Back. The symposium aimed to rethink the boundaries between artistic creation and scholarly knowledge, to combine academic knowledge with a little rock ‘n’ roll. Although the two are not necessarily opposed, they clearly are in Dylan’s mind. Asked if he’s ever read the Bible, he says “I may have skimmed through it,” and somehow he manages to keep a straight face. Too cool for school, Dylan pretends he’s an illiterate fool—a posture that is necessitated, apparently, by some glitch in the matrix of the socio-cultural time-space continuum: ever since Bede’s Caedmon, English poesie has been selling the myth that the poet must be a know-nothing. (Caedmon, according to Bede, could not sing like the other monks, and so he went out to sleep in the stable. Struck by divine inspiration, a dream-angel teaches him to compose verse.) Dylan’s “I may have skimmed through it” is the Caedmon theory of poetics: these fables try to teach us that artistic making and scholarly knowledge have nothing to do with one another.
Of course, scholars and aesthetes know full well that knowledge and enjoyment are inseparable: clearly Dylan is familiar with the Bible. Artists do need training, and scholarship is thrilling, creative work. But one’s credibility as an academic often requires self-denial of pleasure. And for Caedmon and Dylan, poetic authority comes from being stupid. As Allen Ginsberg puts it, “Businessmen are serious, Movie / producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.” The scholar ranks among the “serious”: pleasure never figures into the official metrics of academic professionalism. As far as I know, no Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers a course in Professionalization and Personal Satisfaction, and the official rhetoric rarely endorses soul-formation or titillation. Efficiency and “academic excellence” mark the bottom line. As Christopher Newfield says in Ivy and Industry, “academics are neither artists nor bureaucrats but both at the same time”: we are vexed by an oppressive double-consciousness, trying to produce humanist work but measuring ourselves according to anti-humanist standards (215). Or, as Stanley Fish so graciously puts it: “Save the world on your own time.” (I say nothing about the millions of adjuncts who live in academia’s flowerpots under the light of five hundred PowerPoints.) But if art and critique are the opposed terms of our current condition, then who better to help us than the great poet and bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer?
Today, a vanguard of radicals and misfits is turning to Chaucer (and to the medieval generally), looking to form a rapprochement between the dream-angel of individual talent and the monastery of academic tradition. You’ve probably already heard about the BABEL Working Group: a ragtag band of merry pranksters and philologists, BABEL is an interstellar Raft of the Medusa, patched together from the ruins of the postmodern university, a make-shift escape-pod sending out distress signals (and mating calls) to other Gonzo medievalists. This September, BABEL came together at the CUNY Graduate Center for the second in a pair of symposia on the “Critical/Liberal/Arts,” organized by J. Allan Mitchell, Julie Orlemanski, and Myra Seaman, with help on the ground in New York City from the GC’s Steven Kruger and Glenn Burger. (For the organizers’ manifesto, see http://babelsymposia2013.org/.)
Participants experimented with new forms of artful and critical expression, making art critically, doing critique artistically, and practicing all manner of liberality, with the largesse and romanticism of an Arthurian knight.
- Ammiel Alcalay, initiator of the Lost and Found Project and beloved hero of poets/medievalists everywhere, spoke about the need to bridge creative writing with a “little history.” About transgressing disciplinary boundaries, Alcalay said: “Sometimes you start out having an affair, and pretty soon you want to move in together.”
- Mashing up video and remixing critical theory, Jamie Bianco did to the stale genre of the conference talk what Hurricane Sandy did to Brooklyn, and then calmly receded. She tenderly told us about the need to save our garbage.
- Eleanor Johnson descended like Boethius’s Lady Philosophy. She read some of her new poems about toads, and she suggested that scholars might engage in “parallel play”—that is, we should try to write like the texts we study. (Your assignment, dear reader, is to write a Boethian prosimetrum for your next article.)
- Bruce Holsinger, doing some parallel play of his own, read from his A Burnable Book. As if Raymond Chandler had written the Domesday Book, Holsinger’s novel, starring Gower and Chaucer, explores the relationship between bureaucracy and art, poetry and regicide.
- Henry S. Turner reminded us that the “corporation” has existed since at least the medieval period. Looking into this history, Turner wagers, might be our best shot at staying alive as humanists while the university becomes more and more corporatized. Turner’s current research involves incorporating people into his Society for the Arts of Corporation.
- Grooving to the beat of this year’s hit single, the Digital Humanities, Michael Witmore gave the data mine a new spin: he pointed out that the digital is “fuzzy”—there’s space for us to play within new computerizing methodologies.
- Marina Zurkow and Una Chaudhurl helped everyone make friends with global climate change, using a pedagogical approach inspired by the Buddhist profession of compassion. Technologies like compassion, meditation, and the koan offer a new way to connect the intellectual and the spiritual.
- The Hollow Earth Society, in a hilarious, para-academic performance piece that remixed the discourses of university administration and satirized post-structuralist science, proved that slime mold has colonized the university. If you don’t believe it, you might already be a slime mold.
- I wondered aloud if Sir Orfeo is a secret model for the critical/liberal/arts. It is: the Middle English Orfeo, unlike his Classical counterpart Orpheus, retrieves his beloved from hell in a way that validates a romantic poetics of historiography.
Proceedings will be printed in a special issue of postmedieval in 2015. By that time, we’ll have already translated the entire corpus of Verso books into rhymed couplets, and sneaked the poems of the Alliterative Revival behind the lines of all NSA firewalls. The future of the critical/liberal/arts is coming, and it’s going to get medieval.
 The academic profession, for Newfield, is a mash-up of craft-labor ideals and corporate management. Influenced by corporate models of administration during the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century, the university “yoked personal relations to explicit, impersonal procedures, procedures which treated individual exceptions as anomalous. Official authority arose from the office rather than from the person. This person, in theory, functioned through his or her specialized expertise. He or she held personal power to the degree to which expertise fit with the larger structure” (78). Our knowledge, through corporate management, becomes disembodied and impersonal—data for the administrative accounting office. This causes a kind of “double-consciousness” that prevents academics, and the middle class that they train, from realizing political agency (215). One could argue that C. Stephen Jaeger says something similar about pre-modern education in his enviable The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200. Jaeger shows how the medieval university is born out of a conflict between the body and the text.↩
This is the first in a new series of “rolling reviews” we have begun on Hortulus that are published in between issues of the journal. If you would like to review a book or if you have any suggestions, please contact the reviews editor, Paul Brazinski, at email@example.com.
Orthodox Readings of Aquinas. By Marcus Plested. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xi + 276, ISBN: 978-0-19-965065-1. $99.
There are a number of “hedge-issues” ranging from language to yeast that often impede Eastern and Western theologians from direct engagement with the heart of their dogmatic disagreements. One of these chief impediments seems to be Western scholasticism in general and Thomas Aquinas in particular. When dropped in conversations, Aquinas’ name is often a great sail that catches gusts of emotion and tends to veer dialogue off course. Plested’s pioneering work has great potential to stabilize this conversation by recognizing both Aquinas’ reception of the Eastern tradition and the Eastern tradition’s reception of Aquinas, because “the study of the Orthodox reception of Thomas is to some extent the study of Orthodox theology itself, so central is his role as both friend and fiend” (4). As an Orthodox scholar, Plested succeeds in this undertaking by bringing both a fidelity to the texts at hand and a laudable honesty, which is not afraid to acknowledge that the “dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14) between East and West may be built more from general prejudices than actual sources.
The book’s first part is a poignant diptych of both Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Palamas, whom Plested places in his study like a pair of icons. He invites the reader to an arresting exercise of “reverse perspective”, where one gets a sense that they are viewing him more than he is viewing them; as Plested reminds us, “Our sources are as much active subjects as objects of enquiry” (10). His icon of Thomas depicts an impressive advocate for the East, whose “work is bathed in this orientale lumen” (17). He recounts measures taken by Aquinas to increase the volume of patristic and conciliar sources used in the West by ordering translations of many Greek Fathers and integrating a staggering amount of them in his own exegetical and theological works. Plested’s icon of Palamas also presents the reader with an Orthodox theologian who was not afraid to integrate the Western sources like Augustine into his own Trinitarian theology when truth and clarity was to be found there.
The book’s second part concerns the largely favorable Byzantine reception of Aquinas, which came about both because of Aquinas’ intrinsic fidelity to the Fathers and the Constantinopolitan “care for terminological exactitude that can scarcely be denied the label ‘scholastic’” (48). His overview of the Dominican’s reception by Byzantine scholasticism shows that this affection did not come from eccentrics on the fringes, but from some of “the Empire’s finest scholars and foremost statesmen” (67). But in contrast to enthusiastic emperors, bishops and theologians, there are also detractors who find Thomas overly reliant on logic and pagan philosophy. In evaluating these complaints, Plested shows that their writings often reflect a limited or shallow reading of Thomas, for which they were often swiftly chastised by other Byzantines.
The book’s third part concerns the Orthodox reception of Aquinas from the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottomans (A.D.1453) until the present day, where the historical narrative turns from a stunning and varied tour of Greek and Russian readers to the rigid dichotomies born in the 19th Century, which have become, “very much the preserve of the modern Orthodox mindset and do not accurately reflect the Byzantine legacy” (224). He blames this abruptly negative and deviant reading of Aquinas (and all things Western) largely on the Slavophile movement, which was exacerbated when Diaspora theologians encountered the stagnant Thomism of the early 20th Century and found Thomas to be a “convenient whipping boy” (194). This habit became at times a decrepit via negativa where an oppositional Orthodoxy began defining itself only by was it was not; this often resulted in a “theology of reaction” (206) or at worst, “little more than a faith constituted by anti-papalism” (184). Plested acknowledges that this paradigm of opposition reflects more modern culture than theology, because, “In a bipolar world, nothing seems more natural than a dichotomy” (225). He concludes his study with a survey of today and a note of hope that the miasma of dichotomy will dissipate and that the fruitful dialogue between Aquinas and the Orthodox will resume.
Overall, this book should serve as a touchstone for Thomists and Orthodox alike. The breadth and depth of this narrative is bound to give both parties plenty of fodder for surprise and conversation. In addition to the past, Plested is also aware of advances in both contemporary Thomism and Orthodox theology that either side may not know. A minor disappointment is that Plested alludes to Greek translations of Aquinas, but there is rarely direct engagement with them. As language is often cited as a hindrance to union, it would be helpful to see how Thomas is translated into Greek (theosis, ousia, hypostasis, etc.). Though, that critique is perhaps more evidence of Plested’s argument whetting an appetite than of any lacuna on his part; and with the range of Aquinas’ work, it would probably demand several volumes to do those topics justice.
Plested has done much in this work to heal the divide between mysticism and scholasticism by showing they are found in both the Dumb Ox and the Orthodox. Plested’s icon of Thomas seems as promising as it is natural and Aquinas seems quite at home in the East, where he found it fitting for God to place the earthly paradise (ST I, 102, 1). Likewise Plested shows how the East has traditionally been glad to host the Angelic Doctor, contrary to the cultural bias that functions “as if intellectual rigour, the careful use of sources and systematic method were somehow foreign to Orthodoxy” (225). In all of this Plested’s delightfully-written and thoroughly-researched work has the potential to heal the divide spoken by the Psalmist: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps 103 : 12).
Reviewed by Samuel Granger, Boston College
Review by Daniel Olson-Bang
A question comes to mind when hearing Canadian installation artist Janet Cardiff’s “The Forty Part Motet” (2001), at the Cloisters Museum and Gardens in New York until December 8th: why did something this good and this inevitable, take this long to conceive and execute? It may be that Thomas Tallis’ late-medieval motet “Spem in alium” was waiting for technology to catch up with it, and waiting in fact for Cardiff’s installation.
Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) wrote during a period of compositional gigantism and unprecedented religious upheaval. Composing at times for the Catholic church in England under Bloody Mary, as well as for the nascent Anglican church under Elizabeth I, Tallis’ music is necessarily varied. This Latin motet, consisting of forty independent vocal lines, seems to have emerged out of a rivalry with the Italian composer Alessandro Striggio, who had composed a forty-part mass first performed in 1568 or 1569. Tallis’ response is the more famous “Spem,” which seems to have been composed around 1570, to be performed in the round with eight grouped choirs of five voices surrounding the listeners. The size of the piece and the vast number of singers needed to sing it means that few choirs perform it, and few consequently hear it. Nevertheless, “Spem in alium” is arguably the most famous piece by one of England’s best and most prolific choral composers.
In order to create the installation, Cardiff collaborated with the Salisbury Cathedral Choir, UK, to create a recording of the work. In contrast to other reverb- and echo-heavy recordings of the piece, Cardiff padded the walls of the cathedral, close-miking each individual singer, who was as acoustically isolated from the others as possible. From this musical performance, Cardiff creates the installation, which has been featured in places as diverse as the Rideau Chapel National Gallery of Canada and MoMA’s PS1, and which is currently at the Cloisters. Notably, it is the first contemporary art exhibit at the Cloisters. There, forty voices are played through forty high quality speakers arranged at eye-level in the twelfth-century Fuentidueña Chapel. The result is a granular, human sound emphasizing the contours, details and even physicality of each distinctive voice.
The skeptic might say that Janet Cardiff’s “installation” is no more than a digital playback of a beautiful work in a beautiful space. The majesty of the piece, and its effect on the listener, thus belongs to Tallis, the argument goes. Yet such a claim misses how transformative “The Forty Part Motet” is, precisely because of Cardiff’s meticulous artistic choices, which together create an unprecedented interactive experience.
In fact, Cardiff’s installation as it appears in the Cloisters raises fascinating questions for the listener. “Performed” in a space at once sacred and secular—a church transported across an ocean and reconstituted as a now-secular work of art—one wonders, is this (still) a performance of a sacred work? Are we in a “church”? Does playing the piece in a continuous loop for months on end change the nature of Tallis’ creation fundamentally? Has it been “made new,” given a new context and, in the process, a new meaning?
The effect of the music on listeners is remarkable. Upon entering the circle of speakers, the scene is of dozens of people, many of whom stand stock-still, transfixed. Others stand next to certain “voices,” while still others (the rare ones) chase the polyphony as it leaps from voice to voice, from speaker to speaker. If few can hear the piece performed live, no one has experienced “Spem in alium” in this way. Akin to a “choose your own adventure” game, listeners experience the piece as they will; even a subtle turning of the head transforms the music. What Cardiff wants most is for listeners to interact with the music “in an immersive experience,” as she puts it, to circulate around, hearing distinctive voices all around them in the space. Most people stay for more than one performance of the 14-minute piece. I stayed for five performances of it, and I only wish I could have stayed longer.
The other significant aspect of Cardiff’s installation is how much it owes to a contemporary sensibility. Tallis’ era did not understand authorship as we do, and the goal of the kind of polyphonic choral music he composed emphasized the blending of voices into a whole, with no voice having prominence over any other. Cardiff’s version owes all to the opposite, modern tendency toward the singular, unique voice, as well as to the idea of the autonomous listener, who can choose how, when and where to experience the music. In fact, in a little-noted aspect of the piece, the recording includes several minutes of pre-recording conversation, sotto voce, by the choir. What first seems like a cough of someone in the museum turns out to be one of the “performers” located near the apse. Other microphones reveal joking conversations about Tallis, or brief lessons by the men of the choir to the children on the right way to sing a part. These voices are meant to be imagined as people: this is a dialog of modern listening preferences with a composition from another era entirely.
Is Cardiff’s “The Forty Part Motet” an artistic creation or merely a quality recording of a great piece of music? This question is one that anyone who experiences it must answer. It is well worthwhile for anyone, medievalist and postmodernist alike, to experience it in the beautiful setting of the Cloisters, and to answer the question herself.
For a slideshow of the exhibit, click here.
The production of William Gager’s Dido in the Great Hall of Christ Church, Oxford, on 21st September 2013 was by any measure a special occasion. The Early Drama at Oxford (EDOX) research project aims to bring to light medieval and early modern plays staged within the University. One of the guiding lights of the project is Elisabeth Dutton, who directed Gager’s play as part of their ‘Performing Dido’ event, with the work performed alongside Edward’s Boys production of Christopher Marlowe’s more famous dramatization of the tale from Virgil. Gager’s Latin drama had been originally acted in June 1583 as part of the Christ Church celebrations in honour of visiting Polish prince, Albrecht Łaski. 430 years after this first performance, Gager’s Latin, smoothly translated into English by graduate student Elizabeth Sandis, was again staged before an influential Polish visitor – this time Minister Counsellor Mr Dariusz Łaska. As on the original occasion, parts were played by male university students (here with a couple of slightly older exceptions) before an audience partaking of a College banquet. It was impossible not to find thrilling an event so similar in many ways to that experienced by sixteenth century Oxonians – even down to a reconstructed period menu.
Having, in February this year, staged work by late Elizabethan Middle Templars in that Inn’s Hall, I was intrigued to see this similarly site-specific performance. Christ Church was as famous as the Inns for its early modern student drama. Although the College has not regularly enabled them, modern stagings such as these, in the same environment, allow an enhanced scholarly understanding of the plays concerned and their reception. The relationship between the physical space of college and Inn halls in the sixteenth century and the drama staged there has been the subject of debate; but the layout of the Great Hall for the 2013 productions of the Dido plays was largely that which most scholars now seem to agree was used in the sixteenth century. With a raised stage space in front of high table, nearest to the visitors of honour, and the actors able to enter and exit through the screen or doors at the far end, the play could be enjoyed by the whole institution and its guests, although to varying degrees. Those sitting nearest the entrance doors would, of course, be quite a distance from the main action, and the actors in this modern production worked hard to project their lines along the length of the hall. The able direction of Elisabeth Dutton, assisted by Matthew Monaghan, meant that the modern-clad Trojans performed as they approached the stage, and the retained parts of the Latin choral odes were delivered evocatively from the doors, making best use of the space. But the reconstruction leaves no doubt that some Elizabethan students attending such events must have had a somewhat reduced experience.
Such evenings as this also remind us how central acting was to Renaissance education, and the presence in Dido of a blazer-clad Cupid (played by Matthew Monaghan), together with odes delivered by uniformed schoolboys (from King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon) made this visible throughout. A means of developing young men’s verbal skills in a society which lionized public speaking and performance, plays such as Dido owed much to Senecan models and their structure allowed for the rhetorical delivery of long set pieces. Dutton and Monaghan had decided to cut several of these in performance, and along with the slick direction this reduced the length to about an hour, but it remained clear how drama such as Gager’s enabled university students to practise vital verbal skills while providing rich entertainment for visiting dignitaries.
In September 1592, the Queen herself had been presented at Christ Church with Rivales, the comedy by Gager which was to accompany his Dido the following summer. And the portrait of Elizabeth which regularly hangs above high table in the Great Hall meant the audience was continually reminded of the connection with the Tudor queen – a connection drawn out by the play itself. Dido, powerfully played by Alex Mills, wore grand sixteenth-century costume evoking that of the Queen in the portrait, and was often referred to by the classical heroine’s alternative name, Elisa. The parallels were striking, and indicative of the potential danger of writing for the stage in this period. Thus we saw Dido, visually evoking the Virgin Queen, fall hopelessly in love with her articulate Aeneas (Chris Williams), giving him authority in her realm and then, at his rejection and departure, killing herself for the loss of that love. It was necessary for the epilogue (delivered with aplomb by Stephen Longstaffe from one of the dining tables) to reassure the audience that we had in fact just witnessed the amours of Dido/Elisa, and not those of the English queen. The humour of his comment that ‘Foreign weddings seldom end well’ was undoubtedly meant to resound amongst those in court circles who, in the 1580s, were opposed to a French marriage – a group including Christ Church graduate Sir Philip Sidney, who knew Łaski and travelled with him to Oxford.
Though a figure of university drama, rather than the more often discussed London public theatre, William Gager deserves to be better known. Study of his work reveals much about the influences and fashions in dramatic writing, and about the experience of playgoing familiar to many influential London audience members before their arrival in the city. The relationship between those two environments was perhaps more fluid than many scholars have acknowledged, as Gager’s friendship with playwright George Peele suggests. Correspondent of anti-theatricalist John Rainolds of Corpus Christi, the academic playwright defended drama against the accusations made by his Oxford contemporary: accusations of immorality and, in particular, the ‘abomination’ of boys performing ‘in women’s raiment’. We are forced to doubt whether university plays were for most men in Elizabethan audiences, as Rainolds claimed, productive of a lewdness the Bible warned against: ‘execrable villainies, to which this change of raiment provoketh and entiseth’. Indeed, if this modern production of Dido gives us insight into early modern theatre production, the alternating serenity, passion and pathos of a queen could, indeed, be well represented by a young man. It is perhaps worth remembering that although Rainolds was to become a pugnacious puritan by the 1580s and 90s, he had in 1566, as an undergraduate, played Hippolyta in the production—also at Christ Church—of Richard Edward’s Palaemon and Arcyte. It is likely that his performance, like that of Alex Mills, inspired admiration in the audience – at least it certainly did for one member of it. Queen Elizabeth, part of that audience at Christ Church Great Hall, rewarded the young Rainolds with ‘eight old angels’ for the power of his acting. The power of Gager’s argument thus might be argued to lie, not in the rhetoric of Th’Overthrow of Stage-Playes, but in the experience of his work on his own stage.
Indicative of a connection between university writing and that for both the Court and the contemporary public playhouse, Gager’s works make our comprehension of the Elizabethan playgoing context more coherent. Equally, a consideration of the time and place of its original performance can allow a much fuller understanding of a play. As this EDOX production demonstrates, a modern student can gain a great deal by seeing Dido in its original setting, informed by the 1593 political context and the relationship between different dramatic institutions.
For a hypertext version of the complete works of William Gager, see http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/gager/.
Th’Overthrow of Stage-Playes, by the Way of Controversie betwixt D. Gager and D. Rainoldes (Middelburg: Richard Schilders, 1599), p. 97.↩
If you’re going to the 2014 International Congress on Medieval Studies, you should come make some friends at the Hortulus sponsored session on the theme of Enemies.
Presided by Sebastian Rider-Bezerra (Yale University), “Of Whom Shall I Be Afraid: Enemies in the Middle Ages” will feature four papers showing four interdisciplinary aspects of enmity, ranging from the individual as enemy, to ‘geography’ as enemy, to the community as enemy of the individual and vice versa, and a group’s reputation as its own enemy.
The papers and presenters are:
- Edward Mead Bowen (Aberystwyth University): “(Former) Enemies at the Gate: Insinuations of Betrayal in Pa gur yv y porthaur”
- Josephine Livingstone (New York University): “‘Into that viel countreye’: Figuring ethnic enmity with Gog and Magog in Kyng Alisaunder“
- Antonella Scorpo (University of Lincoln): “‘Ni e yo amigo, ni enemigo’: Enmity, Trust and Betrayal in Thirteenth-Century Iberia”
- Daniel Melleno (U.C. Berkeley): ”Franks and Scandinavians – Good Neighbors/Bad Neighbors”
We hope to see you there, and please feel free to let us know if you’re coming. We will have more details about Hortulus’ involvement in events at Kalamazoo as we draw closer to the time of the Congress.
Emerson Storm Fillman Richards
Review by Boyda Johnstone
The Morgan Library & Museum’s “Illuminating Faith: The Eucharist in Medieval Life and Art,” curated by Roger Wieck, runs from May 17 through September 15, 2013. Expertly selected and arranged, and organized chronologically according to theme, the exhibition showcases sixty-five manuscripts from the Morgan’s holdings, ranging in date from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. Perusing the gallery, one is struck by how incredible it is that two small objects, a wafer and a chalice of wine, could generate so much entangled, contested, and radical meaning for so many centuries. As Miri Rubin asserts, in a quotation mounted on the wall in the exhibit:
In the name of the eucharist some of the most humbling, and the most audacious, claims have been made: that God and humans could meet and unite, mix and merge, that a disc of baked wheaten dough could embody the saving body of Christ, that the lives of men and women, of cities and nations, could be encompassed, redeemed, transformed or forsaken through it. (1)
The first section of the gallery introduces us to some of these audacious claims as we encounter, for instance, an illustration in a twelfth-century book of the Last Supper as a medieval Mass, with Christ holding the wafer and chalice; sitting next to it is an English Book of Hours in which the priest is modeled on images of Christ, a striking reversal of the previous book’s imagery. Together, these two books demonstrate how medieval people sought to transport biblical stories into the present.
Other memorable illustrations in the gallery that demonstrate the multilayered significance of the Eucharist include a depiction of the Agony in the Garden with the Eucharistic chalice standing in for Christ; a crucifix miniature in which Christ’s blood drips down the cross to cleanse the skull of Adam (representing salvation from original sin); and a fascinating portrayal of Christ’s body being crushed in a winepress, his cross pressing his body while angels collect the blood/wine from below. We learn throughout the exhibit how priests in the thirteenth century began to raise the Host above their heads for the ocular edification of the public, and many of the books provide a revealing glimpse into medieval liturgical practices, such as the use of altar cards and monstrances during Mass. A fifteenth-century Italian pax is also on display, used in the late Middle Ages to convey the Priest’s kiss of peace to the congregation, who would kiss it in turn. The acclaimed fifteenth-century Hours of Catherine of Cleves shows us two typological scenes, illustrating the parallels that were typically drawn between the Old and New Testaments—one of the Israelites gathering manna as a parallel to Christ’s corporeal sacrifice, and another of Christ as the sacrificial Passover lamb.
Tucked behind a wall, and not fitting easily into any of the exhibit’s six sections, is the gallery’s scatological contingent, with miniatures that satirize the clergy. A French book of Jacques de Longuyon’s Les voeux du paon contains in its margins a fox celebrating mass with a tankard of ale while standing on the arse of an inverted man; and a French Book of Hours displays three grotesqueries: a monkey giving anal pleasure to a man with what may be an aspergillum (used for sprinkling of holy water), a phallic spear protruding from a soldier’s thighs, and a figure fellating a flying phallus.
These dissenting books offer a welcome contrast to the generally celebratory exhibition, as other uncomfortable visual registers seem consciously suppressed. The item description of a depicted life-sized wound of Christ, for example, explains that it would have offered talismanic potency to lay readers and viewers as part of a late-medieval practice of “ocular consumption,” in which laypeople could simply gaze at sacred images and become cured of disease or evil. But the wound also bears obvious similarities to female genitalia (as has been discussed by Karma Lochrie, in reference to this very same image (190)), a detail that was not mentioned, perhaps because the notion of imaginatively penetrating Christ’s wound as an object of sexual pleasure might be unpalatable to the modern public.
Another central theme of the exhibit is the Feast of Corpus Christi, begun in Liège in 1246 and blossoming and spreading throughout Europe in the form of processions and plays in the fourteenth century. An illustrated Italian Evangeliary limns how, as Wieck’s description states, “[a] Corpus Christi procession is a little bit of heaven on earth,” as angels parade the Host through city streets, which in this book have become a paradisiacal garden.
The exhibition concludes on a high note with a section on Eucharistic Miracles, tales captured in manuscript that attempted to prove the “True Presence” of the body of Christ in the wafer. In St. Birgitta of Sweden’s Revelations, Christ and Mary illuminate St. Birgitta with visible laser beams of light as she records her visions, and the elevated Host to her left is transformed into the Christ-child under a burst of fire.
The final books are affiliated with the Sacred Bleeding Host of Dijon, which was for over 350 years a holy talismanic object for the city. One book displays a portrait of a lay couple adoring the miraculous wafer, and another tells how in 1505, the Host cured King Louis XII of France from deathly illness. It was 1794 when French Revolutionaries publicly burned the Host, but an annual Mass of Reparation was established in 1825—a mass that is still said today.
Dijon’s story of the miraculously bleeding host is predicated on Christian persecution of Jews, as it was thought that Jewish disbelievers desecrated it to test its efficacy, after which it began to bleed. But the Morgan’s display does not recount this story beyond a brief mention, a significant omission in an otherwise educative gallery. This is an exhibition celebrating medieval devotion to the Eucharist in all its forms, with hardly a mention of its more disagreeable histories—perhaps due to the esoteric nature of the subject matter, and the general audience for whom the exhibition is geared.
Yet, Roger Wieck’s masterfully selected and carefully organized books offer a wealth of information about the evolving conventions, beliefs, and anxieties surrounding the doctrine of the Eucharist in the Middle Ages. “Illuminating Faith” remains a highly worthwhile visit for medievalists and non-medievalists alike.
Lochrie, Karma. “Mystical Acts, Queer Tendencies.” Constructing Medieval Sexuality. Ed. Karma Lochrie, Peggy McCracken, and James A. Schultz. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997. 180-200.
Rubin, Miri. Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991.
We invite submissions of 15-20 minute papers treating the widely conceived theme of “enemies” for the Hortulus sponsored session titled “Of whom shall I be afraid: Enemies in the Medieval Period” at the 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies, to be held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 8-11, 2014.
We welcome paper topics ranging from explorations of enemies in literature, history, and visual studies to more focused interpretations of the notion of enmity in the medieval period. We encourage submissions from many disciplinary angles, welcoming textual, artistic, and historical interpretations from scholars of literature, history, philosophy, musicology, archaeology, art history, and other fields. We are particularly interested in interdisciplinary work.
Some questions this session seeks to pose and answer are the following:
- How are enemies identified, constructed, and described?
- What were the ramifications of enmity among individuals or within and between groups?
- How, if possible, could enmity be overcome?
- Were enemies always characterized as the “other”?
- How were non-human enemies treated?
The topic of “enemies” was selected by popular vote by the Hortulus community of graduate students and will also be the theme of the 2014 issue of the journal.
Please e-mail a one-page abstract (300 words maximum) to Emerson Richards (Dept. of Comparative Literature, Indiana University) at firstname.lastname@example.org by or before September 15, 2013. Feel free to contact Emerson with questions about the session.
For general information about the 2014 Medieval Congress, visit: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/
CFP: ‘Enemies’, Hortulus sponsored session, 20th International Medieval Congress in Leeds
We are pleased to announce the call for papers for the first ever Hortulus-sponsored session at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds (IMC) to be held 7-10 July 2014!
When exploring the medieval world, it is easy to locate various ‘Empires’ (both political and ideological) across time and space – forever rising and falling in an endless flux of power across the millennium that has been denoted ‘medieval’. Existing in tandem with these various imperial regimes are inevitable ‘enemies’ – detractors, dissenters, troublemakers and traitors.
We at Hortulus would like to explore the concept of these ‘enemies’ in relation to Empire – both those who are enemies of Empire and also those who must overcome enmity in service to Empire. The topic of ‘enemies’ was selected by popular vote by the Hortulus community of graduate students and will also be the theme of the 2014 issue of the journal.
The breadth of this session allows for interdisciplinary exchanges; we invite paper topics ranging from explorations of enemies in literature, history and art to more focused interpretations of the notion of enmity in the medieval period. We encourage submissions from many disciplinary angles, welcoming textual, artistic and historical interpretations from scholars of literature, history, philosophy, musicology, archaeology, art history and other fields. We especially encourage interdisciplinary work.
Some topics to be discussed but are by no means limited to:
- How was an enemy constructed? How are they perceived?
- How were enemies built or discussed at the imperial level?
- What about supernatural enemies, such as God’s displeasure, demons, or personified vices?
- What was the threat of enemies to Empires? How were they punished?
- How did changes and developments within empires alter or dismantle existing enmities?
Please email an abstract (approximately 250 words) for a 20-minute paper to Liz Mincin (email@example.com) by 16 September 2013. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to get in touch!