Matching Items (4)

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The form, aspect, and definition of Anglo-Saxon identity: a study of medieval British words, deeds, and things

Description

In this dissertation I argue that medieval peoples used a different style of identity from those applied to them by later scholarship and question the relevance of applying modern terms

In this dissertation I argue that medieval peoples used a different style of identity from those applied to them by later scholarship and question the relevance of applying modern terms for identity groups (e.g., ethnicity or nationality) to the description of medieval social units. I propose we think of identity as a social construct comprised of three articulating facets, which I call: form, aspect, and definition. The form of identity is its manifestation in behavior and symbolic markers; its aspect is the perception of these forms by people; and its definition is the combination of these perceptions into a social category. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, I examine each facet individually before synthesizing the results. I study the form of identity through an analysis of styles in material culture using a consensus analysis to determine how well objects decorated with the same motif do communicating a shared idea to members of a social group. I explore the aspect of identity through a whole-corpus linguistics approach to Old English, in which I study the co-occurrence of words for "a people" and other semantic fields to refine our understanding of Old English perceptions of social identity. Finally, I investigate the definition of identity by comparing narrations of identity in Old English verse and prose in order to see how authors were able to use vocabulary and imagery to describe the identity of their subjects. In my conclusion I demonstrate that the people of Medieval England had a concept of identity based on the metaphor of a village meeting or a feast, in which smaller, innate groups were thought to aggregate into new heterogeneous wholes. The nature and scale of these groups changed over the course of the Anglo-Saxon period but some of the names used to refer to these units remained constant. Thus, I suggest scholars need to apply a culturally relevant concept of identity when describing the people who lived in Medieval Britain, one that might not match contemporary models, and be cognizant of the fact that medieval groups were not the same as their modern descendants.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013

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Mirrors and fears: humans in the bestiary

Description

The medieval bestiary is often simply described as a moralized "encyclopedia of animals," however, these so-called "books of beasts" were made for humans, by humans, about humans. It is therefore

The medieval bestiary is often simply described as a moralized "encyclopedia of animals," however, these so-called "books of beasts" were made for humans, by humans, about humans. It is therefore surprising that one common pictorial subject of the bestiary has been left unexamined: humans. By viewing bestiary images through this lens, one may easily see man's underlying and unresolved struggle to maintain dominance over the beasts, and the Others projected onto them, thereby ensuring that "the (hu)man" remains a discrete definition. This study begins as the bestiary does, with the Naming of the Animals. Illustrations of Adam as a king, bestowing names of his choosing upon tame beasts express a kind of nostalgia for a now-lost time when humanity was secure in their identity as non-animal. This security no longer exists in the postlapsarian world, nor in the bestiary images following these scenes. In an attempt to maintain the illusion of dominion, many bestiary illuminations forego simple descriptive images in favor of gory hunting scenes. However, these conspicuous declarations of dominion only serve to highlight the fragility of the physical form, and even demonstrate the frailty of the human (male, Christian) identity. One such example is MS Bodley 764's boar illumination, in which the animal is killed at the hands of male hunters. This thesis unpacks this image of dominion in order to reveal the associated insecurities regarding race, gender, and species that lie beneath the surface. Subsequently, the study turns to the many bestiary images depicting human bodies brutally fragmented within the jaws of an animal. Anthropophagous bestiary animals often carry fears of the gender and ethnic Other; despite the bestiary's posturing of order and hierarchy, both the human body and identity are easily consumed and subsumed into the ever-present animal/Other. Just as in life, the human figures in the bestiary struggle to establish unquestioned dominion, only to be constantly undercut by the abject. By using a psychoanalytic approach to the human bodies of the bestiary, this study will explore how this imagery reflects the ambiguous position and definition of the human.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Mythological Women and Sex: Transgression in Christian and Buddhist Religious Imagery

Description

Many religious textual accounts describe provocative women: The Great Whore

from the Apocalypse, Saint Mary Magdalene from the New Testament, and the

Daughters of Mara from the Buddhist tradition are all accused

Many religious textual accounts describe provocative women: The Great Whore

from the Apocalypse, Saint Mary Magdalene from the New Testament, and the

Daughters of Mara from the Buddhist tradition are all accused of fornication or the

seduction of men. However, when artists have depicted these subjects, the women are

rarely shown transgressing in the ways the texts describe. The Great Whore is often

masculinized and shown as the equal of kings, Mary Magdalene assumes divergent

attitudes about prostitution in early Renaissance Europe, and the Daughters of Mara are

comparable to other Buddhist deities, recognizable only from the surrounding narrative.

Therefore, in this inquiry, I seek out the ways that artists have manipulated misogynistic

religious narratives and introduced their own fears, concerns, and interpretations.

Artistic deviations from the text indicate a sensitivity to cultural values beyond

the substance of their roles within the narrative. Both the Great Whore and her virtuous

counterpart, the Woman Clothed in the Sun, have agency, and the ways they are shown to

use their agency determines their moral status. Mary Magdalene, the patron saint of

prostitutes and a reformed sinner, is shown with iconographical markers beyond just

prostitution, and reveals the ways in which Renaissance artists conceptualized prostitution. In

the last case study, the comparison between the Daughters and the Buddhist savioresses,

the Taras, demonstrates that Himalayan artists did not completely subscribe to the textual

formulations of women as inherently iniquitous. Ultimately, these works of art divulge

not just interpretations of the religious traditions, but attitudes about women in general,

and the power they wielded in their respective contexts.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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From the divine to the diabolical: the peacock in medieval and renaissance art

Description

Peacocks are ubiquitous in art. Artists from societies across the globe, undoubtedly attracted to the male peafowl’s colorful plumage and unique characteristics, used images of the bird to form visual

Peacocks are ubiquitous in art. Artists from societies across the globe, undoubtedly attracted to the male peafowl’s colorful plumage and unique characteristics, used images of the bird to form visual semantics intended to aid in the understanding of a work of art. This was particularly the case in Europe, where depictions of peacocks appeared in Christian art from the onset of the continent’s dominant religion. Beginning in Early Christianity, peacocks symbolized the opportunity for an eternal life in heaven enabled by Christ’s sacrificial death. Illustrations of peacocks were so frequent and widespread that they became the standard symbol for eternal life in Christian art consistently centered on recounting the stories of Christ’s birth and death.

Overtime, peacock iconography evolved to include thematic diversity, as artists used the peacock’s recognizable physical attributes for the representation of new themes based on traditional ideas. Numerous paintings contain angels wings covered in the iridescent eyespots located on the male peafowl’s tail feathers. Scientifically known as ocelli, eyespots painted on the wings of angels became a widespread motif during the Renaissance. Artists also recurrently depicted the peacock’s crest on figures of Satan or Lucifer in both paintings and prints. Indicative of excessive pride, a believed characteristic of peacocks, the crest is used as an identifying characteristic of the fallen angel, who was cast from heaven because of his pride.

Although the peacock is a known iconographic motif in medieval and Renaissance art history, no specific monographic study on peacock iconography exists. Likewise, representations of separate and distinctive peacock characteristics in Christian

art have been considerably ignored. Yet, the numerous artworks depicting the peacock and its attributes speak to the need to gain a better understanding of the different strategies for peacock allegory in Christian art. This thesis provides a comprehensive understanding of peacock iconography, minimizing the mystery behind the artistic intentions for depicting peacocks, and allowing for more thorough readings of medieval and Renaissance works that utilize peafowl imagery.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2016