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Medieval Christian Literary Imagery

Medieval Christian Literary Imagery: A Guide to Interpretation

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 247
  • Book Info
    Medieval Christian Literary Imagery
    Book Description:

    Kaske created a tool that will revolutionize research in its designated field: the discovery and interpretation of the traditional meanings reflected in medieval Christian imagery.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7716-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  5. Author’s Preface
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-2)

    During the past several decades, we have become increasingly aware of the allusive density of medieval literature, and of the extent to which much of its imagery depends on certain large bodies of traditional Christian learning – the Vulgate Bible and its voluminous commentaries, the liturgy, hymns and sequences, sermons and homilies, the pictorial arts, mythography, commentaries on major medieval authors, encyclopedias of various kinds, and so on. If so, it seems clear that this whole miscellaneous ragbag of traditional medieval lore is potentially of enormous value, as a kind of great awkward index to the connotations of a good deal...

  7. 1 Biblical Exegesis
    (pp. 3-52)

    Interpretation of the Bible occupied a central place in the intellectual life of the Middle Ages. Its results are preserved systematically in the abundant commentaries on the Bible itself, as well as in various collections of exegetical commonplaces; they are embodied piecemeal in many other traditional forms, such as the liturgy, hymns and sequences, sermons and homilies, and the visual arts. Within this wilderness of broadly exegetical material, the most extensive single category – and, happily, the one which lends itself most easily to organized research – is that formed by the biblical commentaries and the compendia of exegetical commonplaces, which will...

  8. 2 The Liturgy
    (pp. 53-70)

    Although the direct currency of exegetical works themselves in the Middle Ages is often underestimated by modern scholars, it is obvious that the liturgy must, at the very least, have provided a more popular channel for the dissemination of biblical, exegetical, and other imagery through the medieval world; as a single example, thelectionesfrom the Fathers which make up part of the service of matins in the breviary abound in images and motifs that frequently find their way into literature. Unfortunately, the use of the liturgy for the interpretation of medieval imagery cannot be systematized to anything like the...

  9. 3 Hymns
    (pp. 71-79)

    Another great repository of traditional imagery, intimately related to the liturgy and in some ways inseparable from it, is formed by the medieval hymns and sequences (the latter often known as ‘proses’). The difference between the hymn and the sequence, though interesting and important in other contexts, is of no real significance for our present purpose. Very briefly, hymns are simply the songs which from the earliest time of the Church were attached to its public worship; sequences or proses originated in the ninth century, as texts written to accompany what had hitherto been a wordless musical extension of the...

  10. 4 Sermons
    (pp. 80-90)

    Medieval sermons and homilies constitute an almost inexhaustible repository of medieval tradition, as yet imperfectly explored and edited. Like the hymns and sequences they are of course related to the liturgy, and frequently exist as parts of ‘sermon cycles’ covering the entire liturgical year. Here for the first time, however, we encounter a body of material of which sizeable parts appear not in Latin but in the vernaculars. With regard to the difference between sermons and homilies, ‘sermon’ is generally taken to be the generic term, including broadly any address delivered to the audience of an ecclesiastical function. The homily...

  11. 5 Visual Arts
    (pp. 91-103)

    A particularly attractive repository of traditional imagery is the iconography of the visual arts – sculpture, wood-and ivory-carving, manuscript illumination, wall-painting, tapestries, and the like. In itself, this body of material would seem to present greater difficulties than any of those we have considered so far, made up as it is of single unique objects scattered throughout Europe and America; a number of useful research-tools, however, make it considerably easier to wield than either the liturgy, the hymns, or the sermons.

    A general bibliography of sorts for the past fifty-odd years appears in theRépertoire d’art et d’archéologie(1910ff) – which, beginning...

  12. 6 Mythography
    (pp. 104-129)

    Medieval interpretation of the Classics is in a broad way a parallel to medieval interpretation of the Bible, and like it is frequently allegorical. Here again we can distinguish the two basic ‘research situations’ introduced in chapter 1: one in which we have before us an echo from a particular Classical text (e.g. the gates of horn and ivory at the end ofAeneidbk 6), the other in which we have a recognizably Classical figure or motif which seems not necessarily attached to any particular literary context (e.g. Venus or Hercules). For the first of these situations, the obvious...

  13. 7 Commentaries on Major Authors
    (pp. 130-138)

    There are certain major authors or works which, while not precisely classifiable under any of the headings we have considered so far, inspire traditions of commentary that can be fruitful for the study of medieval imagery. In practical terms, if a concept or image that one is interested in happens to appear in such an author or work, its medieval associations can sometimes be found by way of the commentaries. Once again, concordances will be potentially useful.

    The complete concordance to the Greek text of Plato is by Leonard Brandwood,A Word Index to Plato,Compendia: Computer-Generated Aids to Literary...

  14. 8 Miscellaneous
    (pp. 139-181)

    There are of course many important bodies of imagery which, while they may relate in various ways to one or more of the fields already discussed, really constitute worlds of their own, and so can be approached much more rewardingly by other, more direct methods. An obvious example is the symbolism of beasts and birds, which, though it is covered to some extent in the encyclopedias, receives its fullest treatment in the bestiaries. Probably the best introduction to the bestiaries is by Florence McCulloch,Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries(rev. ed. Chapel Hill, N.C. 1962), which includes an extended, alphabetically...

  15. Appendix: Medieval Encyclopedias
    (pp. 182-215)
  16. Indices
    (pp. 216-247)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 248-248)