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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  December 2000

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION December 2000

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Subject:

Re: Romanesque and Gothic [<Climax Architecture]

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 23 Dec 2000 14:45:06 EST

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (338 lines)

Dear scornful Christopher who "preys"unceasingly, 

Yes, anyone who went to the CAA meetings met Janson, heard him speak, or at 
least saw him lumbering down the hallways. I don't care for his textbook at 
all. Never have. That was the point when I organized the first panel the CAA 
had ever held on textbooks and methods for teaching the art history survey 
class (San Francisco 1972). Too bad you didn't submit a paper, as at the time 
I couldn't find anyone other than Gregory Battcock who agreed with me on 
Janson's now well-recognized shortcomings. Janson's text was also one of the 
issues with the New Art Association, of which I was, for a while, in my 
scornful and outspoken youth, New York regional co-cordinator (1971-72).  Art 
is made by artists, not by "art historical periods," and if you're one of the 
few art historians who understands this, I'd say that's all to the good. 

You're not taking into account, however, that you may know far more about art 
history than many of the people on this list, who by and large specialize in 
other areas. Also, you don't say whether you're teaching art history, which 
tends to introduce other considerations. I personally believe that anyone who 
asks a simple question is entitled to a simple answer. That's why, when asked 
what style name would be used for the period before 1000, I supplied "early 
medieval." I gather you think I should have ridiculed the person--and at some 
length-- for asking the question, on the grounds that art historical style 
names have limitations. That's your style of response and not mine. I 
personally think the question asked was intelligent and worthy of respect. 
Whatever one thinks about the epistemology of art historical style names, 
people have a right to know what they are. If you're teaching, I'm curious as 
to how you'd handle this. Would you banish the word "Romanesque" from your 
classroom, on the grounds that it's an arbitrary label? Would you ridicule a 
student who used the word "Romanesque"? What would you say to a student who 
found the word in a book and wanted to know what it meant? Would you tell the 
student that he/she had no need to know, as the word is only an arbitrary 
label? 

Ball's in your court, so "prey" away. But don't take it personally if I begin 
to back off. I don't have the time, inclination, or testosterone level needed 
to sustain this kind of high-energy-level attack-mode indefinitely. A lot of 
people love a good fight, but I actually don't.  I think this list is most 
interesting when people share their specialized knowledge rather than using 
it as an arsenal. Just my opinion.

pat
==============================================================================

========
In a message dated 12/23/00 11:54:47 AM Eastern Standard Time, 
[log in to unmask] writes:

> [patient religionists, there's a methodological point --or points-- here
>  which, i believe, is/are actually relevant to your interests.  the Art 
> History
>  subject matter is only intended to be paradigmatic.  search for the 
Mystical
>  Sense.  and prey unceasingly.]
>  
>  [log in to unmask] wrote:
>  
>  >For those of you who don't remember Art History 101, or never took such 
>  a class, these are the conventional divisions usually used by art 
historians.
> 
>  Early Medieval --deposition of last Roman emperor to c. 1000
>  Romanesque --c. 1000-1137
>  Gothic --c. 1137-1400
>  
>  
>  Dear Pat,
>  
>  well, it seems you have the advantage on me.  
>  
>  i never took AH 101, though i did manage to make it into AH graduate school
>  with out it (what can i say, man? it was the sixties and all 
>  things were possible; and it was all very far out, as best i can remember).
>  
>  and, it has never before, *ever*, occurred to me to read the 88 pages 
>  H.W. Janson (_History of Art: A Survey of the Major Visual Arts from the 
> Dawn
>  of History to the Present Day_, pp. 195-283) devotes to "The Middle Ages"
>  (excluding the 9 page section on "Islamic Art"); though i did meet and 
hear 
> a
>  lecture by the Great Man 35 years ago (something about "Riders in the 
Clouds"
> 
>  in Renaissance paintings --i thought it was a pretty good talk).
>  
>  much less to read, mark and inwardly digest the whole 10 pages he devotes 
to
>  [*All* of] Gothic Architecture in France, which happens to begin with 
>  this particular pedagogical jewel: "The origin of no previous style can 
>  be pinpointed as exactly as that of Gothic.  It was born between 1137 and 
> 1144
>  in the rebuilding, by Abbot Suger, of the royal Abbey Church of St.-Denis 
> just
>  outside the city of Paris."
>  
>  and, sure enough, in the next few hundred words devoted to Early Gothic (
> which
>  term Janson doesn't use), we are led to believe that the "new" style sucked
>  itself out of its own fingers, with a little help from St. Suger: "The
>  Ile-de-France had failed to develop a Romanesque tradition of its own 
[SIC!!
>  --St. Germain-des-Près??], so that Suger --as he himself tells us-- had to
>  bring together artisans from many different regions for his projects."
>  
>  Janson's textbook (first appeared in 1962 and still in use) is surely far 
> and
>  away the most widely disseminated (albeit under duress) of all Art 
> Hysterical
>  books ever, and its influence on molding the pliable young minds of --now--
>  three or four generations of hapless undergraduates cannot be exagerated.
>  
>  a *very* sucessful book indeed.
>  
>  but, alas, it's a *Crock*, and if you *literally* believe it (or any 
>  other sweeping generalisation to be found in *any* survey text, no matter 
> what
>  the subject), you been Snookered, Big Time, and i got a nice bridge over 
the
>  Wabash River here in sunny Southern Indiana that you need to 
>  buy, toot sweet.
>  
>  history moves on --even Art History-- and, having writ, rewrites itself 
anew.
> 
>  
>  >I now address those colleagues who are seething with postmodernist scorn
>  
>  not me; shucks, i don't even *believe* in postmodrenism.
>  
>  >these labels are idiotic or arbitrary
>  >In short, art historical style names are labels of convenience, not to 
>  be taken literally and not to be taken too seriously. 
>  
>  then don't.
>  
>  above all, don't let them lead you around by the nose, when you're trying 
to
>  understand the origins of something as complex as "Gothic" style.
>  
>  >What do you intend to do with the replacement names after you've worked 
> them
>  out? 
>  
>  free myself from the tyrany of the construct which the terms imposes on 
>  my modes of thought.
>  
>  for instance, Jim Mills' kindly note on the periodic nomenclature of Danish
>  wall painting, 
>  
>  >Romanesque style, 1100-1250;  Transitional or Early Gothic, 1250-1350; 
High
>  Gothic, 1350-1400; Late Gothic, 1400-1525; Renaissance, 1525-1600
>  
>  makes *no* sense *whatever* in the context of, say, architecture in the
>  Ile-de-France in the same period, even though *exactly* the same words 
>  are used in the latter field to characterize perceived stylistic changes.
>  
>  but, that's not the point, obviously.
>  
>  the point is that scholars who are expert in the field (like Jim) have 
> looked
>  at the mass of monuments before them and tried to make chronological and
>  stylistic sense out of them, in the course of which they've seen fit to 
draw
>  some broad lines of division between what they perceive as fundamental
>  groupings.
>  
>  and they've given names to the divisions they perceive, which names have 
> only
>  a tangential relationship (if any) to similar names used in other areas of
>  expertise.
>  
>  now, such periodisation/nomenclatura has some very obvious advantages, 
>  not the least of which is as a partial solution to the considerable
>  pedagogical problem of training newcommers to the field.
>  
>  but those who are on the cutting edge of research in the field must be
>  eternally vigilant against being tyranized by their own construct, lest 
they
>  suffer the same fate as poor ole Baron von Frankenstein.
>  
>  to take a rather elementary --albeit far-fetched-- example, for instance: 
> say
>  the periodisation Jim has outlined for us has been around for time 
>  out of mind and is *universally* & accepted by all scholars working in 
>  the field (an unlikely possibility, to say the least). 
>  
>  then a little cluster of churches in a remote region which had not been
>  thoroughly "excavated" previously is found to yield, under centuries of
>  whitewash and grime, low and behold, a little stash of paintings which seem
>  for all the world to diplay all of the accepted characteristics of the 
style
>  termed "Transitional or Early Gothic (1250-1350)."
>  
>  but, this is clearly impossible, because unimpeachable surviving 
documentary
>  evidence in the form of an inscription (bare with me, for the sake of the
>  argument) informs us that the paintings in question were executed during 
the
>  time of the great Magnus Magnuson, who held the local episcopal see from 
> 1150
>  to 1165.
>  
>  now, what's a poor scholar to do?  
>  
>  at one extreme he can try and kill the messenger --i.e., impeach the 
source:
>  attack the genuineness of the inscription (or of the paintings themselves, 
> or
>  the existance of the Bishop, or yadda, yadda).
>  
>  at the other, he can, by an act of supreme will power, summon up sufficient
>  elasticity of mind to thoroughly re-think all of the myrid assumptions --
> some
>  not at all obvious-- on which the old system of groupings was based, in 
days
>  of yore, one hundred years ago (when, among other things, the corpus of 
> known
>  monuments was *much* smaller), and try and fashion a *new* construct, 
namely
>  one which takes into account the newly available data *and* allows for the
>  *vast* number of monuments 
>  which have been lost --many without even an echo.  
>  
>  in that case, alors, the "Transitional/Early Gothic" phase may be seen to 
> have
>  come to Denmark *much* earlier than the traditional 1250 date, the 
> discrepancy
>  to be explained by the hapenstance of survival.
>  
>  c?
>  
>  >>> and how would you english "francigenum"?
>  >>in the French Style
>  >Pardon this interruption, but why French Style, rather than Frankish 
Style;
>  whats the difference bewteen Frankish and French as
>  historical/artisitic/cultural adjs.? Isn't French a post Medieval term?
>  >Noticed in the Dictionary that "francus" in Late Latin also was used to 
> mean
>  "free"; could there be a double entendre in the name opus francigenum?
>  
>  certainly could be, i suppose, if you can figure any way that that would 
> make
>  sense in an architectural context (i can't).
>  
>  being Latiniacially Challenged, i've always wondered about the form 
>  there, _francigenum_; what sort of permutation is that, exactly?
>  
>  i assume that the (single?) text in which the term appears (cf. Franklk) 
was
>  13th c. and non-French.
>  
>  >"in the French Style"
>  >> Pardon this interruption, but why French Style, rather than Frankish
>  Style;
>  >> whats the difference bewteen Frankish and French as
>  historical/artisitic/cultural adjs.? Isn't French a
>  >> post Medieval term?
>  >I don't think Suger thought of himself as Frankish.
>  
>  off hand, i'm not sure why he would *not* so think.
>  
>  the capetian kings --including his good buddy Fat Louis and son, Little 
> Louis
>  (VI & VII for those who prefer modern usage), and all their predecessors 
and
>  sucessors -- consistantly styled themselves in their official charters as "
> Rex
>  Francorum", which, i submit, can only be englished as "King of the Franks,"
>  *not* "King of France."   
>  
>  moreover, in his biography of Fat Louis, in addition to styling the King
>  thusly, i'm vertually certain that St. Suger refers, repeatedly, to "the
>  franks," among whom he presumably would count himself.
>  
>  ditto the author of the "History of the Franks [_Historia Francorum_]
>  Overseas."
>  
>  "France" as an entity did not exist, though there was the term _francia_ 
> which
>  was bandied about by contemporaries.  with hesitation and the eternal hope 
> for
>  correction, i *believe* that this term refered to, roughly, [modern] France
>  North of the Loire, and, especially, the "Ile-de-France", i.e., the 
smallish
>  "island" more or less under the 
>  direct control of the capetian monarchs, stretching, roughly, from 
>  Orleans (or even Bourges, in some interpretaitons) North to, say Laon.
>  
>  seems to me that it is this latter, _francia_, term which is referenced 
>  in _opus francigenum_ --i.e., "this work/style [architecture] comes from 
the
>  region of _Francia_."   
>  
>  >With regard to architectural style names, what name would be given to 
>  the architecture 479-1000 other than pre-Romanesque? 
>  
>  such a term (pre-Romanesque) implies, not just chronological priority, 
>  but that, say, Charlemagne's palace chapel at Aachen was, somehow, 
striving 
> to
>  be "Romanesque," rather than Justianianic, which is a *lot* closer to the
>  mark.
>  
>  >Wasn't much built of wood and hence does not survive? If so, how could 
> anyone
>  give a name to a style whose appearance is unknown?
>  
>  the tree makes a sound when it falls, no matter whether the woodsman is 
> there
>  to hear it or not.
>  
>  analysing the *nature* of that sound, now that's a bit more difficult 
> without
>  ears present.
>  
>  >>opuses.
>  
>  >opera
>  
>  ohyeahrite.
>  
>  and would that be Grand or Grand Ole?
>  
>  opusae.
>  
>  best to all from here,
>  
>  christopher
>  
>  
>  
>  
>  
>  
>  

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