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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  March 2009

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION March 2009

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Subject:

Re: ISO help with basic Arabic

From:

Christopher Crockett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 18 Mar 2009 10:57:23 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

From: Madeleine Gray <[log in to unmask]>

> Could it actually be (by analogy with Bredehoft's work on inscriptions on
badges) 

http://asstudents.unco.edu/faculty/tbredehoft/UNCclasses/ENG238/LiteracyLetters.pdf

hélas, i have yet to take time to read this thoroughly. 

>a sort of image of writing produced by someone who knew roughly what writing
looked like, knew it was important because it could embody meaning, but wasn't
actually literate as we understand it?

that's certainly the way i see it (as the pre-eminent Blind Man, eager to lure
others into the Ditch with him).

it seems to me that "text" itself, simply as "text," was recognizable as
"text," even by those who hadn't a prayer of "reading" what it said --indeed,
even if it was "illegible" gibberish-- and, as such, possessed immense
Prestige and, indeed, a cachet of The Mysterious.

that's the only explanation i can think of for the presence of these
"pseudo-inscriptions" on, particularly (but not exclusively) pilgrims' badges
--which are themselves, in the main and with relatively few exceptions, folk
artifacts of quite mediocre [artistic] quality, surely the work of rather
modest, secular artisans (though their production was, always, strictly
monitored --and taxed-- by the resident clergy).

>  (My big interest here is that I'm working on the use of text in medieval
wall paintings in ordinary parish churches, where most of those who saw the
text wouldn't have been able to read. Not an exact parallel but I found
Bredehoft's ideas on pilgrim badges and textual communities very useful.)

(no doubt as would i, should i take the time to actually read it.)

presumably your parish church inscriptions are actual, legible texts --and
*some*one could read them. [?]

as opposed to the pseudo-text phenomenon on the badges --whose purpose was
perfectly well served by their simply giving the *appearance* of "text."

a related (or not) phenomenon might be the much more prevelant manifestation
of text as epigraphy --carved on stone.

even the Severely Epigraphically Challenged (i.e., me) can see that the
prevailing custom in 11th-12th c. stone inscriptions was to "go for the
decorative effect" [i.e., an "art form" which was in direct conflict with
legibility] while, at the same time, presenting the [hapless, would-be] reader
with a legitimate and [ultimately] legible text.

i did a bit of work on two inscriptions from the Moissac cloister a few years
ago (with very little to show for it in the end).

one from 1100, "Tempore domini Ansqvitilii Abbatis" is highly decorative, but,
i found, ultimately legible:

http://ariadne.org/cc/moissac/M_1100.jpg

and comparatively "simple."

as opposed to, say, this one from 1063:

http://ariadne.org/cc/moissac/M_1063.jpg

simpler in letter forms and "contractions" ["lettres enclavées," what do you
call those?], but *much* more difficult to deal with, textually.

here's how i transcribed it (with help from l'Abbé's Sacrosanct Concilia
edition):

http://ariadne.org/cc/moissac/1063trans.html

the fine historian, Jean Dufour, who wrote his dissertation on the library and
scriptorium of Moissac, said of this one:

“Cette inscription suite la mode du temps, qui voulait que le texte fût
obscur .... Nombreuses lettres enclavées; lettres de formes arrondies.” 

A perceptive comment, if something of an understatement... 
  
obviously, neither of these inscriptions was intended for the illiterate --on
the contrary, their intended audience (in the cloister itself) would have been
only the most accomplished of "readers."

just transcribing the things was a challenge; "reading" the "text obscure"
--esp. of the 1063 inscription-- would have been far beyond all but the most
seasoned and accomplished of litterati.

and fully appreciating its considerable "literary" qualities would have been a
step or two beyond that.

best i can see, these were intended, not to allow 20th c. art hysterians to
date the cloister sculptures, but rather as intense meditational exercises for
contemporaries.

along these lines, though i don't think that he discusses these two
(non-portal) inscriptinons, this book might be of some assistance (even with
your parish paintings, Maddy):

Calvin B. Kendall, The allegory of the church: romanesque portals and their
verse inscriptions.  
University of Toronto Press, 1998.  
xv, 399 pp., [40] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.  


i bought a copy of it when it first came out, but haven't yet read it,
characteristically only looked at the pretty pictures.

Jim has read it, however, and might could share his expertise on the matter.

c


> Maddy
>  
> Dr Madeleine Gray
> Senior Lecturer in History
> School of Education/Ysgol Addysg
> University of Wales, Newport/Prifysgol Cymru, Casnewydd
> Caerleon Campus/Campws Caerllion,
> Newport/Casnewydd  NP18 3QT Tel: +44 (0)1633.432675
>  
> 'You may not be able to change the world but at least you can embarrass the
guilty'
> (Jessica Mitford)
> 
> ________________________________
> 
> From: medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious
culture on behalf of Chris Laning
> Sent: Tue 17/03/2009 6:22 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [M-R] ISO help with basic Arabic
> 
> 
> 
> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
> 
> Madeleine wrote:
> >Can you say a bit more about the 'pseudo-calligraphy' - it sounds rather
> >reminiscent of Tom Bredehoft's work on pseudo-writing on pilgrim badges
> 
> Quite a few Islamic textiles are decorated with calligraphy -- usually
rather stylized (i.e. it often doesn't look a whole lot like written Arabic at
first glance). It's quite possible this has something to do with the Islamic
reluctance to use images as decoration: many of the other motifs that show up
together with the calligraphy are geometric, such as stars. The inscriptions
(depending on context) can be short or long, and many of them are religious --
"The blessing of Allah upon so-and-so", for instance, or "Allah is most
glorious." Others are more secular: "Success and happiness", for instance.
This custom seems to have originated with the *tiraz* textiles that were given
as rewards to courtiers by various rulers.
> 
> As the use of such motifs spread, imitations arose, and as designers played
with the idea, decorative patterns arose which look a great deal like
calligraphy at first glance, but which actually don't say anything. Either
they are nonsensical combinations of letters, or in some cases they look
rather like Arabic letters but aren't identifiable. This also happened as
these designs migrated to Europe, where the significance of the calligraphy
wasn't understood, but it occurs in Islamic textiles as well.
> 
> Islamic lettering is rather flexible, in that the shapes of the letters can
be somewhat distorted and still quite legible. In particular, the ascenders
and descenders can be long or short, and there is definitely a fashion for
manipulating lettering so that it also forms a picture -- something that looks
like a row of buildings, for instance. I've seen modern lettering that reads
"Peace" in the shape of a dove, and I have pictures of an 11th century Islamic
textile where the word "Victory" has been shaped so that the vertical lines
suggest a pillared hall with hanging lamps.
> 
> My problem is, since I'm not able to *read* the lettering, I can't easily
tell whether an inscription I'm looking at is real (but distorted) lettering
that actually spells something, or whether it's pseudo-calligraphy. And before
I publish an assertion that something is meaningless (or meaningful), I'd like
to be assured that I'm right ;)
> 
> ____________________________________________________________
> 0  Chris Laning
> |  <[log in to unmask]>
> +  Davis, California
> http://paternoster-row.org <http://paternoster-row.org/>   - 
http://paternosters.blogspot.com <http://paternosters.blogspot.com/> 
> ____________________________________________________________
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