edited by: Elma Brenner, Meredith Cohen, Mary Franklin-Brown
Farnham, Ashgate, 2013, ISBN: 9781409423935; 362pp.; Price: £75.00
Merton College, Oxford
Date accessed: 28 February, 2024
Emerging from the recent and widespread academic interest in cultural memory, the International Medieval Society of Paris (IMS, Paris) convened a three-day interdisciplinary symposium on Memory in Medieval France in the summer of 2007. With keynote speakers Mary Carruthers and Jean-Claude Schmitt setting the tone, the conference sparked new inquests into the significance of memory across its various permutations in the medieval imagination. From the construction of ritual performance, the function of mnemonics, the formulation of devotional practices, and the creation of commemorative works of art and architecture, memory lies at the convergence of history and identity in the Middle Ages. Elma Brenner, Meredith Cohen, and Mary Franklin-Brown have succeeded in transforming the IMS proceedings into a well-edited and useful book. As a whole, this anthology contributes a lively set of 21st-century voices to medieval historiography. Comprised of a short but clear introduction and 16 English essays, Memory and Commemoration in Medieval Culture equips its reader with an assortment of thoughtful approaches to the study of memory.
This collection enriches the modern discourse on the medieval experience of memory. Currently, this field is receiving considerable attention from academics across various disciplines. However, new studies of memory are greatly in debt to the effort and imagination of a few pioneering historians. In 1966, Frances Yates offered an original appraisal of mnemonic techniques from antiquity through modernity in The Art of Memory.(1) With the publication of From Memory to Written Record in 1979, Michael Clanchy redefined the study of English literary history using an innovative evaluation of oral and written memory.(2) In France, the groundbreaking work of Nouvelle Histoire scholars, such as Jacques Le Goff and Pierre Nora, restructured the methodological framework for historians, prioritizing conceptual studies of totalizing cultural memories.(3) Across the US and the UK, numerous detailed surveys, such as the exemplary contributions by Patrick Geary and Rosamond McKitterick, reexamined the place of memory in medieval societies.(4) Most recently, Mary Carruthers ignited extensive academic debate in her penetrating investigation of mnemonics and the medieval imagination from Late Antiquity through the 12th century.(5) Every chapter in this anthology cites one or more these essential publications. Building upon the accomplishments of these outstanding scholars, Memory and Commemoration in Medieval Culture contributes new material to a flourishing field.
The volume is divided into five thematic sections. Part one, 'Memory and images’, engages with the role of visual culture in the cognitive processes of memory. The contents of part two, 'Commemoration and oblivion', address the tension between remembering, reinventing, and erasing historical events in medieval texts. In part three, 'Memory, reading, and performance', manuscript production is examined in light of the approach by authors, artists, and readers as reflections of their memoria. At the heart of part four, 'Royal and aristocratic memory and commemoration', the experience of elite patronage– particularly by women– is reevaluated in terms of dynastic identity. In the final section, 'Remembering medieval France,' the papers cohere around the modern conception of 'medievalisms' and the reception (and reinvention) of medieval memories.
The first chapter on ‘Images and the work of memory’ by Jean-Claude Schmidt redresses the relationship between history and memory. Opening with a lucid overview of the recent attention afforded to the study of memory, Schmidt announces ‘historians cannot study collective memory without taking individual memory into account and vice versa’ (p. 18). This general declaration embodies the overarching aim of the anthology in hand. Schmidt continues by focusing his investigation on visual culture. He writes, ‘thanks to memory, the past becomes images’ (p. 19). Considering the active and dynamic relationship between images and memory in the sixth-century mosaics at Sant'Apollinare, Schmidt explains how the design programme simultaneously erases its antecedent heresy, bears witness to the transformative effect of conversion, and edifies a new orthodoxy. For any reader in need of a current and thorough academic account of the art of memory, Schmidt's chapter is an exceptional summa furnished with a superlative case study on post-Ostrogothic Ravenna. However, one might wonder why the text from one of the plenaries is present here while a chapter from the other keynote speaker, Mary Carruthers, is absent.
In ‘Images gross and sensible’, Martha Easton examines French Gothic illustrations of violence in her analysis of martyrdom imagery in an extensively illustrated 13th-century Legenda Aurea produced in Paris and preserved at the Huntington (San Marino, The Huntington Library, HM 3027).(6) The miniatures of the martyrs' heroism are repeatedly reduced to a singular summation of their ultimate sacrifice; they are portrayed in the midst of their passion. These Gothic illuminations reflect a long-standing devotional function: to elicit from the viewer a memorable vision of the martyr's triumphant torment and generate an empathetic simulacrum. Easton' explains how the violence in the Legenda encourages affective piety by facilitating mnemonic processes. The Gothic viewer simultaneously cultivates a personal devotional memory and actively participates in the saint's commemoration. Her method of iconological deduction is intertwined with a post-modern theoretical investigation of the body as a site of spectacle, a concept that crystallized in the work of Elaine Scarry.(7) Easton also observes a stark contrast in the representations of violence between male and female saints. Although almost every martyr succumbs to death by beheading in the Legenda text, women often appear nude, suffering from the torture of their exposed skin. Meanwhile, nearly every male martyr submits to decapitation. This categorical distinction implies a gendered reading of martyrdom. Easton's essay is impressive in scope and successful in delivery. While there are references to the reception of Augustinian thought alongside a brief consideration of Jacobus de Voragine and Thomas Aquinas, the text could develop from a synthesis of contemporaneous historical attitudes towards holy death. However, in the short space provided, the author advances an engrossing investigation of memory in the late 13th-century devotional imagination. Easton has presented an illuminating study of the mnemonic potential of martyrdom imagery. It should be added to current reading lists and academic bibliographies on French Gothic visual culture.
Rosa María Rodríguez Porto discusses how Troy was 'remembered' in 13th-century illuminated accounts of the Roman de Troie and Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César. In ‘Beyond the two doors of memory’, a complex network of manuscript production is untangled via this study of iconographic transference. In her cross-examination of French, Flemish, and Crusader illuminations, Rodríguez Porto highlights selective visual appropriations to reveal the sources and agendas of various manuscripts. While many representations of historical events – such as the Death of Hector – suggest an interest in recycling design motifs, a corpus of specific iconographic families becomes apparent. Rodríguez Porto also defends the mnemonic utility of coupling of text and image in history writing. With evocative illustrations of warfare, she claims ‘Troy was rebuilt in the realm of memory’ (p. 61). For a society engaged in the crusades, the Trojan illustrations could function as phantasma; the manuscripts enable the viewer to imagine ‘the actions of brave men [who] were in the past as if they were present’ (p. 75). These images also encouraged belief in the putative Trojan ancestral origins of French kings. By drawing our attention to the 'intertextualities and intervisualities' in 13th-century Trojan material, Rodríguez Porto succinctly explains how texts and images can simultaneously recollect the ancient past and reflect the medieval present.
Part two opens with the ‘The making of the Carolingian Libri Memoriales’ Eva-Maria Butz and Alfons Zettler inspect the content and political context of these Frankish confraternity books (libri memoriales), which memorialize thousands of personal names. These voluminous texts emulate the Liber Vitae, the 'Book of Life' referenced in the Bible containing the names of the elect.(8) To inscribe one's name in these liturgical books is emphatically an act of commemoration because of the object's ritual function: Scholars believe libri memoriales were deposited on altars with prayers offered for those named on their pages. In this chapter, the authors argue that libri memoriales expose the reciprocal bonds of association in Carolingian society, especially in the imperial patronage of ecclesiastical institutions. Focusing their analysis on the ninth-century Indicularius of Remiremont and its clusters of 'royal diptychs', which couple names from the imperial family with offerings of psalmodies and masses, Butz and Zettler conclude that these royal lists also echo ‘the collective memory and identity of religious houses in their period’ (p. 82). Occasionally, the names of dynastic forbearers are inserted anachronistically into special 'arches' in an act of 'creative memory'. In their study of Remiremont, Butz and Zettler suggest that the addition of ancient Merovingian and other prestigious figures to the Indicularius enabled the monastic house to claim a dignified and longstanding relationship to the emperor's family. Special instructions and insertions in libri memoriales expose the place of liturgical commemoration in the formation of Carolingian historical consciousness. This chapter presents a helpful explanation of how libri memoriales bear witness to the historical process of political institutionalization.
In ‘Status and the soul’, Mailan S. Doquang considers the commemorative function of lateral chapels in Gothic cathedrals of the Ile-de-France. Surprisingly, this is the only subject of architectural history in the anthology. Doquang argues that the endowment of lateral chapels enabled patrons to express their ‘intertwined desires for earthly self-representation and post mortem remembrance and purification’ (p. 95). The need to reserve a special place for the performance of intercessory prayer is linked to increasing collective concerns about Purgatory, which culminated in its doctrinal establishment at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. As a Rayonnant design concept that first materialized in Paris around 1228, lateral chapels are inserted ingeniously into the space between nave bays and buttresses in Early and High Gothic cathedrals at Paris, Rouen, Laon, and Amiens. In addition to their role as a staging ground for prayer, Doquang suggests that their physicality offered a less ephemeral and more tangible representation of a departed patron's presence. Moreover, opulent decorations would have mediated the patrons' particular aspirations. Perhaps more penetrating visual analysis of various design elements would have added to this well-researched and beautifully illustrated chapter. While the chapels are evaluated as architectural frames and divided into two aesthetic categories, 'the standard and the exceptional', the text would benefit from a detailed discussion of the formal vocabulary. Nevertheless, Doquang has opened the field for future studies of architectural patronage. Diocesan surveillance, patrons' desires, and salvific aspirations coalesce in the decorations of Gothic lateral chapels, situating these commemorative sites within a dynamic network of ecclesiastical hierarchies.
Christian Jaser assesses the Ciceronian notion of the 'art of forgetting' (ars oblivionis) via the semiotics and consequences of excommunication in ‘Ritual Excommunications’.(9) Since the Council of Meaux-Paris in 846, expulsion from the Church led to eternal damnation. This chapter scrutinizes the social, spiritual, and anticipated posthumous effects of excommunication as the symbolic erasure from the heavenly Liber Vitae. While Jaser repeatedly acknowledges an inherent difference between excommunication and anathema, the reader would benefit from a clearer rhetorical distinction in the introduction. Jaser delivers a thorough overview of the historical background to the processes of ritual excommunication before launching a detailed analysis of formularies. His inquiry launches from an intriguing paradox; the individual erased from the Christian community often became a memorable figure. Contrary to its threatening spiritual consequences, the author argues that excommunication operated primarily as a means for the Church to apply pressure within the present-day social network. He defines a set of specific factors implemented by 'ritual actors,' who would perform excommunication during Sunday mass using speech acts – for example, the labeling of the individual with the names of biblical anti-heroes (Judas Iscariot, Herod, etc) – and symbolic gestures – for example, the extinction of candlelight. However, ritual formularies include an 'escape clause' that allows absolution through penance. Jaser's investigation of formulaic inventories, which is laced with intriguing historical anecdotes, culminates in his discussion of death and liminality. For Jaser, the unrepentant excommunicant posthumously becomes ‘an unforgettable protagonist’ akin to the ‘very special dead’ discussed by Peter Brown (p. 136).(10) While this is an absorbing anthropological assessment, Brown's oft-cited definition applies to the burgeoning Late Antique practices of Christian veneration; it is categorically dissimilar from the burials of the ‘dangerous dead’ described by Jaser (p. 137). I should note that there is an off-putting typeface error on p. 123; a paragraph of text that appears to be in the author's voice is reduced to smaller print as if it is a block quotation. Despite these minor issues, Jaser's extensive analysis of formularies and thoughtful conclusion about 're-remembering' is well-suited to the aim of the anthology.
Part three begins with Mary Franklin-Brown's ambitious study of memoria in the Speculum Maius of Vincent de Beauvais (c.1190s–1264). Scholars today recognize the impact and legacy of this exhaustive encyclopedia in the Middle Ages. However, due to its extraordinary length, breadth, and depth, any consideration of the compendium demands close reading and careful attention. Complete with an alphabetized index and divided into three sections – the Speculum historiale, Speculum doctrinale, and Speculum naturale– the Speculum Maius is comprised of over three million words. The recent collaborative efforts of L'Atelier Vincent de Beauvais, which includes the digitization of the entire text, makes the Speculum Maius more accessible to readers than ever before.(11 Franklin-Brown's chapter is not a narrow study of what the Speculum Maius contains. Instead, she endeavors to locate its place in a wider context of encyclopedic production. Unexpectedly, the discussion opens with a complete departure from the Capetian era. Vincent's scholastic objectives are reviewed alongside the intentions of Hrabanus Marus (c. 780s–856), the Carolingian monastic author of De rerum naturis, and the circle of Enlightenment luminaries surrounding Denis Diderot (1713–84) and his Encyclopédie.(12) At first glance, the comparison of a 13th-century courtly scholar with a 9th-century Frankish monk and a team of 18th-century Parisian philosophers seems an ahistorical approach. Over the course of the chapter, the utility of Franklin-Brown's methodology becomes apparent. However, an explanation of author's reasons for the selection of Marus and Diderot as dialectical endpoints would increase the reader's comprehension. While Marus' text equips his dedicatee, Haimon, with a personalized promptbook to spark meditations upon previously encountered texts, the Encyclopédie purports to be a first-hand collated repository to educate the uninitiated reader. Thus, what was once a rhetorical instrument designed to trigger memory had transformed (over the course of millennium) into a lieu de mémoire, a collective receptacle of knowledge. Vacillating between ages and ideas, there is little space for the analysis of the primary sources beyond brief consideration of Vincent's Prologus. Nevertheless, Franklin-Brown presents a stimulating theoretical discussion, situating the Speculum Maius on a long-reaching historical axis as a ‘new memorial treasury’ (p. 162). Falling midway between the De rerum naturalis and Encyclopédie both chronologically and epistemologically, Vincent intends to spur to cognitive recollection (like Marus) and provide a lieu de mémoire (like Diderot). With this unconventional approach, Franklin-Brown reveals the pivotal, Janian place of the Speculum Maius in the encyclopedic tradition.
The focus of Joanna Fronska in ‘The memory of Roman Law’ is an exceptional copy of Digestum vetus (Kórnick, Polish Academy of Sciences, Ms. 824), an annotated and abundantly illustrated medieval collection of laws codes established under Emperor Justinian in 533. The manuscript in question is a late 12th-century Italian text festooned with marginalia by 13th-century Parisian artists. This chapter explores the connection between the marginal illustrations and their intended stimulation in the reader's memory. Fronska effectively argues that the Digest marginalia trigger cognitive recollection for University students. The Digest marginalia appear to 'play' with the accompanying Roman text both linguistically and allegorically. Building from the first-century testimony of Quintilian on the catalyzing effect of notae, Fronska presents a convincing analysis of how the Digest imagery captures the viewer's attention, amplifies particular passages, and cultivates meditation. Appearing alongside the surge in the productions of coutuniers in 13th-century France, Fronska contextualizes the production of this type of scholastic marginalia in the Parisian University experience. The apprehension of various law codes is thus facilitated via playful aide-mémoires. In turn, the images simultaneously constitute a ductus, an imaginative path for the student to map and direct their study of law. Surveying a wide array of enchanting visual examples, Fronska demonstrates how this example of Gothic marginalia embraces ancient mnemonic practices.
In her study of the Remede de Fortune and Voir Dit by the composer Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300–77), Kate Maxwell defends a new interpretation for the study of lyrical poetry. She begins with a definition of the active verb ‘to music’; Christopher Small defined ‘to music’ as a multi-faceted expression of layers of 'activity' across various stages of creation and performance.(13) For Maxwell, the experience of the authors, scribes, artists, and readers of Machaut's manuscripts can be treated as memorializing 'performances' in each instance. Maxwell goes so far as to propose that the makers of the manuscripts would have engaged in musical 'performance' – probably silent – as they worked because the scribes were ‘aware of the sonic value of their task’ (p. 187). While this is a fascinating assumption, a clarification of the methods of a 'scribal-performer' would strengthen this portion of the essay. However, Maxwell successfully projects her hypothesis onto the mnemonic processes of the 'reader-performer'. Her deduction of an illuminating passage about the female protagonist in Voir Dit, cryptically named 'Toutebelle', presents a glimpse into the memorializing practices of the medieval listener/reader. Toutebelle describes a learning technique in which she relies on the formulation of an aide-mémoire, which is subsequently written down with the help of a secretary. She then receives a copy of the ballade in the form of a manuscript. While Maxwell's analysis of the scribal-performer is in need of more evidence, her discussion of the author-performer and reader-performer in the production of Machaut's lyrical works is illuminating. In the end, it is apparent that the active performance of memory played a critical role in the use and transmission of Machaut's texts.
John F. Levy presents a groundbreaking study of acrostics in the 15th-century epic poetry of Niccolò da Verona, a Venetian author writing in Old French for an Italian audience. Levy suggests that the poet's creation of an acrostic signature functions as an act of copyright. The acrostic also alludes to contemporary practices of oral transmission. The content of Niccolò's Pharsale, a 3166-verse re-working of Lucan's Pharsalia, sheds light on the connection between Old French poetry and its oral traditions. After synthesizing multiple ethnological studies of chansons de geste, Levy contends that an investigation of Niccolo's court poetry contributes new evidence to an 'oralist view' of transmission. Levy's interpretation of passages in the Pharsale suggests that jongleurs circulated and, at times, changed epic poetry using techniques of memorizing. This claim is then supported with an elucidation of why Niccolò expressed concern about his intellectual property. Using specific examples, Levy explains how Niccolò used rhyming verse to facilitating the correct recollection of his poetry for travellers. While the utility of rhyme is recognized as a potential topos, Levy presents a solid counterargument. Around the middle of the poem, the poet inserts a unique acrostic identifying himself, the date of his creation, and his patron. He also warns any jongleurs not to steal his work, protecting his literary property rights. Compared alongside other acrostic practices, including those of Boccaccio, Niccolò's insertion is perceived as an indication of genuine concern that inadvertently alludes to the mnemonic techniques and traditions of jongleurs. The poet clearly relied on an ars memorativa. Moreover, he feared that jongleurs (perhaps, in particular, blind street singers) with equally developed skills would steal his work. Levy's chapter is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the memorization and dissemination of poetry in the later Middle Ages.
Part four commences with ‘Changes of aristocratic identity,’ an absorbing chapter by Elizabeth Van Houts on the female experience of social identity across a myriad of Scandinavian, Norman, and Angevin examples spanning the 9th and 12th centuries. An aristocratic woman's name, title, and role depended upon a coalescence of familial circumstances and the selective exploitation of particular memorial traditions. This comprehensive study of elite women is focused predominantly on the consequences of remarriage. Two marriages of Queen Adela of Flanders (912–62), first to King Cnut IV of Denmark in 1080 and later to Duke Roger Borsa of Apulia in 1092, provide captivating bookends in the introduction and conclusion of the chapter. Van Houts clarifies various determining factors for a well-born woman's concept of their rank; first as daughters – an unchanging point of reference – then perhaps as wives, mothers, and widows. She reveals that even widowed potential queens used this royal title in documents. With dramatic changes in dynastic circumstances, women could lose control of their own children or become the step-parent to their new husband's children from a former relationship. Van Houts expounds a multitude of examples in which women manipulated their memories in a manner that best served their high-status identity. The chapter closes with a discussion of Adela's commemoration of her late husband, Cnut IV (murdered in 1062). The exploitation of her queenly status was vital to Cnut's canonization under Pope Pascal II in 1099. During the promotion of his cult, Adela also arranged her next marriage to Roger. Van Houts' underlying claim, that medieval women ‘lived with various identities, all of which carried its own memories’ (p. 241), is conveyed with ample evidence, conviction, and clarity.
In ‘Longchamp and Lourcine,’ Anne-Hélène Allirot compares formation of dynastic memory in her study of two abbatial foundations by Capetian women within the Parisian environs. Isabelle de France (1225–70), sister to the saint-king, Louis IX (1214–70), participated in the dedication of Longchamp abbey, which opened to Clarisse nuns in 1259. Reference to devotional inventories, liturgical offices, and records of dynastic patronage at Longchamp are cross-examined with the available evidence from Lourcine, founded in 1289 by Marguerite de Provence (1221–95), Louis IX's wife and queen. In each instance, these abbeys facilitated Capetian dynastic memory. The relics of Louis and his pious sister were enshrined at Longchamp, where Isabelle elected to be buried. Although Isabelle was not beatified until 1521, the Clarisse nuns appear to have honored their putative ‘fundatrice’ as a saint from the time of her death. While Allirot refers to Isabelle as a ‘quasi-saint’ (p. 259), the reader would benefit from the disclosure of more information about the history of veneration of Isabelle at Longchamp. Allirot mentions a 14th-century inventory of the Longchamp treasury, which lists a reliquary of Saint Louis and various objects that once belonged to Isabelle. Were Isabelle's items preserved as miraculous contact relics from the time of her death? Allirot also comments on the insertion of a commemorative feast day for Isabelle in the abbey's liturgical calendar (BnF Ms Fr. 11662) at some point after her beatification. Because of the presentation of the evidence, the reader is left wondering precisely when Allirot believes the Clarisse nuns started to worship Isabelle. Allirot laments that the primary sources are scarcer for Lourcine. This abbey, on the contrary, did not house many ‘prestigious memorials’ (p. 255) but it did own a tunic of the king-saint. However, the relic does not appear to be a medieval donation; Allirot only provides a 17th-century reference to its veneration. While it is plausible that the tunic of Saint Louis arrived earlier, more precision is needed in this discussion. Royal gift-giving, particularly the donation of luxurious garments, also reveals the interests of Capetian women in Longchamp and Lourcine. However, Allirot writes, ‘after 1360, these abbeys do not seem to have accommodated royalty’ (p. 259) because the daughters of Charles IV seemed more interested in the Dominicans’ houses at Poissy. While this shift in patronage is noted, again, the reader is left in need of an explanation for this sudden change in royal interests. The 'feminized' features of patronage at Longchamp and Lourcine embody a topic ripe for dialogue about gender, identity, and dynastic devotion in Capetian France. Allirot's examination of female foundation and familial devotion presents an alluring introduction to aspects of female commemoration. Greater clarity in the presentation of the evidence would facilitate the reader's comprehension of the legacies of Isabelle and Marguerite as two extraordinary ‘fundatrices.’
M. Cecilia Gaposchkin's chapter on ‘Louis IX and liturgical memory’ assembles an arsenal of information about the commemoration of Saint Louis across courtly, Cistercian, and Franciscan communities. In this account of the offices composed for the king-saint, Gaposchkin treats these liturgical texts as multi-faceted historical sources, which, ultimately, institutionalized the canonical perception of Saint Louis. When Louis died in Tunis on 25 August 1270, an inquiry into his sanctity began immediately. After his canonization on 11 August 1297, various ecclesiastical houses in Paris independently composed liturgical songs upon hearing the joyous news of Louis' sanctification. Comparing selections of antiphons across the Cistercian Lauda Celestis, courtly Ludovicus Decus Regnantium, and Franciscan Francorum rex, Gaposchkin argues, ‘each institution constructed their memory of Louis ... to reify and confirm institutional memory’ (p. 266). While the courtly version emphasized Louis' sacral kingship in its selections from royal psalms and typological associations with Old Testament rulers, the Cistercians presented Louis as an obedient and penitent ascetic. For the Franciscans, the office is modeled on hymns to Saint Francis in its language, thematic content, and Crusader interests. In each instance, the Cistercian, courtly, and Franciscan liturgical celebrations commemorate a specific set of qualities that reflect what they needed from the new saint. With this detailed investigation of liturgical texts, Gaposchkin delivers a superlative analysis of institutional memory in the development of the cult of Saint Louis.
In part five, the anthology moves from the historical study of the Middle Ages and enters the realm of medievalisms. We begin with Elizabeth Emery's delectable essay on ‘Pierre Loti's 'Memories' of the Middle Ages.’ This chapter revolves around a single extraordinary event, the ‘Dîner Louis XI’, which took place in 1888. A medieval banquet, set in the year 1470, was served in the ‘Salle à manger gothique’ of Loti's Rochefort home. Loti required his guests to speak Old French. Those in attendance included his friends, colleagues and journalists, who praised the splendor and accuracy of the occasion in detail. Loti also orchestrated the invitations, menus, costumes, interior decoration, rituals, and entertainment in an attempt to evoke an authentic experience of a lavish medieval feast. In anticipation of his party, the novelist visited the Musée de Cluny to sketch various authentic objects before commissioning his own copies. In Emery's assessment of the ‘Dîner Louis XI,’ the event is evaluated in light of Loti's effort to 'perform' fantasy. The host instructed his guests to 'participate' by adopting medieval names, outfits, and identities. In her study of the journalistic reports and contemporary photographs, Emery assesses Loti's imaginative enthusiasm in light of its 'truthful' resuscitation through performance. She concludes that the banquet is an example of the ‘milieux de mémoire’ described by Pierre Nora and ‘Funktions-gedächtnis’ defined by Aleida Assmann; for one night, medieval souvenirs had become modern memories through contemporary performance. Emery's exploration is a delightful meditation on the 19th-century galvanization of a 15th-century French fantasy.
The chapter entitled ‘Celebrating the medieval past in Modern Cluny’ by Janet T. Marquardt looks at three communal events in Cluny in which its glorious monastic past was recollected and, momentarily, made present. The mighty abbey at Cluny once occupied an esteemed intellectual, artistic, and religious place in collective memory before its demolition. In the aftermath of the Revolution, most of its Romanesque fabric was destroyed; only one transept and two towers remain. In this survey, Marquardt reflects on these instances of civic commemoration in light of their national context. Her analysis stems from various conference proceedings, journalistic coverage, photographs, postcards, posters, and other records. The first event in this study is a colloquium and 'jubilee' held on the Feast of All Souls in 1898. In reaction to recent popularity of the cult at Lourdes, this 19th-century celebration also resembled a pilgrimage: Indulgences were offered to visitors and numerous solemn masses took place over the course of several days. 1910 marked the millennial anniversary of the foundation of Cluny. The town hosted another academic congress and a spectacular reenactment, which recreated the visit of King Louis IX to meet Pope Innocent IV at the abbey in 1245. Marquardt effectively argues that the staging of this medieval diplomatic visit embodied contemporary hopes for reconciliation between Church and State in France. The final ‘fête’ took place after the Second World War in 1949, when popular religious belief began to return to France. Scholars, locals, and tourists came together to reexamine and honour the importance of medieval Cluny in an academic congress, which facilitated major archeological, historical, and art historical studies. In this way, 20th-century France endeavored to 'remember' Cluny. Marquardt presents a convincing analysis of how these three civic celebrations revitalized medieval splendor and power in nationalistic collective memory.
The last essay by Shirin Fozi, ‘A mere patch of color,’ looks at a stained glass panel in the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum comprised of Gothic window fragments from Reims cathedral. Fozi's aim in this thoughtful study is to reflect on the relationship of the panel's provenance to its form and meaning. The obliterated tesserae were gifted to the American Ambulance Corps by the French government and assembled in Boston by an unknown person, perhaps a framer. While there is extensive consideration of the panel's display in its museum, the chapter could have dedicated more space to the evaluation of the date and appearance of the glass fragments. Fozi concedes that it is difficult to appraise the medieval authenticity of the glass because of 19th-century elements. In this panel, which is the cover image for the anthology, a sympathetic Gothic head floats suspended in a blitz of colour. Deeper visual analysis would enrich Fozi's discussion. From September 1914 through April 1917, Reims cathedral sustained a multitude of bombs; it was ‘a martyr of the First World War’ (p. 326). This effective rhetorical assessment is linked to Fozi's study of the Reims panel in Boston: ‘Small shards of glass from the wreckage carried an emotional charge like that of a martyr's relics’ (p. 330). Emerging from the catastrophic context of war, Fozi situates the panel within the 'aesthetics of loss', concluding that its broken elements memorialize Reims as a martyr cathedral. The final chapter is a poignant reflection on an object that simultaneously embodies and commemorates the fragmentation of memory.
A summary, conclusion, or epilogue would have strengthened the sense of totality across these 16 new insights into memory and the medieval imagination. The chapters of Schmidt, Easton, and Van Houts constitute formidable contributions. The presentation of new research, particularly by Porto Rodríguez, Levy, Fronska, and Gaposchkin, is remarkable. It is a sign of the anthology's success that one can state with certainty that every chapter is illuminating and memorable. As a whole, this multi-disciplinary volume greatly enhances our comprehension of medieval cultural history in France. In the spirit of commemoration, I want to end this discussion by acknowledging the legacy of Jacques Le Goff, who passed away today (1 April 2014). In the preface to the revised English edition of History and Memory, he closes with a personal appeal to the future of medieval scholarship: ‘A twenty-first century historiography remains to be developed. I believe the relations between history as it occurs, history as historians will write it, and the memory of men, women, peoples, and nations, will play a major role in the birth of this new historiography’.(14) Memory and Commemoration in Medieval Culture is a thoughtful and timely response to Le Goff's request. As new research continues to redefine the frontiers of cultural history, we also remember and commemorate the scholars who first revealed why memory matters.
- Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago, IL, 1966).Back to (1)
- Michael Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England 1066–1307 (Cambridge, MA, 1979); second edition, (Cambridge, MA, 1993); third edition (Malden, MA, 2013).Back to (2)
- Jacques Le Goff, Histoire et Mémoire (Paris, 1988); idem, History and Memory, trans. Steven Rendall and Elizabeth Clamen (New York, NY, 1992); Pierre Nora, Les Lieux de Mémoire (7 vols., Paris, 1984–92); idem, Rethinking History: Les Lieux de Mémoire, trans. David P. Jordan (Chicago, IL, 2001–10).Back to (3)
- Patrick Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance: Memory and Oblivion at the end of the First Millenium (Princeton, NJ, 1994); Rosamund McKitterick, History and Memory in the Carolingian World (Cambridge, 2004).Back to (4)
- Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge, 1990); second edition, (Cambridge, 2008); idem, The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400–1200 (Cambridge, 1998).Back to (5)
- High resolution scans from the Huntington Legenda are now available online in Berkeley Digital Library <http://sunsite3.berkeley.edu/hehweb/toc.html> [accessed 7 April 2014].Back to (6)
- Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain (Oxford, 1985).Back to (7)
- Exodus 32: 32, Isaiah 4: 3, Daniel 10: 1, Psalms 69: 29 & 139: 16, Revelation 20: 12 & 15.Back to (8)
- Marcus Tullius Cicero, De finibus bonorum et malorum, ed. Olof Gigon and Laila Straume-Zimmermann (Munich, 1988), ii, 104 (p. 160).Back to (9)
- Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago, IL, 1992), p. 76.Back to (10)
- Access the work of L'Atelier Vincent de Beauvais, based at the Université Nancy 2, via their website [http://atilf.atilf.fr/bichard/]. See also the helpful bibliography assembled by ARLIMA at [http://www.arlima.net/uz/vincent_de_beauvais.html].Back to (11)
- For De rerum naturis, in PL vol. 111, cols. 9–613 [under the title, De universo]. See also Encylopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 17 vols (Paris: 1751–72).Back to (12)
- Christopher Small, ‘Musicking – a means of performing and listening. A lecture’, Music Educational Research, 1 (1999), 9–21 at 12.Back to (13)
- These are the last lines of his preface, dated June 1992, to the new English edition of Le Goff, (1992), p. x.Back to (14)
The review of a large multidisciplinary collection such as Memory and Commemoration is no small task, and in discussing all 16 chapters of the book Dr. Guerry demonstrates extraordinary diligence. We are gratified by the praise that she bestows upon several of our authors, grateful for the gentleness with which she phrases her critiques, and moved by her timely final remarks. Nonetheless, we fear that some of the criticisms in this review do not take account of the constraints placed upon a volume of this kind. Guerry's occasional requests for a mode of interpretation at odds with the stated aims of a chapter suggest inattention to the way argument derives from methodology, and in her desire for more complete interpretations from other authors she overlooks the limitations of the sources, which the authors clearly describe. Because we believe that these tendencies produce a misrepresentation of some of our authors' work, we would like to revisit the chapters in question.
Following the Paris symposium, 15 chapters were submitted to us by participants (several other speakers, who had already committed to publish their work elsewhere, were unable to contribute, while another author, Elisabeth van Houts, joined us after the conference). Unfortunately, the economic realities of academic publishing today make it difficult to find a press willing to accept any book of more than 300 pages, much less an edited anthology. Although we had asked contributors to revise and expand their papers, we were obliged to limit the length of the chapters, an extenuating factor that Guerry acknowledges in her discussion of only one chapter (that of Martha Easton, which is among the shortest as measured by word count). This consideration should be accorded to all the authors.
Within the length constraints imposed, authors had to set a single goal for their chapter rather than several. In disciplines that can involve technical vocabulary or close analysis of objects (history of art or architecture, literature), authors had to choose between discussing terminology, analyzing the material closely and at length, or developing a broader historical argument. Two authors whom Guerry cites for failing to discuss terminology or engage in close analysis, Mailan S. Doquang and Mary Franklin-Brown, have in fact chosen the third route in order to demonstrate the significance of their research to an interdisciplinary readership. At the same time, they have grounded their arguments in brief close analyses of their material.
Thus, in ‘Status and the soul: commemoration and intercession in the Rayonnant chapels of Northern France in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries’, Doquang offers a new understanding of these chapels that will be interesting to art historians as well as a broader group of medievalists studying ritual and devotional practices. It is important to note Doquang's comments in her introduction (pp. 93–5) concerning the neglect of Rayonnant chapels by most prior architectural historians. If these chapels have been dismissed on the grounds that, formally and stylistically, they appear derivative, then the formalist mode of analysis that Guerry seems to desire would force Doquang back into this traditional assessment. Instead, Doquang is able to refocus our gaze by studying the objects the chapels once contained. Because these objects have since been removed – many destroyed or lost, others disassembled or damaged – she brings to bear hitherto unpublished archival evidence (descriptions, engravings). This allows her to reconstruct the chapels’ content and its arrangement, while offering analyses of individual objects, but it does not allow her to address stylistic questions. In fact, the objects serve principally as evidence for her larger argument about the ritual and devotional practices that they once supported. And through that argument about practice, she is able to demonstrate the significance of this architectural element.
For her part, in ‘The Speculum Maius, between Thesaurus and Lieu de Mémoire’, Franklin-Brown advances a comparative argument of a kind that had never been attempted. However, the structure of her chapter is highly conventional for her discipline, comparative literature. She has treated each of the encyclopedic texts individually, quoting the text directly and then analyzing the quotations. While Guerry appears disoriented by this structure and initially expresses perplexity about the reasons for the comparison, her own summary of the chapter’s introductory and concluding remarks makes those reasons clear.
In both cases, if the authors had engaged in sustained close analysis as well (and, in Doquang's case, a discussion of formal vocabulary), they would have increased the length of chapters that are already among the longest in the volume, and we would not have been able to publish their work. Fortunately, both Doquang and Franklin-Brown have made such analyses available elsewhere. They refer readers to that work in the early notes to their chapters.(1a)
Situated between the Doquang and Franklin-Brown chapters in the anthology is Christian Jaser's ‘Ritual excommunication: an “Ars Oblivionalis”?’. We believe that this chapter has suffered from unfortunate misrepresentations in Guerry's review. As regards the distinction between excommunication and anathema, Jaser states clearly in the second paragraph of his chapter that medieval sources commonly employ the term ‘anathema’ for ritual excommunication, making it impossible to maintain a neat distinction (pp. 120–1). This usage is evident in Jaser’s quotations from medieval sources (pp. 124, 125, 131, 132, and 136), although he scrupulously avoids employing the word ‘anathema’ himself except during that initial discussion of terminology. Guerry's stronger criticism concerns Jaser's use of historical scholarship – specifically, that of Peter Brown. While Jaser does cite Peter Brown’s work on the cult of saints in Late Antiquity, Brown is only one among a number of historians whose work he brings to bear on the topic of excommunication: Lester K. Little, Dominique Barthélémy, Jean-Claude Schmitt, Jacques Le Goff, Caroline Walker Bynum, R. I. Moore, Patrick Geary, and many others. All of this work deals with the period that Jaser is studying. The paragraph to which Guerry refers (pp. 136–7) moves from the work of Brown to that of Schmitt and then Le Goff, according equal weight to each. Moreover, Jaser justifies his comparison between excommunicants and saints (as studied by Brown and historians working on later periods) by citing historiographical and exemplary narratives from the later Middle Ages that describe the incorruptible bodies of both. In this context, it is not clear to us why Guerry has focused on the citations of Peter Brown.
Occasionally, Guerry seems to expect authors to draw conclusions that exceed a prudent interpretation of the surviving sources, and she represents gaps in the evidence as a lack of clarity in the presentation. This problem is evident in her review of Anne-Hélène Allirot’s chapter, ‘Longchamp and Lourcine: the role of female abbeys in the construction of Capetian memory’. Allirot summarizes all of the available evidence for the nature of the veneration that the nuns of Longchamp showed toward Isabelle of France: at the time of her burial in 1270, her dress was removed and treated as a relic; it and her other relics were preserved in the sacristy beside relics of the Passion, according to the 1325 inventory, and they were said to effect cures (pp. 248–9). However, we also know that Isabelle was not beatified till 1521. Allirot concludes, with justifiable caution, ‘Even though Isabelle was the object of a form of veneration after her death, it was only in the sixteenth century that she began to be worshipped per se, with the celebration of a special office inspired by her life’ (p. 251). It would simply be impossible, from this scanty evidence, to fill in the period 1270–1521 with any more detail. Similarly, when the only documentary evidence concerning the presence of the tunic of Saint Louis at Lourcine dates to 1674 (because the medieval inventories of Lourcine lack this level of detail, as Allirot explains, p. 250), it is not possible to discuss the subject with any more precision.
Guerry's assessment of the last chapter, Shirin Fozi's ‘”A Mere Patch of Color”: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Shattered Glass of Reims Cathedral’, exhibits problems similar to those detailed above. As in her review of Doquang's chapter, Guerry expresses a desire for more extensive visual analysis, and as in the case of Allirot's archival sources, Fozi's exploded and reconstituted window does not support such analysis. According to Fozi's account, these shards of glass, likely from a number of different windows in Reims Cathedral, were collected helter skelter from the ruins of the bombed cathedral by an American ambulance driver, Chester Howell, during several war-time visits (apparently at his own initiative, without official permission). It was Howell who transported them to the United States and gave them to the Gardner Museum, not the French government. The Gardner arranged for the glass to be reset in a new, mosaic-like panel whose visual effectiveness Fozi analyzes as fully as possible, but we must acknowledge the limitations she faces. The glass consists of a random assortment of small fragments, most of them monochromatic, and the figural elements are limited to a few unidentifiable heads. For this reason, as Fozi notes, the glass panel has been dismissed as possessing only sentimental value. However, by considering the aesthetic and ideological function of the glass mosaic in the Gardner Museum, Fozi is able to revalorize it as a case study for early 20th-century Americans' relationship to the ‘martyred’ medieval monuments of France. The problem of dating, distinguishing the medieval glass from that of 19th-century restorations, is a separate one that did not seem to trouble Howell or the post-war curators. It pertains to the treatment of the glass in the preceding century and is therefore not relevant to Fozi's argument.
On the other hand, we do understand Guerry's desire for a conclusion to the volume. The problem becomes one of organization and length: how to avoid simply restating the overview given in the introduction; how to avoid expanding the volume to a length that presses would deem unpublishable. It might have been possible to use a conclusion to pose further questions about medieval memorial practice. Yet a survey of edited volumes recently published in various disciplines reveals that conclusions are more the exception than the rule. In the end, we decided to let our authors have the final word.
In closing, we would like to thank Dr. Guerry again for her positive and extensive review of our volume and Reviews in History for allowing us to publish a response.
- Mailan S. Doquang, ‘Rayonnant Chantry Chapels in Context’ (PhD thesis, New York University, 2009); Mary Franklin-Brown, Reading the World: Encyclopedic Writing of the Scholastic Age (Chicago, IL, 2012).Back to (1a)