Questions on the Absent Presence, the Passion, Memory, and More…..

Questions on the Absent Presence, the Passion and Memory, and More….

 

 

  1. What was the significance of secondary relics in the instance of the Virgin Mary? How did contact relics function?
  2. Was either flare-up of Iconoclasm (in the 8th-9thc. and in the 16thc.) all- pervasive? Would Robert Maniura and C.W. Bynum agree about materiality at a cocktail party?
  3. Do you agree that the “European Christian tradition was itself profoundly concerned with the potential ‘betrayal of images’?”
  4. What is Maniura’s definition of a saint and how does veneration of the Virgin Mary differ from that of “normal” saints?
  5. What does Maniura mean by mimetic rituals? In what ways is the saint constituted by the ritual?
  6. Why were the macaronic sermons amphibious (both in Latin and the vernacular) and what are the commonalities shared by these sermons?
  7. How does the Latin Good Friday sermon preached by Thomas Brinton differ from the macaronic examples?
  8. What does an effective macaronic sermon accomplish and by what means does it achieve its efficacy?
  9. What visual images are elicited to help frame individual vignettes of these sermons?
  10. Johnson states that “these sermons ..both reinforce the liturgical present of the Good Friday rituals and bring the act of private meditation into the public realm.” Do you share her enthusiasm for these sermons and their efficacy?
  11. Discuss the omnitemporalness of the Middle Ages. Yikes!
  12. In what way may Christ’s Passion be construed as analogous to the Roman practice of damnatio memoriae?
  13. In Parshall’s opinion, how does the image of Christ as the Man of Sorrows function?
  14. In what way is the image of the suffering Christ “more fraught with private implication than the Crucifixion itself?” Do you agree with Parshall’s reading of this genre of images?
  15. Do you agree with Parshall’s reading of Bout’s images of Christ’s face as templates of the human face without an individual referent that prompt the viewer to fill in the details, as it were?
  16. What changes in society accompanied the “new realism” of the fifteenth century?
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9 responses

  1. Question 15:
    I agree with Parshall’s reading of Bouts’ images as templates that prompt the viewer to fill in details. In these images, Christ gazes out at the viewer, allowing for emotional connections to form, but at the same time, is emotionally blank, leaving room for viewer interpretation. According to the Ad Herennium, an image must be sufficiently out of the ordinary for someone to remember it (456). Different people, with different previous experiences and in different contexts, would have different personal ideas about what is odd or surprising. Therefore, it seems that making images customizable in the minds of individual viewers, as Bouts did, is an effective strategy because it would reach a larger and more varied audience. Also, in many of our class discussions this semester, we have talked about how active viewer participation makes for more impactful devotional experiences. Bouts’ images require active participation from the viewer, making them especially effective devotional tools. Requiring active imagination from the viewer might also make it easier to transition out of a corporeal vision and into a spiritual or intellectual one, which also heightens these images’ devotional power.

  2. I see what you are saying about Bouts’ images of Christ, however to me they lack the distinctiveness required by memoria. Christ as a blank canvas invests the worshiper with a vast degree of agency to imagine the particularity of Christ’s visage. Perhaps by meeting the gaze of the worshiper, the ocular rays convey the necessary specificity—or perhaps the connection is enough to insure the devotional experience as you have stated. Do others find these images potent?

  3. 8. What does an effective macaronic sermon accomplish and by what means does it achieve its efficacy?

    According to Johnson, macaronic sermons served as a popular method to communicate Christ’s suffering on Good Friday. Although they are labeled “sermons” Johnson clearly argues that they were complex liturgical dramas that elicited devotional responses from the audience by making Christ’s suffering and death a reality. In order to successfully achieve a devotional response from the audience, events from the Passion were dramatically re-enacted, placing participants in the present or as Johnson calls it the “timeless now”. Johnson also describes how structured these sermons were each containing thema, protheme and introduction, divisions and subdivisions, and each includes exempla, distinctiones, and prooftexts from a variety of sources. I found it interesting that priests began making their sermons more imaginative and including visual imagery that was culturally and historically relevant for the time, engaging the viewers even more! For example, in the first sermon that Johnson discusses the priest uses the motif of “truelove”, a popular subject in English literature. Yet, the preacher does not stop there but continues to guide the audience on this meditative journey by inputting his moral or scriptural analysis of the event presented in front of them. Yet, how do we know if they were truly effective in accomplishing these strong devotional responses? I wanted Johnson to provide primary sources as evidence for this, not just for the sermons themselves!

  4. Johnson’s article is contrasting the more formal Latin sermons with these popular sermons and the evidence of the latter’s reception is scant. On the other hand, we know the more formal sermons elicited a large dose of boredom (the manuals contain all sorts of tips for keeping the audience awake—the ringing of bells, animated speech patterns, etc.), so in a sense we know these popular sermons were more effective because of their interactive, “you are there” character. Thank you for your thoughtful response!

  5. 6. Why were the macaronic sermons amphibious (both in Latin and the vernacular) and what are the commonalities shared by these sermons?

    Macaronic sermons engaged the audience, but instructed them at the same time. By switching back and forth between vulgate and Latin, these messages remained in the present tense for listeners… (in the “timeless now” as Johnson describes it.) They tended to use creative metaphors or stories to explain elements of Christianity. These creative meditative hooks would have grabbed the listener and helped them to remember the message long after they heard it (some long sermons that weren’t macaronic, like Brinton’s, would have had so many small details that they would have been difficult to remember.)

  6. 4.What is Maniura’s definition of a saint and how does veneration of the Virgin Mary differ from that of “normal” saints?
    1.What was the significance of secondary relics in the instance of the Virgin Mary? How did contact relics function?

    According to Maniura, “the saints are dead people from whom one wants something,” (p.646). Veneration of the saints involves contact with relics and asking for a saints intercession. The Virgin Mary differs from “normal” saints because she was assumed into heaven and left no relics behind. For this reason, images and secondary relics play a central role in the veneration of the Virgin Mary.

    Secondary relics can be objects a saint used during his/ her life or an object devotees touch to an object a saint or holy person touched. Two examples of contact relics are saint’s clothing and string pilgrims would take to the Holy Sepulcher to measure Christ’s tomb. Contact relics, from my understanding of the article, were thought of in the same way as relics except that they were necessary “placeholders” since Mary did not leave relics.

  7. Alex and Kathryn, You are both dead on! Alex, can you think of a contemporary parallel to macaronic sermons vs. Latin sermons? It seems that we live in the fault line of that dichotomy between “high and low” art, as it were. Kathryn, your grasp of the primary and secondary relics is firm—I love the phrase “placeholders” for that is exactly what the contact relics provide for the worshiper! Thank you for posting!

  8. Johnson states that “these sermons…both reinforce the liturgical present of the Good Friday rituals and bring the act of private meditation into the public realm.” Do you share her enthusiasm for these sermons and their efficacy?

    So I found this question/observation to be very interesting. The idea that these sermons are able to bring “the act of private meditation in the public realm” enhances their efficacy. The very fact that these macaronic sermons were structured in a way that allowed for devotion and doctrine simultaneously created a place for, as Donna said, “the reticent” to participate more fully in devotional meditation. They were composed of key elements that created a scholastic sermon. As Johnson says, “these sermons are both devotional and doctrinal, the two carefully balanced; they seek to elicit a highly affective response to the Passion within a solid theological setting” (319). I find these macaronic sermons to be fascinating in their structure, audience participation, and general effectiveness. Johnson describes these sermons as the intersection between eternity and temporality, allowing the participant to achieve this liminal space in which the highest form of vision is achieved through devotion. I believe that because these sermons were so effective because they appealed not only to one’s emotions but also to one’s mind. They evoked emotion but also deep thinking, which previous devotional practices seem to be lacking. I think this incorporation of the whole human makes these sermons so powerful for the participant.

  9. I agree Grace—-and certainly more likely to lead to visionless devotion if what we have been reading is true! I think you would really like Jeffrey Hamburger’s Seeing and Believing article (it is also on the blog) for he deals with this same confluence of vision, belief, and devotion. Faith is so powerful when it is a “cosa mentale”—-and can engender devotion with or without the aid of art!

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