Speculation about Speculation, seeing and believing, visions, Jan van Eyck, and Woody Allen!

Speculation on Speculation, Vision, the Role of Images in accessing the Divine, Van Eyck, and Woody Allen!


  1. What did Suso mean by speculation in Pauline sense?
  2. What is dangerous about the opposition of corporeal and spiritual sight?
  3. What does Suso propose as a form of Imitatio Christi?
  4. What are the implications of God’s authorship of history, Scripture, and nature?
  5. What is the process of manducatio?
  6. What was Gertrude’s view of images?
  7. Why are the works of Jan van Eyck so suitable for Jeffrey Hamburger’s theories about seeing and believing?
  8. Discuss the perils of visionary experiences.
  9. What in the final analysis is the visio Dei?
  10. Is it possible to compare apples and oranges: does Schwarz’s analysis of Jan van Eyck and Woody Allen work?
  11. Compare the two artists’ (van Eyck and Woody Allen) ways of distinguishing figures within their respective works.
  12. Would Jeffrey Hamburger agree with this author’s analysis of the Ghent altarpiece?
  13. Should this course have a tag line of Romans 1.20?

4 responses

  1. Question 2:
    In discussing the opposition between corporeal and spiritual sight, Hamburger references Sixten Ringbom, whose article we read earlier this semester. However, Hamburger warns that “The danger, however, it so think of art and mysticism as antitheses” (358). Hamburger thinks that the visual and the spiritual don’t have to be at separate ends of a spectrum and that they can have a productive relationship. He even states that “both mystics and artists…sought to bridge the gap between the two” (358). He identifies mirroring as a part of this process.

    I agree with Hamburger that art and spirituality are not opposites because of the many examples we have studied this semester in which visual images influence devotional practices. Spiritual sight often accompanies corporeal sight. This occurs in Albrecht Bouts’s images of Christ from Parshall’s article, as the viewer must remember emotions associated with Christ’s Passion in order to complete the image. In this instance, both spiritual and corporeal sight are necessary for a complete experience. Thus, it is dangerous to assume that corporeal and spiritual sight are always opposed because one might miss one of the many occurrences in which they work together.

  2. Hannah, I agree. Often I think the two sights may be simultaneous, what one scholar calls a bifocal vision of the divine. I do not think that these categories were as strictly drawn in the medieval period as we seem to think in current scholarship; there was simply a lingering (hovering?) fear of idolatry in the air! Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

  3. Question 10:
    The juxtaposition of Jan van Eyck and Woody Allen is revealing and meaningful. So, yes, I think it is possible to compare apples and oranges, to an extent. It is interesting that Schwarz says that it was not his intent to “compare the artists or to show similarities in their conceptual handwriting” (28). I’m not certain what to make of this statement because most of the article felt like a comparison to me. Perhaps Schwarz is trying to emphasize that the parallels between the works emerged naturally and were not forced. He also qualifies that the parallels are limited, stating that “in the case of the Ghent Altarpiece, this concerns only the exterior panels” (28).

    For me, the most effective part of the article was the discussion of perspective in the two works. In The Purple Rose of Cairo, “Allen’s camera typically looks at an object at the eye-level of the actors, and when possible of Cecilia” (20). Similarly, the Ghent altarpiece provides “the view we would have if we happened to be kneeling next to the man and woman ourselves, together with them on the same clay-tiled floor” (23). Thus, both the film and the altarpiece put the viewer in an equal position with the subject, creating a simulated reality. This discussion of perspective shows how film and painting can use similar tools to create similar effects. In that they are both constructed visual forms, they can be compared.

    On the whole, this article has reminded me that while some elements of visual language change, many of its core attributes stay the same throughout time. The old and the new are related and juxtaposing them is likely to expose enlightening similarities and differences.

  4. I agree Hannah! The idea of conjuring up a different temporal period/space with the use of black and white is one that both artists share. Similarly the angle of the camera is, as you say, eye level in Purple Rose of Cairo’s black and white segments and in the “comparable” parts of the Ghent altarpiece—if we allow ourselves to go there. I love this juxtaposition because it is fun and allows us to see both works through different spectacles.

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