Questions about Popular Piety, Modes of Visual Perception, St. Francis’ Body as Image, and Embodied Perception!

Discussion Questions about Popular Piety and Modes of Visual Perception, St. Francis’ Body as Image, and Embodied Perception


  1. What are the reasons for the neglect of images in the 15th and 16th centuries according to Scribner?
  2. What is the role of the viewer vis a vis the Trout woodcut?
  3. Why is the IHS woodcut an all-purpose devotional aid?
  4. What are the characteristics of active images?
  5. What does Scribner mean by the sacramental gaze?
  6. How did the discoveries of Roger Bacon and Alberti impact contemporaries ways of seeing?
  7. What does the author mean by the sanctifying gaze?
  8. What is Belting’s formula for the transmission of images? Do you agree with him?
  9. In what way is St. Francis a “re-embodied” image of God?
  10. What were the challenges facing visual artists in depicting St. Francis?
  11. Discuss the idea of image as incorporation.
  12. Why are the wounds of St. Francis images in two respects?
  13. What is the iconization of the body and does it hurt?
  14. Was the body viewed as a pictorial medium?
  15. Do you think the rays emanating from the wounds of the seraph to St. Francis reflect contemporary optical theory?
  16. What are carnal formulae in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of art?
  17. How does Merleau-Ponty’s apprehension of meaning differ from say that outlined in the Ad. Heren.?
  18. How does Merleau-Ponty define an artist?
  19. In what way does art have social consequences?
  20. What is the relationship of art to perception according to Merleau-Ponty?

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?

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?

The Measure of Piety!

The Measure of Piety!

1. Why are the Wounds of Christ a key element in late Medieval piety?
2. Do you agree with Lewis about the gendered nature of devotion in the later Middle Ages?
3. What did a focus on the side wound promote in the worshiper?
4. Is it a useful fiction to view men as the authors of guides to meditation and women as the authors of visions?
5. How do the Rothchild Canticles differ from the representation of Christ in Kunigunde’s manuscript?
6. How has scholarship treated the sexual nature of the side wound? Where do you stand on this issue?
7. What associations does the Arma Christi have besides invoking the Passion of Christ?
8. How does the symbolism of the Arma Christi vary over the course of the medieval period and is it the same for lay and religious audiences?
9. Does Christ weigh in (as it were) on the arithmetic of grace?
10. What was quantified for spiritual merit in the later Middle Ages?
11. What is implied by the phrase “with spiritual interest and annuities?” Have you done your taxes?
12. What was the impact of the written word on this economy of grace?
13. Who criticized the quantification of piety and what did that criticism engender?
14. In what ways did this number game function as a mnemonic system? What was the purpose of number symbolism in the later Middle Ages?
15. What was God’s side of the bargain in this bartering system?

Questions on everything from Depositions to Flagellation to Sacral Presence to Performance!

Questions about Depositions, Sacral Presence, the Crucifix, Quick Images, Performance, and Flagellation!


  1. In what way do Northern paintings of the Deposition both present and withdraw the image of Christ from the viewer?


  1. Why are icons always in the business of presenting absence?


  1. Do you agree that the movable images of Christ are more lifelike, yet also assert their inert character?


  1. Consider the ritual of Dead Sunday in light of the Deposition and iconoclasm.


  1. Powell asserts that the Incarnation is the central defense of sacred images. Do you agree or disagree?


  1. Would Paoletti and Powell get into an argument about lifelike images at a cocktail party?


  1. Would Paoletti and Lipton agree on the function of art in the medieval period? Did art function as an efficacious agent of the sacral?


  1. Why do you think liturgical drama bypassed the Crucifixion? Do you feel that wood is the only medium that blurs the boundaries between viewer and devotional object?


  1. Do Lipton’s ideas mirror Bynum’s thoughts about Christian materiality regarding the paradoxes inherent in the devotional object?


  1. How does Rupert of Deutz’s text reflect both the power of art as well as art’s limitations?


  1. Do the crucifixes described in the texts cited by Lipton embody the stylistic changes that occurred in the art of the successive periods?


  1. What does Lipton mean by describing the process of looking at a crucifix as dialogic?


  1. “Preaching…..developed its own peculiar way of using art, one that exploited the power of the glance rather than the power of the gaze to provide a sudden and visceral visual jolt.” Discuss.


  1. What does Lerud mean by “quick images?”


  1. What are the parallels between images and miracles?


  1. In what ways do the Pauper’s view of images echo those of Thomas Aquinas?


  1. What was the role of dialogue in medieval plays? Do you agree with the author?


  1. How does Van der Weyden manipulate space/the viewer in his Deposition according to Gertsman? Would Powell agree with this analysis?


  1. What does the viewer experience before an image of the Arma Christi?


  1. How does the sacramental gaze work in viewing the Man of Sorrows?


  1. Will we ever leave stop reacting to Mel Gibson? What was the purpose of violence in medieval plays?


  1. Do you agree that the medieval period is inherently theatrical?


  1. What was the effect of kinesthetic perception on the mystery plays?


  1. Why did the successive outbreaks of the plague stimulate the practice of flagellation?


  1. How does flagellation differ from Passion mysticism?


  1. How does the sympathetic magical salvation effect come into play according to Kreuder?


  1. Do you agree with the author’s interpretation of the flagellation as a case of intercorporeal participation?

Questions on Performance, Theater, and Performance Literacy

Acting (Up) in the Middle Ages: Performance, Theater, Performance Literacy



  1. What does medieval theater borrow from the Imitatio Christi in your opinion?



  1. Does Njus give the visual arts enough credit in his analysis of Elisabeth of Spalbeek and medieval performance?


  1. Discuss Elisabeth as a living Veronica.


  1. What is the relationship of the audience to Elisabeth? Does this relationship support Stevenson’s ideas?


  1. Does one gaze at a diptych in the same way as one gazes at a medieval performance?


  1. Do you consider Elisabeth of Spalbeek’s trances a subversive alternative for devout women?


  1. Does the anthropological-art historical bifocal lens reveal the “real” Elisabeth? What was distinctive about Elisabeth compared to other mystics of her time?


  1. Discuss the rebellious nature of Elisabeth’s dances as defined by Rodgers and Ziegler.


  1. “Performance is twice-behaved behavior.” Discuss. Cf. The dance is the dancer….


  1. Do you feel that a phenomenological approach to medieval theater is useful?


  1. How does performance literacy operate in the case of a vernacular play and in viewing the Pavement Hours?


  1. Do you believe that images in a manuscript foreground the reader’s material presence in the devotional text?


  1. In what way does the face of Christ in the Pavement Hours offer a subversive interaction for the reader?

Questions on Ritual, Theater, the Eucharist, and Venerating the Veronica

Questions on Ritual, Church, Theater, the Eucharist, and venerating the Veronica!



  1. One question that keeps emerging from these readings is whether seeing is believing in the later Middle Ages. Where do the authors of these articles stand on this issue?


  1. What occurs when the host is treated as a commodity?


  1. How does the Jew fare in the wake of the Feast of the Corpus Christi and in the Croxton play?


  1. Do you agree with Beckwith’s characterization of the Mass vis à vis theater?


  1. What was the significance of the battle waged at Corbie in the 9th century?


  1. What practices surrounding the Eucharist ensued after the host was proclaimed the holiest of holies by the priest? In other words, in what ways was the Eucharist both a doctrine and a practice?


  1. What was the 13th century trope of the Jew abusing the host? Why was the construction of “the other” necessary in this symbolic system?


  1. What were the two types of images of Christ depicted on the Veronica? Do they correspond to a certain period in time or genre of literature?


  1. How do Hamburger’s findings about the nuns differ from Clark’s ideas about lay women and their respective use of images?


  1. What impact did increased literacy and the flourishing of the book market have upon the Veronica?


  1. Discuss the divergent characterizations of the Virgin Mary in devotional texts and the conduct manuals of the later Middle Ages. Do you agree with Clark’s thesis?


  1. The Veronica may be a metonym for the whole body of Christ or an alternative to the focus on his body. Do you believe the worshiper would respond in different ways to Christ as a Man of Sorrows than he/she would to the image of the Veronica?

Questions on Visuality and Devotion and Gibson’s Passion of Christ

Questions on Visuality and Devotion and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ



  1. What do the medieval theories of vision have in common? What connection does sight have to the acquisition of knowledge?


  1. Consider the quasi-sacramental character of images in the Middle Ages and the origins of this quality.


  1. How does the hierarchy of vision endow late medieval andachsbild with even greater devotional power?


  1. Herbert Kessler discusses the challenge of medieval art as it claims “to show the invisible by means of the visible.” Discuss!


  1. Why was the Resurrection marginalized in Passion plays?


  1. Michael Camille claims medieval images were “so much more powerful, moving, and instrumental, as well as disturbing and dangerous than later works of art.” Do you agree?


  1. Do you agree that the act of looking constitutes a powerful practice of belief, that it is tied to one’s religious identity?


  1. Does Gibson’s film share the same aesthetic goals as say, the Isenheim altarpiece? Is it kosher to compare the Cyclorama, the Gibson film, and medieval art?



Questions on the Muessig’s “Performance of the Passion”

Questions on Muessig’s “Performance of the Passion”


  1. This article refines the distinctions that define ritual, theater, and liturgy. How does the Absent Other function in the performances of Elizabeth of Spalbeek, Margarita of Cortona, and Gertrude van der Oosten?


  1. Discuss the role of the witness in the above performances.


  1. How did Margarita of Cortona use visual art?


  1. How does the collective creativity participate in the construction of the ritual? Is this always a necessary ingredient in rituals?


  1. What was distinctive about the preaching strategy of Ladislaus on Good Friday in 1505? Isn’t the Middle Ages fundamentally theatrical in nature?!


  1. How did this article intersect with last week’s readings?


Questions on the Well of Moses and the ‘Punctum’ of Piety

Questions on the Well of Moses and the Punctum of Piety


  1. How does the Well of Moses relate to Carthusian piety?


  1. Do you think Philip the Bold consciously emulated his royal forebears in his artistic patronage?


  1. Do you think it is possible to turn a contemporary theoretical lens on a medieval work of art?