IMC 2004: Sessions

Session 302: Life, Death, and Commemoration in the Middle Ages

Monday 12 July 2004, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Laura D. Gelfand, Myers School of Art, University of Akron, Ohio
Paper 302-aDisplacing Death in the Late Medieval Dance of Death Imagery
(Language: English)
Elina Gertsman, Boston University
Index terms: Art History - General, Art History - Painting, Performance Arts - Dance, Sermons and Preaching
Paper 302-bA Culture of Death - or Life?
(Language: English)
Kimberly Vrudny, University of St Thomas, Minnesota
Index terms: Art History - General, Biblical Studies, Manuscripts and Palaeography
Paper 302-cCommemoration, Identity and Community: Memory Theory and Medieval Archaeology
(Language: English)
Zoƫ L. Devlin, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York
Index terms: Archaeology - Artefacts, Archaeology - General

session grouped by Nancy Wu (7/11/03):
Abstract paper -a:
The Dance of Death, a subject that first emerged in Western Europe in the late medieval era, eloquently communicated the message of the inevitability of death and the futility of human existence. In these panels and murals, men and women of different classes, young and old alike, make their mournful way to the grave. The dancing skeletons that symbolize Death – the universal equalizer – join the victims and lead them forth in a mockingly playful fashion, accompanied by music. Inscribed below the scene is a series of verses exhorting the living to dance along. This paper explores the visual implications of the Dance of Death imagery while addressing the ambiguous connotation the word “dance” held in the Middle Ages. By discussing death and dance as diametrically opposed, conflicting values, the paper also investigates the way the conception of dancing displaces the concept of death in these paintings.
Abstract paper -b:
Fourteenth-century European Christians have been known for their fascination with death and dying. Frescoes, dramas, and manuals speak to the emphasis onmemento mori, keeping death daily before one’s eyes. Equally present, albeit neglected images, emphasize life in the midst of the oppressive reality of death. Images of life in theSpeculum Humanae Salvationis will be considered in the context of the book’s production during the plague. Despite reduction in scribal forces, statistics indicate that copies of this book proliferated during and after the plague, indicating that it satisfied a particular need in the population for word about God’s mercy in the midst of God’s perceived wrath.
Abstract paper -c:
Recent historical and archaeological studies have revealed that memory played an important role in the construction of individual and community identity in the past. Nevertheless, it is important that a rigorous approach be taken to the theories that underpin such studies. Firstly, I will examine theories of memory developed in the social sciences and assess their adequacy as a basis for the study of medieval memory. Secondly, I will present the results of a systematic application of these theories to Anglo-Saxon cemetery evidence to determine the feasibility of studying medieval memory through material culture.