There has been a growing interest in the rise of material culture in medieval China and its manifestation in literature. Yet, existing scholarship focuses mainly on our obsession with objects, overlooking the other side of the story: what intrinsic qualities of the objects induce such fascination and how objects interact with human imagination and experience. This paper will probe the Song dynasty literary representation of incense, an object that permeated Song literati’s daily lives and poetry. I will try to unveil how in different genres of poetry the various ways in which the smoke from incense moves become tools of framing time and space and transform spiritual and sensual experiences. The object inspires and engages instead of merely being desired and owned.
At the beginning of the 15th century, panel painting and built architecture had a remarkably symbiotic formal relationship, such that some early panels have been described as resembling ‘cathedrals in miniature’. An exemplary work like the so-called Norfolk Triptych (c.1415-20) in Rotterdam’s Museum Bojimans Van Beuningen employs painted architecture for a number of different purposes, some practical, others more abstract and experiential. This talk looks at how pre-Eyckian panel painting in the Netherlands and northern France engages with micro-architectural form. It proposes that at this early point, painting might usefully be interpreted as a variety of micro-architecture in the form of a reliquary casket or monstrance, and considers the implications arising from this interpretation.
Whereas the devotion of the learned relied on training in memory, lay devotion in the late medieval period focused on the training of attention. Pastoral writers produced treatises on ‘how to hear mass’ to teach the unlearned how to focus their attention on elements of the Latin service that they did not understand. This paper will focus on devotional objects, both imagined (the arma Christi) and real, such as talismans, as objects designed to stabilise the wayward attention in devotion, as extensions of the devout mind as they perform the labour of prayer.