A picture paints a thousand words (especially if you can’t read)

(First of all, I want to start by saying that this reading from the OUMEM described that in medieval times, many Christians found it blasphemous to have images in literature, and ultimately banned them. This totally gave me an all-dancing-is-banned Footloose vibe, once again showing that religion takes a while to warm up to creativity, for some reason).

In today’s reading from the OUMEM I learned that intertextuality can not only refer to the contents of a text, but the images paired with a text as well. I want to specifically focus on the miniature that precedes¬†The King of Tars romance in the Auchinleck manuscript. I liked how the authors of the OUMEM decided to include that this manuscript has been seen as a “women’s manuscript” (158). The authors state that Denise Depres has observed that, “the illustration may have been influenced by images of the ‘child-as-Host’ motif in manuscript illustrations and vernacular literature” (160). The image that the book provides as an example of the “child-as-Host” motif shares many similarities to the miniature in The King of Tars. All the people depicted in both images have their hands raised towards the sky in prayer and are either standing/kneeling in front of an altar with similiarly draped fabric over it. Both images feature a child as well, and the miniature in The King of Tars story is wearing a crown, even though he is a sultan, indicating the very likely influence from the second image, in which King Edward is present and wearing a crown. I notice that the people in both images are even facing the same direction, and both images are outlined by a square border.

I agree with John of Damascus (basically Kevin Bacon) who supported the use of religious images and rebelled against ideas like iconoclasm, arguing that, “because Christ became man, images of him were permissible” (154). I know manuscripts, especially colored and illustrated ones such as the Auchinleck, were mostly only for those of high status or the clergy (those who were literate) but one could argue that images helped illiterate Christians understand their religion better and, therefore, become closer to their faith. Going off of this, I believe iconoclasm (726-80) can be viewed as an equivalent to the Dark Ages for those who could not read manuscripts. I think the banning of images and icons probably delayed the growth and full understanding of Christianity for a period of time, and reserved the religion for those of higher classes who could afford manuscripts and had the ability to read them. Perhaps nobles wanted to separate themselves from those of lower social status and banned icons so that they would be the only ones capable of learning and understanding Christian stories. Probable or not, it’s an interesting speculation nonetheless.

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