Blog Post 4/14: Pilgrim Authors

It is clear from the second half of Chapter Five, “Illuminating Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales”, that the Canterbury Tales was meant to be read along with the illustrations. Because of such an illiterate audience, these illustrations were vital to the audience’s understanding of the text. However, according to Hilmo these illustrated pilgrims did more than reference the story. Hilmo suggests that these illustrations may have resembled prominent political figures during this time. For example, Hilmo suggests that the Knight “might indeed be intended as a flattering reference to Henry IV” (274). Hilmo draws comparisons between other pilgrims and political figures. How do you think this may have influenced medieval readers? Would this be distracting? Or would this help illiterate audiences?

Ease of Articulation

When reading texts like Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain and the Green Night in their original language, I can’t help but get frustrated when trying to decipher what the modern English word would be. It honestly amazes me how much English has changed over time. The differences between Old English and modern English are so diverse that it is hard to believe that they are the same language.

I took English 309 (English Language-Grammar and History) last semester, and thank God I did, because it really helped me learn the Old English alphabet. However, it makes me wonder what our English language will become in the next 100 years. If English changes so much from 1300 to now, how different will it be in 2116. Will English consist of abbreviations? Will English engulf another language like it did with French and Latin?

As humans, we innately choose the easiest and most efficient way of doing something. The same is true for language. According to the Ease of Articulation Principle, humanity always finds a way to change the sound of a word in  a way that is easier to pronounce. This is why Old English and Modern English are so aesthetically different. Why Old English started out in such a complicated way, no one knows. What we do know is that language can never truly be standardized, because it is constantly changing. Soon enough our English language could be a combination of LOLs and LYLASs in order to communicate!

Images as Distracting or Beneficial

A few classes ago we talked about the debate over images in manuscripts. I think it’s interesting how in today’s society we almost get annoyed or uninterested if there aren’t images to go along with the text. Advertisements, magazines, and newspapers without images fail to capture our attention. When it comes to images in the realm of advertising, people are hired and paid huge sums of money to specifically read audiences in order to understand what audiences find most interesting and attention catching. It is crazy to think that in the times of the medieval manuscripts we are studying that images were almost taboo. In the end, obviously images were permitted but only on the grounds that they helped the illiterate understand the text and they helped drive further the meaning of the text. However, I found an “article” that highlights some odd and interesting images in medieval manuscripts that seem to stand in opposition to necessary images. Although I’m not sure how accurate they are, I do find them highly entertaining.

Mistakes in Art

In high school, my art teacher always told me, “There are no mistakes in art.” Usually she said this as I crumpled up whatever atrocious art piece I was working on. The reading in Chapter 3: The Power of Images made me think that maybe my art teacher wasn’t as crazy as I thought, maybe she was right. Maidi Hilmo showed many instances where the miniatures in the Pearl may at first seem like artistic errors, but may really be intentional additions.

It was really interesting how Hilmo explored all of the seeming “mistakes” in the images of the Pearl manuscript and suggested the possible meaning behind the inconsistencies and cover-ups. I especially found her explanation of the change in style of the dreamer’s sleeves very interesting. When I first looked at these images, I just assumed that they were done my an amateur artist. However, after reading Hilmo’s explanation that the change in dress reflects the altering state of the dreamer, I gained an appreciation for the miniatures.