Text and Image in Early European Culture (SML2243)

15 credits

In early European culture, text and image were intrinsically linked. The illuminations that accompany many texts in manuscripts are not mere decoration but present an essential symbolic guide to interpretation for the medieval and modern reader. Later artistic interpretations of early literature often speak more about their own period of composition or political agenda than about their fictional subjects, and are fascinating to examine from these multiple perspectives.

This module introduces some of the most celebrated and significant landmarks of early European literature. Key passages from the set texts will be studied alongside accompanying manuscript illustrations and other artistic representations (music, paintings, frescoes, tapestry, or stained glass) of these texts from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries. The focus is both on the study of artistic representations inspired by text (iconography), and the materiality and visuality of the texts themselves.

Although English translations of the set texts are used for teaching purposes, students with the appropriate language skills will be expected to undertake both primary and secondary (where available) reading in the relevant original language(s).