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Celentano Parker (2009 Congress)

Sarah Celentano Parker
(University of Texas – Austen)
“Commentary from the Canoness: Images of Debate in the Hortus Deliciarum

Abstract of Paper Presented at the 42nd International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, 2009)
Session on “Margins of Error: On the Self-Correcting Medieval Manuscript”
Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
Organized by Jeff Massey
2009 Congress

[Published on our first website on 17 May 2012]

Sarah Celentano Parker (The University of Texas at Austin), “Commentary from the Canoness:  Models of Debate in the Hortus deliciarum

The Hortus deliciarum, created ca. 1170 and completed ca. 1194, was an encyclopedic salvation history prepared for the canonesses at the Augustinian convent of Hohenburg by the Abbess Herrad.  The original manuscript was destroyed in the Siege of Strasbourg in 1870, but portions survive via nineteenth-century copies.

Despite the strong rôle of images in the reception of the manuscript, the Hortus illuminations, while not marginalia, have thus far experienced a marginalized existence.  I analyze two of the major Hortus illuminations, the Tree of Abraham and the Structure of the Church, in the context of the twelfth-century disputatio tradition.  These images depicted debate between Christians and non-Christians, specifically Jews, as essential to the continued life and prosperity of the Church.  Furthermore, debate is portrayed as an inheritance of the rabbinic tradition from Christianity’s predecessors, and the canonesses were exhorted to make their own voices heard in this continuous argument.  Thus, the images in the Hortus could do more than merely illustrate or comment upon a text; they could also serve as behavioral models by exerting power that went beyond the library walls and affecting the ways the Hohenburg canonesses performed their faith.

This paper is one chapter of a larger examination of behavioral models and readerly authority in the Hortus deliciarum.  It was judged Best Paper by a Graduate Student in Medieval Feminist Scholarship and will appear in full in a forthcoming issue of Medieval Feminist Forum.

[Note: This paper now appears here.]

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