Monday, 26 January 2009

Misrule, Mockery & Monstrosity


THIS RATHER RUDE FELLOW was painted in Belgium around 1520 as part of an even ruder diptych, and he is pulling a face at you here to invite those of you who have an interest in the margins of things and the monstrosities found there over to read a thing I wrote...
It's not the story! It is my final year dissertation from 2003 entitled Misrule, Mockery & Monstrosity in Marginal Medieval Art, which has been languishing on a shelf for yonks and I decided that some of you folks might be interested to read it. Also all 14000 words of it are confined to the one print copy that I have left, so I thought it might be an idea to scan and store it online so that it can be read and seen. It's not exactly light reading and my layout skills have improved somewhat since those days, but it is overflowing with interesting ruminations on the peripheral art of the Middle Ages, grotesque hybrid creatures, outcasts, bums, tongue poking and ruder things, wild men, topsy turvies, proverbs and fools ...

It struck me as strange that in a highly religious age, the margins of the religious texts and buildings were peopled with the most un-religious of creatures and scenes. All manner of grotesque and otherworldly, bizarre and profane imagery can be glimpsed in the carvings under choir stalls, in the corners of church ceilings, or around the margins of bibles. Why was this? I wondered ... and so I wrote this thesis. Anyway, I'll leave you to it ... if you bravely wander over there I suggest you take a cup of tea and a handful of hours. I'll be back here again soon hopefully with tales of our latest doings ...

45 comments:

said...

i am most intrigued and will pop on over to have a look now! i myself have long been intrigued by gargoyles and carvings in old churches and cathedrals, particularly those depicting the less expected!
hope the stove is performing better of late!

FaerieMama said...

Sometimes I stop by your blog just to be inspired by its beauty! Today was one of those days...

Be well!

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Haven't time to read it all right now. It looks like Heironymous Bosch was not so original after all, I see lots of his imagery. I got into a bit of trouble in High School for drawing HB devils on my Math homework (in the margins, of course)..... Will read your thesis pretty soon :~) Thanks for making it available.

Clare said...

What a wonderful gift you have given your readers and admirers. Thank you so much!

Clare

Tess said...

This is amazing! I'm going to enjoy so much dipping in and out of it in the next few days. What a labour of love.

tut-tut said...

Something I know nothing about! I will be reading along over the next week.

From This Moment to That said...

OOh... all interesting stuff, I shall be reading along in due course!I'm really interested in all those ugly little faces you see in churches, I wonder if the artisan had people he knew and lived alongside.

Lynn said...

How wonderful! I can't wait to share this with my mother, the retired medieval history professor -- she will relish it!

(My beautiful print arrived safe and sound -- thank you so much, Rima!)

Ciara said...

Wow Rima, this is incredible! Thanks for sharing!

Tammy said...

I am fascinated by your talent thank you for sharing.

moreidlethoughts said...

Thankyou for posting this, Rima. I have bookmarked it for further reading.

tlc illustration said...

Fabulous topic - one that I've had ongoing queries about myself. I've read up quite a bit on all the greenman imagery throughout British churches, but all the conclusions seem to be speculative at best. You've really included a wide range of related imagery. Very cool.

Thanks for sharing your musings as well as your art and travels. Hope you are well.

Marja said...

. There was not much knowlegde about things in the middle ages. Most couldn't read or write Therefore I can imagen that people imagination must have run wild. Life was a lot rougher than now I think. All sounds interesting

Koldo said...

This is truly amazing! Thanks for sharing!

I think I feel like painting a fellow like this in the same style and hang it on the wall at home...

Another interesting grotesque thing to see are the famous gargoyles in Oxford. I've got a reproduction of one in the door of my house and everytime I open the door the people is giggling at it :)

Katie said...

Well, I totally loved your paper! I found myself reading it for more than an hour, and pouring over the illustrations, laughing, and wondering. Really so interesting, thank you SO much for sharing it!

mama p said...

What a great idea. The site looks wonderful... glad to take the time, and tea. I'm so glad you saved those words from a lonely bookshelf!

anthromama said...

I'm going to go read it over right now!

Do you know about the blog gotmedieval.blogspot.com? He's always posting images and funny stuff about medieval manuscript marginalia.

annette emms said...

Rima, what new wonders you have for us! I popped over to read your dissertation and I was fascinated!
An amazing piece of work, you must be so pleased with it!
I love church crawling and I have a love of all the weird and strange that I find on my travels, so this was wonderful! Thank you.x

nefaeria said...

That is fantastic!! That may be one of the most original thesis ideas I've ever come across!

I can't wait to read it and thanks for putting it up :D

Slàinte!

Laurel

nefaeria said...

Sorry, dissertation, not thesis. Lol.

Julianna said...

Thank you so much for this! I'm so intrigued and can't wait to get reading

erin gergen halls said...

wish it were "download-able" as it would be great to hold in free hand (not tea cup holding hand)!
what fun you must have had answering all the questions floating around in your imaginative mind...
or perhaps you were fondly remembering bits from a life or two ago...

Ngaio said...

What an amazing blog !! With names Rima and Tui, are you New Zealanders ? They are both Maori words as you probably know. My eldest daughter is an artist and her work is not unlike yours, she has a quirky bent going on - she always love the book `Where the Wild Things Are` and I often see a wee bit of those characters looking back at me. Google `Megan Hockly` NZ and you may see some of her work.
I will be back !!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

What a treat! I shall enjoy reading this, I just know. As a matter of fact, I myself have sometimes wondered about these wee monsters on the corners of the holy places. I look forward to you telling me all about them!! Have a good, warm, week, Rima!!

acornmoon said...

What a good idea to publish your thesis. Some years ago, I went to an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, an exhibition of Medieval manuscripts. They had, amongst other things, the Macclelsfield Salter, did you see it?

Edain: said...

Rima, I love your blog and your images!

BTW, I have nominated this blog for an award! See my blog post: http://englishpaganincanada.blogspot.com/2009/01/happy-dance.html Congratulations!

Yoli said...

Ok please explain to one of your faithful readers (that would be me)why Medieval art and liture means so much to you? Why it seems like the place you are most comfortable in, the one you know as intimately as one of its inhabitants? Your love for this period is evident in everything you do. I just want to know why it moves you so. Could you indulge me please? I promise to be quiet.

Snippety Giblets said...

This looks fascinating !! My dissertation was called "The Blood, the Mad and the Holy: Public Execution in England 1500-1700" and I recognise some of the more interesting areas of my study - the outsider, the overlap between pagan and christian ideas etc.

Did you read any of Ronald Hutton's books ? He became my hero :0) and really helped me along my Pagan path eventually. It's a fascinating area of study so I'm looking forward to reading this in full.

Monica of the Masks said...

Thanks for sharing Rima! Much more in depth than the presentation I did during my BFA on a similar topic. Still, I ought to dig mine out if I can find it, along with the box of accompanying slides. It is such an interesting (and generally overlooked) topic, more viewpoints and analysises should be shared I think!

Rima said...

Hello lovely people of blog land.. thanks for your continuing interest and encouragement and kind words here.. It always makes me smile to read them :)
To answer your question Yoli - why the middle ages... hmm, I cannot really answer in a definite way, other than to say my father is also interested in this period in his sculpture which I guess has had a big influence, and I just feel very drawn to the colours, the art, the language, the ideas of the time, and I feel most at home looking at a scene that doesn't have any pylons or tarmac or industrialisation in it...

Snipety Giblets.. wow - a fabulous dissertation title yours is too! A fellow lover of gruesome medievals :) & I do have some of Ronald Hutton's books yes :)

And Valerie - the Macclesfield Psalter, I have not seen, but I have a book on it... a lovely thing indeed :)

We are amid a bit of a parkup hoohaa at the moment, so I hope to be back here soon with news and tales and maybe a few groans...
And the snow is coming too!

X Rima

hadanevada said...

hello, i´m here again, i want to see your progress...sorry for my bad, bad english..kissess rima...
DON´T STOP!!

your canary friend...

Curious Art said...

Oh, Rima, I'm so glad you posted this! I've always been fascinated by marginalia & especially the mischievous sort! It will be a great pleasure to read your take on the subject-- I certainly can see the influence on your own work!

Heather said...

Looking forward to reading your dissertation. I am fascinated by all things medieval - misericords, tiles, illuminated manuscripts and carvings to name a few. I have made one or two stitched and painted fabric books in response to my interest but fall far short of the wonderful skills which abounded then. Hope you are managing to keep warm, Heather.

Heather said...

Couldn't leave a comment on your Misrule blog so have come back here. What an amazing piece of work - I hope your tutor was as impressed by it as I was. It's strange that we can look at an illuminated manuscript and see only beauty but a closer look can reveal vulgarity and horrors. The English lavatorial sense of humour has been around for a long time!

laughingwolf said...

thx rima, i'll peruse it asap... it's the time thing, but i do love the concept :)

Melanie said...

Very interesting Rima- good work.

I had a few thoughts. You probably know about Earls Barton- the arrow symbol of Tyr symbolising the military upper floor and the romanesque lower windows for church use.

There was a form of Christianity which had survived in the British Isles from the Roman period in spite of the invading Norse tribes. It had been isolated and was out of step with the rest of Christianity. The Synod of Whitby sorted things like whch tonsure to have etc. You might enjoy Henig's Religion in Roman Britain.

It was interesting about the mirrors with mermaids, it made me think historically about it. They are only found in high status female graves in the Dark Ages. Combs were incredibly complex to make. I'm now wondering if the mermaid might be an example of the "upside down ness" -a high status being but of less worth than a pure bodied man? Interesting. It's a bit like the crystal balls found in high status graves- will make a flame in kindling with the sun, so valuable. Now we just think of them with fortune tellers.

I think, like now, mankind has enjoyed being safely scared by monsters in a story context- e.g. Grendal and lots of others which predate being written down.

I could be wrong here but I think there were laws passed in the Middle Ages which dictated what could and couldn't be worn by people. This reinforced the status quo as the rich merchant classes were getting pretensions of grandeur and wearing clothes too similar to their "betters" clothing.

It was lovely to read. The miserichords were so interesting. There are a couple of places where the full page hasn't loaded but it doesn't detract too much from the sense of what you were writing. :-)

Ooo with crow- whenever you are ready. I'm sure he'll be lovely.

Bimbimbie said...

Hello Rima, I'm so pleased you found the time to create an on line home for your final year dissertation. Looking for gurning faces and other un-church like carvings always made my Sunday mornings spent in church so much more entertaining.

Can't help thinking we need this type of humour in reply to political correctness during these current times*!*

Ben Hatke said...

Hey Rima, thanks for visiting my little art blog. I've been meaning to pop in here and tell you how thrilled I was to discover both your artwork AND your traveling home.

I read several pages in to your dissertation and decided it was worth printing out. Now I need to find a printer...

Karita said...

What a fascinating topic for a dissertation!

bett/ said...

HOla !!! mil felicitaciones y más tu trabajo es impresionante!!! un saludoteeeeeeeeeeeee

sarah said...

Hi Rima, love your blog have been folowing for a while, everyone else seems to have said it all! Think you would find my house interesting it was built in 1329 just before the black death hit this country..so if you are passing through essex get in touch and call in for a cup of tea, could prob find you a space in a field for a while too...how are you keeping warm in this weather?

Solvay said...

Oh, wondrous! I am going to go read it today!!!
Thank you so much for sharing this.
And, yes, how strange, the ghouls and creeps in the margins of the sacred. But, how bravely real it is, as is that not how life is? Creepy things leering from the edges, tauntingly putting a toe or finger right on top of the word we are reading this moment? - scorning the quest for the pure and holy? - tempting us to believe their power is greater than the power of the word their smelly foot and grimy finger covers to shine right through and reach us anyway.........

It's a fascinating time in history.

I'll be back when I finish reading.

Thank you again, for the gift of you, across the lands and seas, touching my life in a way that heals.

Solveg

Monkey-Cats Studio said...

I found your blog through another blogger and will put you as a link now. I love a woman with a great brain!
Laurie

Misty's Creations said...

Dear Rima,
I'm so sorry you were treated badly by the folksy people! I would love to see your beautiful home roll inti our neighborhood. The world is full of so many different kinds of people, some can't think of living anyother way than they are use to in their closed little world! I have always wanted to build a wagon like yours, although I wouldn't know where to start. Too bad you can't get to Arizona, you could wander a while without getting stuck in the mud! Keep smileing and good fortune! Your writtings are so beautiful! thank you,
Misty

Joanne Roffey said...

Hi Rima, thanks so much for posting this! Not only is it very interesting, but a huge source of inspiration for me, being in my first year of book arts at what is now London College of Communication. Thankyou!