• "Unruly Reading: The Consuming Role of Touch in the Experience of a Medieval Manuscript"

    Jennifer Borland (see profile)
    History of Art, Medieval Studies
    Art, History, Hagiography, Illumination of books and manuscripts, Materialism, Sociology
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    materiality, phenomenology, Saint Margaret, Art history, Illuminated manuscripts, Medieval studies, New materialism
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    Occasionally, the handlers of the past chose to leave marks more permanent than the everyday wear and tear. The deliberate traces left by past user(s) demand further inquiry, beseeching us to investigate more closely the relationship between our experiences of manuscripts today, and those responses of past readers who have left an indelible mark on the pages. This essay discusses the unique qualities of one medieval manuscript in particular: a primarily twelfth-century Latin manuscript that includes an illustrated Passion of Saint Margaret along with twenty-six other texts, primarily other unillustrated saints’ lives (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm. 1133). In the Munich manuscript of Margaret’s Life, the physical destruction of evildoers was literally enacted by the reader-viewer, the figures becoming present to the reader and thus vulnerable to attack. And even though that audience was likely aware of the preciousness associated with the manuscript, that knowledge did not deter them from making their marks on this book. Forcing us to grapple with such contradictions, the defacement demonstrates that perhaps the greatest power of this book lay not in its inherent value, but rather in the opportunity it provided for the physical and immediate eradication of evil.
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    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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