French Program

Romanesque Signs

Romanesque Signs: Early Medieval Narrative and Iconography is a classic of medieval scholarship that laid the foundations for viewing literature as an historical artifact that should be read in conjunction with the art, architecture, sculpture and religious rituals produced in the same period. It was the first book to argue that the materiality of representation—how art was created, performed, displayed in its own time—must be taken into account in order to understand its levels of meaning. It also showed that the way this art engages with the history it inherits—secular history, sacred history, intellectual history—is of crucial importance for understanding how and why it was produced as it was. Underlying the book’s thesis is the recognition that Romanesque art reflects history, the world, and sacred history as themes that must be interwoven and choreographed in and as a performance. Hence the term “performative mimesis” used to describe it. The book seeks to overthrow post-Reformation boundaries between the sacred and the secular in order to show that in the early Middle Ages these terms were co-extensive. The sacred and secular existed in equilibrium: the one did not seek to displace the other since they were part of a continuum, each referencing the other at every moment.