The Medieval Image at the Interception of Signifier, Signification, Historical Context, and Commodification in Book of the Hours

By Peggy Bloomer.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 4, 2014 $US5.00

Similar to the beginning of the twentieth century, the late Middle Ages experienced a collapse of the predominant societal system–feudalism. These changes created vast class mobility and increased consumerism in a way that foreshadows the industrial revolution. In addition, the widespread death of the population from the plague caused a collective trauma similar to the aftereffects of World War I and II with a breakdown of trust between the three estates. This paper will examine the images in The Book of the Hours as pre-cursors to modern photographic images applying concepts developed by Benjamin, Barthes, Baudrillard and Lyotard. At a time when few could read, the Book of the Hours reversed the image to text relationship that is described by many post-modern critics. In fact, the images in the Book of the Hours use Kristeva’s four narrative stages and reflect the societal changes of that age. Various examples from the Book of the Hours will be examined for the following: images of commercialism; scenes of domestic medieval life; the inclusion of secular practices and scenes, especially with focus on the Book of the Dead and local burial practices; the inclusion of secular materials like bestiaries within the illustrations and glimpses into the feudal society within the illustrations. In general the materials prior to printed Book of the Hours will be more interesting for this examination, although printed books will be included in this study as they are the clear indication of the arrival of commercialization within the genre. It is expected that an examination of earlier manuscripts will support the supposition that the late Middle Ages were increasingly influenced by secular commercialization and reflect a society in a fluctuating state

Keywords: Middle Ages, Post-Modern Image Theories, Book of the Hours

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 4, Issue 2, June 2014, pp.69-79. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 4, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 839.983KB)).

Peggy Bloomer

Adjunct Professor, Interactive Digital Design, Quinnipiac University, North Haven, CT, USA

I am currently finishing my dissertation for defense in August of this year at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Wallis, Switzerland. The topic is Epic Mythology in Digital Narratives. One of the things that I have tried to do in earning this PhD is to combine my earlier concentration in Medieval Literature with my current practice and teaching of digital design. I currently teach interactive digital design as an adjunct at Quinnipiac University, web design II in Multimedia Studies at Manchester Community College and World Literature online at Southern New Hampshire University.