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Introduction

  • Suzanne Verderber
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

In the early decades of the twelfth century, cathedral sculptors began to carve the human figure with what modern viewers might perceive to be a greater attention to “realistic” detail. Figures begin to stand out as unique, more lifelike, like portraits of people one might meet in one’s own village, rather than as rigid iterations of an archetype. This new found attention to physical singularity will be obvious to anyone performing an overview of painting and sculpture from the so-called Dark Ages to the twelfth century in Western Europe. Above the door of the north transept at Saint-Lazare Cathedral at Autun, a heavy-lidded, serpentine carving of Eve appears pensive, morose, as she picks the apple. Inside the same building, Saint Peter and another saint bear ambivalent expressions—a combination of righteousness and horror—as Simon Magus is cast headfirst into hell.At the Church of the Madeleine at Vézelay, a capital carving shows Saint Benedict resuscitating a dead infant as its mother looks on. Her anxious expression is convincing: cheek resting in hand, mouth bent in a frown, eyes heavy. Compare these depictions of humans, marked by their singularity, to the figures of Christ and his Apostles on the lintel of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines, in the Pyrenees, carved about a century before: all are positioned rigidly upright and appear to have exactly the same face.1

Keywords

Reactive Force Active Force Twelfth Century Historical Moment External Model 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Reproductions of the Eve at Autun and the lintel of Saint-Genis-desFontaines are reprinted in James Snyder, Medieval Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, 4th–14th Century (New York: Prentice Hall, 1989), pp. 259 and 287. Reproductions of the two other Autun carvings are located on ARTstor, http://www.artstor.org, accessed October 30, 2012.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    This discussion is informed by Michel Zink’s excellent discussion of Augustine and Guibert of Nogent. Michel Zink, The Invention of Literary Subjectivity, trans. David Sices (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), pp. 163–81.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Jaufré Rudel, “Quan lo rius de la Fontana,” in Les Chansons de Jaufré Rudel, ed. Alfred Jeanroy (Paris: Champion, 1915), p. 5. My translation, with the guidance of Jeanroy’s modern French translation.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The principal sources consulted on the problem of the “emergence of the individual” are: Brigitte Bedos-Rezak and Dominique Iogna-Prat, L’individu au Moyen Âge: Individuation et individualization avant la modernité (Paris: Aubier, 2005)Google Scholar
  5. John E Benton, “Consciousness of Self and Perceptions of Individuality,” in Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth-Century, eds. Robert L. Benson and Giles Constable (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), pp. 263–95Google Scholar
  6. Carolyn Walker Bynum, “Did the Twelfth Century Discover the Individual?” in Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), pp. 82–109Google Scholar
  7. Brigitte Cazelles, “Outrepasser les norms: L’invention de soi en France medieval,” Stanford French Review 14 (1990): 69–92Google Scholar
  8. Georges Duby, “Solitude: Eleventh to Thirteenth Century,” in A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World, ed. Georges Duby, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 509–33Google Scholar
  9. Aaron Gurevich, The Origins of European Individualism, trans. Katherine Judelson (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), p. 237Google Scholar
  10. Peter Haidu, The Subject Medieval/Modern:Text and Governance in the Middle Ages (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004)Google Scholar
  11. Robert Hanning, The Individual in the Twelfth-Century Romance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977)Google Scholar
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  13. Walter Ullmann, The Individual and Society in the Middle Ages (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966)Google Scholar
  14. Zink, Invention. The introduction to a recent collection of essays on the relationship between individual and community that recapitulates these questions demonstrates the continued vitality and concern of this question; see Bruce Holsinger and Rachel Fulton, introduction to History in the Comic Mode: Medieval Communities and the Matter of Person (NewYork: Columbia University Press, 2007), pp. 1–11.Google Scholar
  15. Key sources defining the twelfth century as a “renaissance” are Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1927)Google Scholar
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  17. 5.
    Robert Hanning, The Individual in the Twelfth-Century Romance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), p. 3.Google Scholar
  18. 12.
    Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), pp. 12–13.Google Scholar
  19. 14.
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  20. 16.
    Colin Morris, “Individuality in Twelfth-Century Religion: Some Further Reflections,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 31 (1980): 199–202 [195–206].Google Scholar
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    Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience,” Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 2006), pp. 75–81.Google Scholar
  22. 25.
    Charles Taylor, The Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), p. 130. Taylor largely glosses over the Middle Ages in his study of the making of the modern self.Google Scholar
  23. 28.
    Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 127–28;; emphasis in the original.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in The Essential Foucault, eds. Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose (NewYork: New Press, 2003), p. 353 [351–69].Google Scholar
  25. 30.
    See Michel Foucault, Abnormal, Lectures at the Collége de France, 1974–1975, trans. Graham Burchell (NewYork: Picador, 2003); Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978, trans. Graham Burchell (NewYork: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007); “The Subject and Power,” in Rabinow and Rose, The Essential Foucault, pp. 126–44.Google Scholar
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    31. Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Séan Hand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), p. 75.Google Scholar
  27. 37.
    For information on Guibert and analysis of his memoirs, I relied upon John E Benton’s introduction and translation. John E Benton, Selff and Society in Medieval France (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  28. 39.
    Norman Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages (NewYork: Harper Coffins, 1994), pp. 330–38.Google Scholar
  29. For a good summary of the debate, see Jorge Gracia, Introduction to the Problem of Individuation in the Early Middle Ages (Munich and Vienna: Philosophia-Verlag, 1988). Gracia’s study begins with Boethius and ends with Abelard and John of Salisbury, and argues that the heated disputed over individuation in the twelfth century unfolded within the context of debates over the status of the Trinity. See also Brigitte Bedos-Rezak, introduction to L’individu au Moyen Âge, eds. Brigitte Bedos-Rezak and Dominique Logna-Prat (Paris: Aubier, 2005), p. 17. She recapitulates George Lagarde’s argument that the rise of nominalism freed man as a political subject.Google Scholar
  30. 45.
    Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (NewYork: Vintage, 1990), p. 59.Google Scholar
  31. 46.
    This is developed in Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book 17: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, trans. Russell Grigg (NewYork: Norton, 2007).Google Scholar

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© Suzanne Verderber 2013

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  • Suzanne Verderber

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