Rebecca DIXON | Christopher P. HEUER

Joost KEIZER | Nelleke MOSER


Jeroen VANDOMMELE | Kathryn M. RUDY

Sara RYU | Anne-Laure VAN BRUAENE


Arnoud VISSER | Christopher WOOD

Adrian ARMSTRONG - Literary Countermonuments of the Late Middle Ages

A ‘countermonument’ feeds and enriches the memories of its audience, not by claiming an illusory permanence but by signalling its own susceptibility to change. Developed by James E. Young in the context of memorial architecture, the concept of ‘countermonument’ provides useful ways of thinking about memory and authority in literary texts – particularly texts that resist or escape conventional notions of monumentality, whether in a thematic or a physical sense. François Villon’s famous yet elusive Testament (1461) is a case in point. The poem simultaneously thematizes and undercuts the written word (e.g. through misquotation), while its own transmission and presentation exhibit suggestive variation in manuscript and print. While the interweaving of authority and textual materiality is especially prominent here, Villon’s work is not at all unique in this age of both manuscript and print. Pseudo-inscriptional poetic epitaphs; expressive layouts that vary with their physical medium; practices of quotation; all these aspects of late medieval poetry can be regarded as cases of ‘countermonumentality’.

Stijn BUSSELS - The Diptych of the Lentulus Letter: Building Textual and Visual Evidence for Christ’s Appearance

This presentation will take the diptych of the Lentulus Letter (Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, late fifteenth or early sixteenth century) as central point of focus. The right panel is a portrait of the blessing Christ in profile facing left. The left panel is a depiction of a letter, the so-called Lentulus Letter. I will make clear that the visual and textual image of the diptych were in a complementary fashion used as ‘anchors’ for keeping a true image of Christ before the inner eye throughout the mental process of devotion. The Utrecht diptych gave guidelines for imagining Christ’s appearance. Hereby Christ’s literal and visual portraits were seen as historically true documents which proved the incarnation and made it possible to meditate within certain dogmatic limits, as among others Geert Groote prescribed. In that way, not only the images an sich were meditated. The images also served as a guideline for creating historically correct mental images.

Maarten DELBEKE - The Building as Book. The case of Notre-Dame-des-Marais in Ferté-Bernard

In the church of Notre-Dame-des-Marais in Ferté-Bernard (Sarthe), the encounter between gothic architecture with with renaissance design principles (encountered in many French churches) is enriched with a remarkable feature: the two exterior balustrades crowning the choir spell out the 'Regina Coeli' and the 'Ave Regina' in large sculpted letters. In the facade, these stone hymns combine with amongst others the portrait busts of the twelve caesars and allegories of the planets, while the church as a whole is decorated with Marian imagery referencing the origin of the church and the protection that the Virgin bestowes upon the city. This contribution will use the Notre-Dame-des-Marais as a case to reflect upon the application of the word in architecture as part of devotional and religious practices.

Tom DENEIRE - Sermo inter absentes. The Auratic Word in Justus Lipsius’s Neo-Latin Correspondence

‘The letter’, Justus Lipsius (1547-1606) wrote in his 1591 Principles of Letter-Writing, ‘is the only thing that can make present those who are absent’. By quoting this bon-mot – ascribed to the Roman comedian Turpilius – Lipsius suggests a keen awareness of the auratic dimension of the letter as a text operating between the singularity of a speech-act and the relativity of all written communication. This paper will explore the classical and humanist critical context for such an understanding of Neo-Latin letter-writing before analysing and interpreting some cases of the auratic word in Lipsius’s epistolography (1568-1606) – a respected humanist scholar, but rather controversial Latin literator, who entertained a vast correspondence network with the contemporary cultural élite. However, to adequately interpret the versatile corpus of Lipsius’s correspondence vis-à-vis the general literary practice, this paper will also discuss examples of the auratic word from other Neo-Latin authors and from other genres such as the dialogue, the album amicorum or the commonplace-book.

Rebecca DIXON - Reading Defacement: Illustration and Labels in the Roman de Buscalus (BnF, ms fr. 9343-9344)

In one extant manuscript of the vast Roman de Buscalus – Paris, BnF, ms fr. 9343-9344, produced before 1467 for the Burgundian duke, Philip the Good, in the Lille workshop of the Wavrin Master –, a contemporary reader has added labels to characters and motifs within the pictorial space of a third of the book’s 105 miniatures. These labels are reminiscent of the practice of factotum woodcuts that would become common in French-language printing of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. But in a manuscript context the implications of these readerly interventions are quite different: what might at first sight look like defacement of the miniatures in fact tells us something important about how these images, and the text that contains them, work. The labels can be seen as discursive appropriation of the images, which are in effect invaded by the written narrative. Yet, at the same time, their very existence is possible only because of the illustrator’s distinctive style. The Wavrin Master’s almost exclusive attention to line, and his predilection for angular forms, lend his work a close resemblance to the woodcut images that were beginning to gain currency in the Burgundian Netherlands in this period. In thus effectively anticipating the use of factotum labels, the reader’s annotations bear witness to a complex interplay between the written and the pictorial, and between manuscriptual aura and print-based standardisation.

Christopher P. HEUER - Speech as Object in the North

The banderole (fr. “little banner”), or speech scroll, is a familiar enough feature of late medieval Netherlandish altarpieces and devotional prints. There, as is well known, it often takes on the form of a winding, inscribed parchment floating in depicted space, bearing the calligraphic words of prophets or angels. Thus does the banderole (which takes its etymological origins from ship-borne heraldic flags, bannerols) materialize the unfolding - in time - of speech for the relatively static and mute mediums of painting or print, the travel of words from one speaker to another. In the case of innumerable Annunciation scenes from the fifteenth century, the banderole actually becomes a thing - crumpled, grasped, or folded -  the auratic intercessor between heaven and earth, physically handled by Gabriel and delivered to Mary as both news and sprit of the soon-to-be born Christ.

A curious parallel emerges within artworks featuring highly "material" banderoles and artworks that travelled around alot. What seems to be presented, that is, is a case of increasingly portable art objects thematizing, appropriately enough, the idea of the word as a material conveyance from place to place. The fluttering banderoles in Campin, Memling or Witz, we might say, materialize communication - in the Niklas Luhmann sense. They thus form a parallel to the mobile reliquary or the duly-travelled panel painting.  Registered is a new consciousness of the word’s physical mobility – as opposed to its signification – as an imparter of aura.

Joost KEIZER - Referentiality of the Image ca. 1500

How does an image do referential work? Around 1500, the question provoked Leonardo da Vinci to produce a remarkable group of allegorical drawings, not just drawings with a clear preparatory aim, but exercises in the hermeneutics of artworks. Generally, Leonardo contended, images adhered to a different system of reference than words. Whereas pictures relied on directness and unmediated presence, writing and reading worked through a system of indirect signification. This paper argues that Leonardo’s allegorical drawings constituted an effort to adapt the heuristic model developed for words to that of pictures, not just their reception, but also their production.

Nelleke MOSER - Capitalizing Cornelis Crul. Aura, Ornaments, and Order in BL Sloane Ms 1174

In my paper, I will discuss the ‘aura’ of one particular manuscript: British Library Sloane ms. 1174, containing religious poems by the sixteenth-century Flemish poet Cornelis Crul. When studying the relation between the appearance of a text and the value or meaning that is attached to the text, this manuscript certainly offers food for thought. The manuscript was created between 1550 and 1575, but it has the appearance of an illuminated medieval manuscript. The scribe went to all lengths to visualize the importance of the text, so much so that a verbal description simply would not suffice to convey the ways in which the layout enhances or even signifies the content of the poems. Graphic features such as rubrication and illuminated initials with human and animal figures are paired with literary modes of organization such as acrostics and alphabet poems. Both techniques indicate a strong relation between form and content, between material representation and meaning, as do the alternation of blank and written pages, the index and the corrections made within the manuscript. The central question of my paper will be how ‘the aura of the word’ is materialized in this manuscript, and how this relates to the ways in which Crul’s work is represented in other sixteenth-century sources (written and printed). To answer these questions I will use the insights of McKenzie, McKitterick, Mak and others.

Johan OOSTERMAN - A brief message on salvation. Minor textual amulets: form, use, transmission

Textual amulets have been preserved in very different shapes, and there are examples of hundreds of verses or lines, while others count only a small number of words. Binding words of Don C. Skemer is the key publication on this topic. Minor amulets play only a marginal role in his study because of their rarity. Nevertheless there must have been immense numbers of those leaflets. Very recently I discovered four minor amulets, which shed new light on this specific type of source. I will place these amulets in the wider perspective of daily and private devotion, and I will discuss the question to what extent the aura of the words in a prayer book or a book of hours differed from the aura of the words on a tiny leaflet pasted in such a codex.

Martin PRZYBILSKI - Jewish Concepts of the Holiness of Script in the Age of Printing: The Case of the Genizah

The concept of "genizah" dates back to Jewish Antiquity. Translated literally, the Hebrew term denotes "something hidden", so one could also speak of an "archive" - although a somewhat paradoxical kind of archive which is not meant to be used by anyone. Talmudical law forbids the obliteration of scripts - Hebrew as well as vernacular scripts which mention God's name - and demands the hiding of used up scripts in a genizah, a storage-room mainly connected to a synagogue. This concept is closely connected to the specific Jewish notion of holiness inherent in the art of (hand-)writing. Therefore, the invention of the printing press and its adaptation in Jewish circles in the late 15th and early 16th centuries posed some difficult questions to Rabbinic authorities of the time as to how this concept of holiness was to be applied to printed scripts as well. The paper examines the discussions of European Rabbis of the Early Modern Era, the resulting establishment of genizoth even in small rural Jewish communities of this time, and the findings in these genizoth which have been rediscovered since the early 1990s.

Kathryn M. RUDY - Printed, Baked, and Swallowed: the Aura of the IHS-Monogram

After ca. 1300 priests began hoisting a round disk of bread at the moment of transubstantiation during the ceremony of the Mass. Believers understood the ceremony to transform the bread into the Body of Christ. The bread was printed imprinted with Christological symbols: a crucifix, the Lamb of God, an image from the Passion, or simply the IHS monogram. The IHS monogram, or the divine logos, when printed onto – or rather branded into – the bread, was a clear manifestation of the word made flesh. The round white host formed a nimbus sanctifying and justifying the sacred monogram. The host was ultimately held up to the light as part of the Mass, suggesting that the entire object was a nimbus, made of light – the ultimate transformation. It is no wonder that with all of these layered ritual meanings, the host was thought to have thaumaturgic power. As a result, people stole sanctified hosts to affect cures or even to bury under barrels of beer to improve their quality, as well as using it in other para-liturgical ceremonies of their own. Believers desired the host so vehemently that it was made in other, safer forms, which, while they resembled the bread were not, officially, the Corpus Christi. The host, already a proxy for the body of Christ, begat other proxies in turn. These are the focus of my study.
    In this contribution I consider the aura of the IHS monogram in the context of the host and two of its proxies. The first of these comprises metallic badges bearing the monogram that were produced in large quantities near the end of the middle ages. The other consists of monogramed, single-leaf prints foretelling of the destruction of the bread: the prints, bearing an image of a host identified with an IHS monogram, provide instructions to believers to say certain prayers while the magical, fleshy host dissolves on their tongues. It is the latter of these proxies, which creates paper versions of the Eucharist to consume with the eyes, that connect directly with a broader tradition for works on paper. One manuscript that has survived into the twenty-first century with prints still attached to it is BKB 4604, a prayerbook written in Middle Dutch on paper in the early sixteenth century. The manuscript contains several hand-painted woodcut prints, including one with the IHS monogram in a flaming disk.

    As I will demonstrate, the IHS monogram on host-shaped objects mediated between the singular body of Christ (which was more than a millennium out of reach and technically dwelled in heaven already), and the promise of its endless copying. In fact, making the host – in a mold, with both images and letters – was a form of printing. Perhaps because the image of Jesus, or the IHS monogram, was ‘printed’ onto the disk of bread, the idea of applying it to discs of paper was a natural extension. This practice served a distinct need: to have the body of Christ present, not only during Mass, but at all times, as part of a theatre of memory of communions past, present, and in the hoped-for future.

Sara RYU - Inscription and Embodiment: The Place of Text in Early Modern Sculpture

This paper takes as its subject the phenomenon of inscribed pieces of paper found inside early modern sculpture, in particular Christian cult statues. It will examine how such hidden texts articulate the moment of fabrication, negotiating between artist and artifact, work and world, human and divine. I begin with inscriptions placed inside cult statues during their production; these texts are often, but not always, claims to authorship of the sculpted work coupled with prayers. These motivated, but ultimately concealed, gestures position the maker as present within the made object, and they function analogically to relics, perpetuating the acts of creation and supplication alike.
The second part of this paper will examine works in which text is consubstantial with the sculpted artifact. Turning from Europe to its New World colonies, I discuss cult statues produced in New Spain and made of repurposed documents suspended onto molds to create the hollow contour of the sculpted figure. Used, discarded, recycled, these pieces of paper became, in effect, material provisions inserted into the lifeworld of a mold-made, serially produced work of art. Banal in the ecological act of their reuse, these texts make no grand claims to the craft and piety of the artist. And yet, through their newly clandestine existence, the abject gives form to the divine. The conditions of mass production, I seek to argue, inject the everyday into the sacred. From the phenomenon of texts hidden within sculptures emerges a conception of the aura of words effected by, on the one hand, authorial agency and, on the other, the mass reproducibility of the sacred.

Anne-Laure VAN BRUAENE - The Adieu and Willecomme for Jan van Hembyze or the Battle between Manuscript and Print in Calvinist Ghent

It is widely acknowledged that the Dutch Revolt occasioned an exponential increase of printed pamphlets. Far less attention has been paid to the role of the written word, although some of our best-known and most reliable sources for the period are manuscript chronicles (e.g. those written by Marcus van Vaernewijck and Willem van Haecht). While printed pamphlets gave a new, often international dimension to political communication, in a local context handwritten pamphlets had many advantages. They could be disseminated quickly, cheaply and relatively safely. Handwritten pamphlets or pasquils were posted in public places, but written texts also circulated more privately and were passed on to political friends, who copied them in their private journals or anthologies. This paper explores the case of two key texts relating to the Ghent Calvinist Republic (1577-84). The first is the Adieu, vigorously attacking Ghent’s political leader, the radical Calvinist Jan van Hembyze. The Adieu circulated in manuscript form and was copied into several local chronicles and in an anonymous compilation of political ballades, songs and poems. Interestingly, each version is significantly different, highlighting the plasticity of the written word. The Adieu’s first audience was probably a relatively closed circled of local patrician families. At the same time, the text also became a local sensation gaining massive response in the form of rumours, songs and even public imagery. The most direct acknowledgement of its political importance – and of the aura of the word in times of political disruption – was the explicit answer the Adieu received in the form of the Willecomme, a printed pamphlet sponsored by the Calvinist magistracy at the occasion of Hembyze’s return from exile.

Arjan VAN DIXHOORN - Tactility, Intermediality and Fictions of Orality in a Scribal Letter from Delft (1574)

A volume with handwritten letters and reports over 1574 from the archives of the Court of Holland also holds a letter addressed to Mr. Paulus Buys, one of the leading figures of the revolutionary administration of the County of Holland. A note at the backside of the letter, probably written by one of the clerks at the Court of Holland in his clear handwriting, states that the inside of the letter contains a ´Copy of an epistle (sentbrief) sent to Mr. Pauwels Buys, counsel of the States (of Holland)`. Below another hand has scribbled that the letter had been found pasted at a church door in Delft and had been (carefully) torn down. At some point at least the letter was folded several times and closed with sealing wax. A heading at the inside of the paper folio again in another clear handwriting claims this is a ´Copy of an epistle sent to Pauwels Buys, counsel of the States of Holland`, a title which seems to invoke forms of news print that had been recently introduced in local polemical culture. The letter itself is written in a very different fourth hand (unlike the other three hands which were in gothic cursive script) in a small humanist cursive script, with several erasures and subsequent corrections made to the text, possibly in another hand and/or script. The upper, lower, and left margins of the folio have been significantly worn, leaving the text in these spots nearly illegible. The folding of the folio across the middle of the letter has left the text difficult to read there as well. All this is in line with the note at the backside and suggests that the folio paper had been glued to an object on these three sides and then was carefully torn off, not without damage to the margins. The text of the purported letter begins by addressing Mr. Pauwels Buys, and claims to inform on a conspiracy contrived at a meeting in Delft. The author states to have been present at this meeting, where an anonymous man had criticized the revolutionary government of Holland by revealing a sort of coup d´état. The man´s carefully crafted monologue is given in direct speech. The end of the letter, which addresses Pauwels Buys again, is only partly legible because of the worn margins. The paper aims to discuss and reflect on the materiality of this peculiar letter and on the ways in which it seems to have been written, published, torn down and literally sent to its formal addressee, and in the process went through several scribal hands. I will also reflect on the way in which fictionalizing techniques combined with the possibly intended form of publication play with the medium of the spoken word and the intended audience of the letter. An analysis of the interplay of oral, scribal and printed forms and farcical content will be used to reflect on the role of tactility and intermediality in early modern communicative practices. Given the centrality of live interaction, this letter can be used to argue that the tactile experiences of aural and performative culture were pressed onto the scribal and printed text and employed in fictionalized observations of events in order to recreate or simulate a sensation of liveness and thus turn audiences into witnesses of truth.

Jeroen VANDOMMELE - Writing with Images. The Use of the Rebus as a Visible Riddle in Sixteenth-Century Antwerp

In the summer of 1561 a theatre-competition was organized in the city of Antwerp. During one month fifteen chambers of rhetoric competed against each other, performing theatre plays, staging tableaux vivants and reciting poetry. The literary program of the ‘Antwerp Landjuweel, as the competition was called, has been characterised as innovative, emphasizing the union of the visual and the written, the interaction between the image and the word. An example of this interest is the use of the rebus. A rebus can best be described as ‘a visual riddle’: a collection of images, which are arranged in a particular order. Each image refers to a certain word or a concept. By uncovering the meaning of the separate images, a sentence can be constructed, explaining the rebus itself.  

At the Landjuweel, rebuses were displayed on large wooden boards during a pageant parade. Keen on involving the audience, broadsheets with the solutions to the riddles were distributed to the spectators. Although not unique to the Landjuweel, the Antwerp festival popularized the rebus, standardizing its visual language. In the next decades several Antwerp artists used the same rebus imagery in Albums Amicorum, political prints, medallions and paintings. My paper will look at the interaction between word and image in these rebuses and will try to shed some light as to what attracted these poets and artists to this form of communication.


Joris Van GRIEKEN - What's in a Name? On Verses, Addresses and Signatures. The Appearance of Text on Printed Images in Antwerp 1530 - 1560

Arnoud VISSER - Customizing the Classics: Manuscript Marginalia and the Authority of the Reader

This paper will explore the aura of the word in the elite world of scholars and erudite readers by focusing upon material reading practices. The sixteenth century saw a revolutionary increase in access to long-revered classical texts. Moreover, with their philological acumen humanist scholars provided their readers with ever more critical text editions. How, then, did this development relate to the act of reading? Or, more precisely, what implications did it have for concrete historical readers? By looking at manuscript marginalia, such as the copious reading notes of the English controversialist Gabriel Harvey, I will investigate how sixteenth-century scholars customized these printed media to appropriate the classics.

Christopher WOOD - How to Recognize a Prophecy

Prophecies around 1500 often came in the form of inscribed tablets.  The archaic signifier marked the prophecy off from other kinds of language.  The medium of inscription wrapped around the text like a “breeze,” an aura, suggesting a faraway provenance. 

The talk will focus on the prophetic book attributed to Saint Catald and found in Taranto in 1492, with its inscribed lead covers; and the sybilline prophecy of the discovery of the New World inscribed on a square tablet found in Lisbon in 1505.   In each case the news of the prophecy entered immediately into the non-auratic flow of discourse, spoken, written, and printed.  For the prophecies were recognized as attempts to steer contemporary politics with writing.  The prophecies took advantage of confusion about authors, publics, and the overcoming of distance created by the new tension between handwritten and printed texts.

The paper is also generally about attentiveness in this period to non-semantic aspects of language, including Christian kabbala, magical scripts, and runes.