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Material Texts: Lawrence Nees (Art History, University of Delaware): "Reading and Seeing: The Beginnings of Book Illumination and the Modern Discourse on Ethnicity"
Co-sponsored by the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies
Monday, September 12, 2016 - 5:15pm to 6:30pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion

Sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

Please join us at 5:15 PM on Monday, September 12 in the Class of 1978 Pavilion on the sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library for a special and celebratory first meeting, cosponsored by the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, of this year’s Workshop in the History of Material Texts.

We will begin the year with a lecture by Lawrence Nees (Art History, University of Delaware) on “Reading and Seeing: The Beginnings of Book Illumination and the Modern Discourse on Ethnicity,” followed by a reception to to mark the launch of Manuscript Studies, the new semiannual journal of the Schoenberg Institute, and the opening of the exhibition Reactions: Medieval/Modern, on view in the Kislak Center’s Goldstein Family Gallery. About the talk, Lawrence Nees writes: 

Much attention has been paid to the change of books from roll to codex form, largely accomplished by the fourth and fifth centuries, and the impact of this change on the illustration of books. However, for some centuries the form of writing in the new codex format changed relatively little, and another change, arguably as significant, is associated with the seventh and eighth centuries, with books beginning to adopt multiple scripts displaying a hierarchy, spaces between words, punctuation, and decorative embellishment with illuminations of various sorts. The new kind of books, and readers, are strongly associated with monasticism, as has of course been noted before, but for a variety of reasons scholars have not explored the interactions between writing, illumination, and reading in depth. Instead, a powerful strand of scholarly tradition, especially in the Anglophone world, has linked illumination with “barbarian” traditions, an approach that deserves challenge and reconsideration.

 Lawrence Nees has taught at the University of Delaware since 1978, where he is Professor and Chair in the Department of Art History, and H. Fletcher Brown Chair of Humanities. His books include The Gundohinus Gospels; A Tainted Mantle: Hercules and the Classical Tradition at the Carolingian Court; Early Medieval Art; and Perspectives on Early Islamic Art in Jerusalem. He served from 2003-2009 on the international Advisory Committee for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries Renovation Project at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and was recently President of the International Center of Medieval Art. The talk he is here presenting was first delivered as the Annual International Center of Medieval Art Lecture at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, made possible through the generosity of Dr. William A Voekle, Curator emeritus, The Morgan Library and Museum.