“Reassessing Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies: Representations of Secular Power in Word and Image” (Kalamazoo 2016)

k6168[1]Since its publication in 1957, Ernst Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two
Bodies has achieved canonical status in the field of medieval history.
This sweeping account of medieval political theology describes how the
king came to be perceived as a gemina persona, possessing both a “body
natural” (material and mortal) and a “body politic” (immaterial and
immortal). While art historians frequently cite the book in their
analyses of medieval iconography, many scholars have criticized
Kantorowicz’s study for a variety of perceived faults, in particular
for being reductive or anachronistic, as epitomized by its application
of an early modern (Tudor) political theory to earlier centuries. One
of the best-known and most pointed critiques came early on from R. W.
Southern, who accused it of “put[ting] the symbol before the reality.”

This session invites papers that critically engage with Kantorowicz’s
paradigm of the king’s two bodies in order to reassess its benefits
and/or limitations as a means of interpreting medieval texts and
images. The organizers conceive of this panel as an opportunity to
interrogate Kantorowicz’s methods and conclusions, to examine the
utility of the “two bodies” as a hermeneutic paradigm, and to consider
the implications of this provocative book for twenty-first-century

While all of the selected papers will address articulations of secular
power, a variety of approaches is possible. Questions and issues might
include: regional specificities in the expression of power; the
differentiation in the perception of power as embodied by female versus
male rulers; the conspicuous presence or conspicuous absence of sacred
references in courtly texts/images/objects; the formation of royal
identity and the legitimization of new or contested rulers; religious
language, symbolism, or imagery in diplomatics; the pragmatic and/or
legal function of images of power; shifts in imagery and meaning across
time; the role of likeness and naturalism (or, conversely, of
abstraction) in identity formation; etc. Submissions from historians
and art historians are encouraged.

Proposals should include the following:
1) a one-page abstract
2) a completed Participant Information Form (PIF)
3) a CV with email, mailing address, and phone number

Please forward proposals to the organizers:
Melanie Hanan, Fordham University, mhanan@fordham.edu
Shannon L. Wearing, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University,
slwearing@gmail.com by 15 September 2015.

Published by James Alexander Cameron

I am an art historian working primarily on medieval parish church architecture. I completed my doctorate on sedilia in medieval England in 2015 at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

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