This free study day will act as an introduction to Ethiopian and Eritrean manuscripts dating from the 4th to 18th centuries. Context, production, and patronage will be discussed by leading experts from institutions such as The British Library and SOAS. See the detailed schedule and link to register below.
The Iconicity of Script in Manuscripts from Asia, Africa, America and Europe
Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Hamburg
31 October -1 November 2014
Scripts and writing systems are more than neutral transmitters of the words that are encoded by them. When words that were previously spoken and transmitted orally are written down, they gain a new, visual and material dimension. The iconic component with which the script can be endowed in this process has a hermeneutic, as well as an aesthetic, potential. Recognising and decoding it is as much part of the process of reading as is the deciphering of the written text. In manuscript cultures all over the world, script is adorned with or transformed by ornamental and figurative elements. The aim of this workshop is to explore how the visual and iconic potential of script has been used in manuscript cultures in Asia, Africa, America, and Europe. Its approach is a comparative one, exploring similarities as well as differences and the possible reasons behind them.
Relevant phenomena include:
The semantic potential of particular styles of scripts and of writing systems.
In many manuscript cultures, scribes and illuminators have a range of different writing styles, and sometimes even different writing systems, at their disposal. These can be used, separately or in combination, for various different purposes. As complex visual patterns, they can encourage or control the way in which a text is read and interpreted. Often, sacred or revered texts are written in a particularly elaborate script, hereby both emphasizing and affirming their outstanding dignity and authority. In other cases, calligraphy can be part of an artistic, philosophical or political statement. On a more (but by no means exclusively) pragmatic level, different scripts can be used to indicate hierarchical relationships between different texts (e.g. a treatise and its commentary) or the structure of a text (e.g. by highlighting chapter breaks) within a manuscript. In some cases, which would be of particular interest to our workshop, calligraphic shapes, techniques and practices are subject to intercultural transfers, by means of quotation, adaptation or assimilation.
Script constituting figures and images
Calligrams, carmina figurate, text ‘labyrinths’ and other instances in which script is arranged in figural shapes, or in which such figures are revealed to the reader in the process of reading a text, are found in many manuscript cultures, and in many different variations. Some of these variations may be due to different writing systems that are current in different manuscript cultures; others, to varying notions of the status of script, of writing and reading within a culture. In some, e.g. Islamic and Jewish cultures that restrict the use of images, script can perform some functions that pictures do in others, perhaps taking on some of the aesthetic and even figurative characteristics that are elsewhere attributed mainly to images.
Figures and bodies constituting script
While figurative forms can be constituted by script, script in turn can also be formed by figurative elements. For instance, so-called anthropomorphic and zoomorphic initials in European manuscripts consist of the painted or drawn bodies of humans and animals, and in Arabic calligraphy, script can bloom and sprout leaves. In other cases, script in a manuscript can be written or painted in a way that conjures up a specific material, such as textile or stone.
Diagrams and schemata consisting of or incorporating script
A different kind of iconicity lies at the heart of diagrams and schemata. Here, too, the written and the figural form an inextricable whole. Their overall visual structure, however, serves first and foremost as a matrix which represents not things or concepts themselves, but relationships of concepts and/or things to one another, making diagrams and schemata unique instruments for transmitting and even generating knowledge.
Hanna Wimmer, Rostislav Tumanov and Lena Sommer
For the full workshop programme, and to register, see here:
Postgraduate Study Course:
Textos, libros y lectores: Una introducción a la cultura manuscrita de la Península Ibérica durante la Baja Edad Media
Madrid, 13-17 October 2014
Deadline: 30 September
El objetivo de este curso es ofrecer una introducción al estudio de la cultura manuscrita peninsular durante la Baja Edad Media, en la que tenga cabida la producción libraria latina, hebrea, árabe y romance. Para ello, los diferentes participantes irán tejiendo una panorámica de la compleja realidad ibérica y de las particulares dinámicas que rigen la creación, transmisión y recepción de los manuscritos creados al amparo de estas tradiciones, que en ningún caso han de considerarse compartimentos estancos. Las clases se han planteado a partir de cuatro ejes fundamentales: a) una reflexión sobre los condicionantes impuestos por la circulación manuscrita de los textos y los retos que este fenómeno plantea al historiador/filólogo hoy en día, b) un breve acercamiento a la codicología partiendo de ejemplos concretos, c) cuatro catas puntuales sobre aspectos que singularizan a la producción libraria peninsular frente a otros territorios europeos (la prevalencia del romance frente al latín desde un momento muy temprano, el diálogo multicultural en torno al texto bíblico, la impronta dejada por la poesía andalusí en la lírica peninsular, y el peso de la literatura legal en el conjunto de la producción manuscrita hispánica), y d) una inmersión en el análisis de las relaciones entre texto e imágenes en el soporte manuscrito. De este modo, se pretende dar cuenta de la singular condición del manuscrito en tanto que objeto en la encrucijada entre varias disciplinas.
Organisers: Rosa Rodríguez Porto (University of York) and Javier del Barco (ILC, CCHS-CSIC)
For the full programme and to apply, see: http://www.cchs.csic.es/en/textoslibrosylectores