dunnettreader + medieval + biblical_allusion   1

In the Middle: Confessio lapidis - Jeffrey Cohen - Feb 2012
Introduction to the last chapter of his book draft - see other post re impact of Aristotle and anima on 13thC notions of souls (tripartite for human - vegetative, sensible, rational), classification of material world, and Albertus Magnus opus on minerals, insisting they had no souls yet assigning agency to features of particular minerals especially as linked with biology, human usage.

Now held in the Bodleian Library, the Fairfax 3 manuscript of John Gower’s Confessio Amantis contains on its opening page a vivid illustration of an episode narrated later in the poem’s prologue: the biblical king Nebuchadnezzar is dreaming in bed (fol. 002r, upper left corner). A tall man, seemingly composed of a variety of materials, looms in menacing stillness over his sleeping form. This figure’s face is turned towards the slumbering king and thus cannot be discerned by us. A craggy boulder levitates behind and above the bed, at eye level to the standing form. As we read the poem itself (Prol. 585–880) and perhaps recall the story told in the Book of Daniel upon which it is based, we realize that this rock is hurtling, meteor-like, from the side of a mountain to a fateful rendezvous with an immense statue haunting Nebuchadnezzar’s sleep. The stone, small because approaching from such distance, will smash the strange form to dust “With which ston al tobroke was … al was into pouldre broght” 621, 623). Gower follows Daniel in describing the statue as a monstrous embodiment of human time, smashed when “A gret ston from an hull on hyh / Fel doun of sodein aventure” (618-19). This knowledge makes the illustration come to life. The rock becomes kinetic and perilous: the boulder hurtles towards the bed, towards the menacing statue, and therefore towards us.
medieval_history  Medieval  English_lit  Biblical_allusion  Golden_Age  time  eschatology  materialism  posthumanism 
december 2013 by dunnettreader

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