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The Bayeux Tapestry: New Approaches [2021]



Michael read his BA in History/Theology (Surrey/Roehampton), MA in Medieval Studies (York) and PhD in History (Kent). His PhD is on The Archaeological Authority of the Bayeux Tapestry. In 2008, Michael co-organised an international symposium on the Bayeux Tapestry, which was published in 2011 as The Bayeux Tapestry: new approaches (with Gale Owen Crocker and Dan Terkla). Since then he has written widely on the Bayeux Tapestry, including a new book with Dave Musgrove - The Story of the Bayeux Tapestry (2021). He is on the Bayeux Tapestry Scientific Committee.




The Bayeux Tapestry: New Approaches


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Mumford, Louise, Heather Prosser and Julie Taylor, `The Llangorse textile: approaches to understanding an early medieval masterpiece', in Ed.Carole Gillis and Marie-Louise B. Nosche, Ancient Textiles: production, craft and society, Oxford, Oxbow Books, 2007, pp. 158-62.


Lewis' preface (xiii-xv) and "Introduction: Medieval Audience, Performance, and Display" (1-9) set out what looks like a cutting-edge itinerary. In the latter section, the reader finds implicit and explicit references to at least nine theoretical approaches: reader response (2), "poststructuralist . . . semiotics and narratology" (2), "Foucauldian analysis" (3), performance (5), perhaps New Critical (7), deconstruction (7), film (7) and genre (8). By focusing "our attention on the kind of close reading (deconstruction) [sic] of episodes demanded by the narrative itself" (7), Lewis claims to demonstrate that the Tapestry made "itself accessible to contemporary audiences by establishing the cultural resonance of its story within the framework of such well-known literary genres as epic, chronicle, and panegyric" (xiv). Following from the preface and introduction, then, the reader expects this theoretically eclectic framework consistently to support her argument that the Tapestry's "most powerful rhetoric lies in its silences and empty spaces" (xiv).[1] The Rhetoric of Power generally falls short of this mark, though, and becomes a conventional exercise in careful reading.[2]


The critical approaches with which Lewis aligns herself are at times incompatible. How, for example, can one equate New Criticism with deconstruction? Lewis writes "we shall center our attention on the kind of close reading (deconstruction) of episodes and sequences demanded by the visual narrative itself" (7). Granted, deconstructionists read closely, but to different ends than new critics, whom "close reading" calls to mind. The Bayeux Tapestry does draw on a number of conventions, literary and artistic, and does respond well to some eclectic approaches. Therefore, Lewis' desire to address the Tapestry's "intertextuality and generic complexity" (13) by creating a hybrid analytical methodology is well-founded. Paradoxically, she produces the very problem she seems to want to forestall: "The theoretical framing of my analysis is not meant to stand as a barrier to the reader's understanding. Instead, its insights, particularly those developed from film theory, are enlisted to provide a more direct access to the ways in which the work both advertises and conceals its secrets" (7). Indeed, the fact that this "theoretical framing" gets set aside in later chapters confirms that it is more a "barrier," perhaps even to Lewis, than a "direct access."


Art historian Sandra Rendgen is the author of Information Graphics, a comprehensive book on the various modern day approaches to data visualization, published by Taschen. If you are familiar with Taschen Publishing you know that their books are high quality publications often directed towards audiences with an interest in art and design. This text does not disappoint, as it clearly fits the Taschen mold with stunning imagery that centers on the topic of information graphics. The over 400 images contained within the text offer a rich collection of information graphics that covers a wide range of subject matter including education, environment, politics and more. Additionally the examples range from serious to quite humorous. It follows the Taschen standard that all of the text is written in English, French, and German.


The essays that follow were written by leading figures in the area of information graphics and data visualization. Richard Saul Wurman, Simon Rogers, and Paolo Ciuccarelli all contribute their thoughts on the value and influence of information graphics for the text. Each of these authors approaches the topic through their area of expertise, providing insight into several current issues surrounding information graphics.


This afterword considers the implications of the papers in this volume for osteoarchaeologial and archaeological studies of age and aging. It suggests that many offer cautionary tales for the archaeologist who approaches age as a series of categories, without adequately considering its contextual and complex nature. In addition, it suggests that using concepts relating to early medieval understandings of the body such as gecynd and mægen may offer productive new ways of understanding the life course for osteoarchaeologists and archaeologists.


Current discussion about media convergence often implies a singular process with a fixed end point: All media will converge; the problem is simply to predict which media conglomerate or which specific delivery system will emerge triumphant.12 But if we understand media convergence as a process instead of a static termination, then we can recognize that such convergences occur regularly in the history of communications and that they are especially likely to occur when an emerging technology has temporarily destabilized the relations among existing media. On this view, convergence can be understood as a way to bridge or join old and new technologies, formats and audiences. Such cross-media joinings and borrowings may feel disruptive if we assume that each medium has a defined range of characteristics or predetermined mission. Medium-specific approaches risk simplifying technological change to a zero-sum game in which one medium gains at the expense of its rivals. A less reductive, comparative approach would recognize the complex synergies that always prevail among media systems, particularly during periods shaped by the birth of a new medium of expression. 041b061a72


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