Making Digital Marks on Medieval Manuscripts
Edited By Tamsyn Mahoney-Steel
Chapter 1. Interpreting the Medieval Text
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INTERPRETING THE MEDIEVAL TEXT
Back when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Warwick, I remember an exhibition that was held in the Warwick Arts Centre. The installation consisted of a set of boxes raised on legs, each of which had a hole in the bottom. The idea was that the viewer stepped underneath the box and put their head into the hole. Inside each box was a world of the artist’s choosing. It could be a magnified beehive that made the viewer feel small and vulnerable, it could be a world in miniature that made the viewer feel god-like in size. I don’t remember the particulars of the views, but I remember the shift. By shift I mean the shock of the unsettling, at times sublime, feeling of having one’s view on the world so radically altered. When I think about my attempts to understand the medieval era, I think about putting my head into those boxes, leaving behind the assumptions of my world and being shifted and shocked into an alternate perspective.
The manuscript matrix for us is a place to experience the shock of shift. We can pick up a manuscript and hold it in our hands, turn the pages right to left or left to right depending on language, we can examine bindings—all of which might seem familiar practices to us. We can read words and look at pictures. We could even...
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