Medieval and early modern literature was fascinated with the material remains of the past. Scenes involving the discovery, description, circulation, or contemplation of archaeological objects can be found in texts ranging from hagiography to elegiac poetry, from historiography to romance—across regions and periods. This volume gathers voices to explore the ways in which these texts employ descriptions of objects from the past to produce aesthetic and literary responses to questions of historicity and the epistemological conditions of historical knowledge.
The contributions to Material Remains: Reading the Past in Medieval and Early Modern British Literature examine the understanding and experience of temporality as registered through the representation of found objects. From Beowulf and King Arthur to Richard III, Roger de Norton, and more, these essays reproduce the thrill of the archaeological find and generate new forms of historical understanding beyond the established narratives that reinforce modern forms of periodizing the Middle Ages. List of Contributors
Neil Cartlidge, Roberta Frank, Lori Ann Garner, Jonathan Gil Harris, Jan-Peer Hartmann, John Hines, Naomi Howell, Andrew Hui, Andrew James Johnston, Sarah Salih, Philip Schwyzer
Ritual Matters interrupts the anachronistic binaries of religious practice and belief, the material and the theological, by taking a new approach to the study of archaeological remains of ancient religions. Focusing on the materiality of ritual—inherent in everything from monumental temples and altars, to votive offerings and codices, to sanctioned inscriptions and reliefs—allows for a novel vantage point from which to consider ancient religious practices, as well as an important counterbalance to more traditional conceptual perspectives often privileged in the field.
Material remains of religious practices may reveal striking local continuity, but they also highlight points of change, as distinct moments of manufacture and use transformed both sites and objects. Yet not every religious practice leaves a trace: the embodied use of imperial statuary, the rationale for the design of particular sacred books or the ephemeral “magical” implements designed by local religious experts leave few traces, if any, and are therefore less amenable to material investigation. What does remain, however, challenges any neat association between representation and reality or literary claim and practical application.
This volume represents a significant contribution to the material approach of studying the ancient Mediterranean’s diverse religious practices. In addition to volume editors Claudia Moser and Jennifer Knust, contributors include Henri Duday, Gunnel Ekroth, David Frankfurter, Richard Gordon, Valérie Huet, William Van Andringa, and Zsuzsanna Várhelyi. Topics covered include funerary remains, sacrificial practices, “magic,” Roman altars, imperial reliefs and statuary, and the role of sacred books.