Polyfocal Perspective and the "Bewilderment" Principle in Medieval Art and Rhetoric

Monday 19 January 2015, 4.30PM

Speaker: Mary Carruthers, Remarque Professor Emeritus of Literature, New York University; All Souls College, Oxford

‌In medieval art, a common moment for viewers when they first encounter a work is to exclaim 'the eye does not know where to look first' because of the abundance and strangeness of detail that they meet.

Unlike early modern mono-perspective, medieval poly-perspective invites a viewer to look and look again, choosing many ways of seeing and understanding. Such moments can be found not only in architecture and painting but also in music (think of polyvocal motets) and in literature (think of the Green Knight's entrance to Arthur's court in 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'). This talk examines some of these moments and explores the question of why medieval aesthetic cultivated them frequently and took such delight in their bewildering variety.

Location: The Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul