- Emblemata Sacra: Rhétorique et herméneutique du discours sacré dans la littérature en images
Not many conferences give rise to two significant publications, but this is the case with the conference on Emblemata Sacra: Rhetoric and Hermeneutics in Illustrated Religious Literature hosted in 2005 by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the Université Catholique de Louvain. 2006 saw the publication of a catalogue of the exhibition of religious emblem books that was mounted as part of that conference, and which thereafter traveled to St Joseph' s University, Philadelphia, and thence to Fordham. The catalogue, Emblem Books from the Maurits Sabbe Library, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, is not only richly illustrated, but also includes substantial scholarly commentaries by Marc van Vaeck and by Ralph Dekoninck and Agnès Guiderdoni-Bruslé. These latter two scholars have now also produced this very substantial collection of thirty-eight essays proceeding from the conference. The opening phrase of the title, Emblemata sacra, does not do justice to the breadth of subject matter contained in these papers. A number do indeed focus on religious emblematic works, but many others explore other manifestations of illustrated religious discourse in a wider context. The papers are all either in French or in English, and in all cases a short summary in English is given. The works studied are primarily from the seventeenth century, and the majority are French, but Dutch and Spanish are also represented. Not surprisingly, the emphasis is strongly on Catholic spirituality, and the writings of members of the Society of Jesus form the specific subject of a large number of papers, and the meditational techniques laid down by Ignatius Loyola are cited in many others.
The majority of essays treat the subject of discours sacré in illustrated printed books, but several move away from text to embrace painting, church decoration, printed music, and drama. In general, this breadth of approach enriches the collection, though in one or two cases-such as, for example, a paper on emblems and twentieth-century advertising, and another on Maurice Scève -the relevance of the subject matter to that of the overall collection seems slightly strained. The editors have sought to impose a structure on the rich diversity of papers by dividing them into seven sections: "Questions d' histoire et de méthodes, " "Exég èse de l' Ecriture et de la Création, " "L' Image in absentia, " "Rhétorique et poétique de l' image, " "Le spectacle de l' image, " "La circulation des images entre sensibilités religieuses," and "L' efficace de l' image. " Although a number of the works discussed [End Page 963] in articles here are familiar, many others are not at all well known, and this volume will perform an important role in bringing them to the attention of other scholars working in the field of illustrated spiritual discourse.
In view of this unfamiliarity of many of the works discussed here, it is unfortunate that this collection does not contain a consolidated bibliography at the end, or even an individual bibliography at the end of each paper. Had a consolidated bibliography been included, it would have added an important dimension to the collection as a useful research tool. As it is, it is only in the footnotes that bibliographical references are given. It is equally a pity that, given the importance of the theme of illustration in this collection, although most of the papers do include four or five black-and-white plates, a surprising number of them that describe various visual triggers and would clearly have benefited from illustrations, do not include these.
But despite these shortcomings, this impressive collection of essays provides an invaluable addition to scholarship, opening up as it does the broader spiritual context in which emblematic religious writings should be situated. [End Page 964]