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Reviewed by:
  • Resonances: Historical Essays on Continuity and Change ed. by Nils Holger Petersen, Eyolf Østrem, and Andreas Bücker
  • Roderick McDonald
Petersen, Nils Holger, Eyolf Østrem, and Andreas Bücker, eds, Resonances: Historical Essays on Continuity and Change (Ritus et Artes, 5), Turnhout, Brepols, 2011; hardback; pp. x, 266; 12 b/w, 4 colour illustrations; R.R.P. €80.00; ISBN 9782503534930.

The essays that comprise this volume are largely concerned with liturgical, theological, and spiritual topics. But beyond this ostensible theological focus, these studies reach out well beyond, into their social and cultural conditions, their historical contexts, their transformations, and their receptions. They are the result of a project of the Centre for the Study of the Cultural Heritage of Medieval Rituals, at the Theological Faculty at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in particular drawing from the fourth conference of the centre, 'The Cultural Heritage of Medieval Rituals IV: Transformations of Discourse', held in the summer of 2007.

Despite the volume's subtitle implying a disciplinary limit to the scope of this collection ('historical essays'), the conference title - transformations of discourse - provides a more precise indication of the types of essays presented here. This collection casts a wide net across a range of disciplines, and is largely concerned with narrative and discourse analysis of its wide variety of material. Editor Nils Holger Petersen, in his Introduction, makes it explicit from the outset that the work of the project, and the works in this volume, are fundamentally about analysis of historical narratives within particular disciplines: history, the visual arts, musicology, archaeology, philosophy, and [End Page 333] theology, with the ten essays ordered around a continuity/change theme and divided into three sections: 'continuity', 'change', and 'permanence'.

The essays range across a diversity of material: the theology and ideology of martyrdom; the cultural and political contexts of images of the Virgin Mary and 'the sacred face' in the Middle Ages; discourse analysis of speeches as historiography; transformation of sixteenth-century German liturgical ritual; the expansion and modern reception of the Mona Lisa; early modern representations of Bernard of Clairvaux; and transformation and perseverance in Augustinian discourse.

The volume concludes with two somewhat different types of essays. Both consider critical interpretive issues involved in how we 'do' medieval studies, and both are worthwhile contributions to the ongoing development of the critical apparatuses in play in our work. Rob C. Wegman ('Blowing Bubbles in the Postmodern Era') muses on his journeys within and away from postmodernism, while Eyolf Østrem ('History and Humour: "Spartacus" and the Existence of the Past') considers issues of humour, representation, and medievalism in popular culture and how we negotiate meaning from the now and then, the present and the past.

In all, this is a valuable, and in places challenging, collection that delivers important observations and analyses across a variety of topic areas.

Roderick McDonald
Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Research
Swansea University


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pp. 333-334
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