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186 LEITERS IN CANADA 1998 and ... her unconsciolls,' or that the 'sadistic violence in martyrology' is 'a special case of pornography,' strikes the reader not only as historically wrong but as not following from the previous discussion. Clearly the genre of hagiography makes Delany uncomfortable, but statements about the depiction of violence in our culture's slasher films, or Marx's dictum on religion as the opiate of the masses, are ahistoricat implying one interpretation for all time. Despite this awkward framing, I believe the middle chapters of Impolitic Bodies stand as an important contribution to a history of the body - a testimony to the differences (not sameness) this wondrous physical-mental constructhas taken in the past, particulary in that hazy,but now somewhat less dull, bridge between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. (JUDITH DEITCH) Jeffrey F. Hamburger. Nuns as Artists: The Visual Culture ofa Medieval Convent University of California Press 1997. xxiv, 318. us $55.00 Jeffrey Hamburger's Nuns as Artists recreates the context and meaning for a dazzling set oflittle-known devotional drawings produced in the German Benedictine convent of St Walsburg around 1500. These drawings are uniquely situated. Not only are they examples of the neglected genre of Nonnenarbeiten - work by nuns for their own lise rather than for displaybut this group of twelve drawings seems to have been produced by a single female hand. Yet more striking is the original and unprecedented nature of the iconography employed. In the course of deciphering this iconography, Hamburger takes us to the very centre ofconventual devotion, demonstrating how these images are situated at the crossroads of corporate worship and private meditation. The book is amply illustrated by a series of excellent reproductions - not simply of the twelve central drawings themselves , but of other contemporary works of related style or iconography. Framed by chapters examining the larger visual context for these drawings (chapter 1) and the place of Nonnenarbeiten in the religious world (chapter 5), the central chapters (2-4) address the- nuanced imagery employed in several of the more obscure drawings. These analyses are painstaking and masterful. Chapter 2 focuses on the image of Christ's agony in the garden of Gethsernane - a scene which is, unprecedentedly, framed within a rose_ Hamburger explicates this anomalous imagery by analysing the rose both as a symbol of private prayer (witness the rosary) and as a zone of symbolic contradictions (pain, pleasure, love, suffering, sexuality, spirituality). From within the rose frame, Christ stares out, provoking an exchange of glances between himselfand theviewer and thus both imparting a 'reflexive character' to the image and foregrounding vision as an integral part of prayer. 'The woman who held the drawing of the rose as she prayed would simply have seen herself imitating Christ, who in the drawing sets an example by praying before an image ofhis own HUMANITIES 187 Passion.' The potential for too literal a degree of imitation in terms of physical penance would be curbed by the picture's caption 'Not what I will but what thou wilt.' These words, resonating differently for the suffering Christ and the meditating nun, served to reinforce monastic obedience. Chapter 3 analyses two symbolic Crucifixions, deciphering the creative ways of enlisting the viewer's identification through imitation and vision. Thus in one drawing the viewer, witnessing the crucified and pierced body of Christ, is asked to identify with Mary - pierced by five swords and positioned over the cross. But in the second, construed by Hamburger as a kind of 'close-up' of the first, the enlarged heart-shaped wound in Christ's side opens up to reveal a nun (the viewer) happily enclosed within. The two images I epitomize an entire system of devotion, one predicated on the worshiper's ability to close the distance between herself and God through a step-by-step imitatio Christi.' Yet, while abetting prayer and meditation, suchimagery, however idiosyncratic, is stillexpressive ofa corporate ethos. This is especially apparent in chapter 4, which examines two representations of the soul enclosed within a heart. One envisions the soul merrily feasting at an eucharistic banquet within Christ's heart with the church, representing the entire community, framed in the background...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 186-187
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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