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REVIEWS tual vitality than one would gain from slogging through the inter­ minable imitations ofChaucer. The greatest figure ofthe period, of course, is Lydgate. Davenport finds his influence important at every turn, and the book ends with a charged, tightly packed series of suggestions about Lydgate's connections, through Chaucer's family, with the court and the noble patrons ofthe arts in East Anglia. His hometown, Bury St. Edmunds, as Gail Gibson has already sug­ gested, begins increasingly to look like an important dramatic center, and his influence in that part of England demands further study. Anyone interested in any aspect of the literature of late­ medieval England will find this a welcome book, the sort one returns to for ideas to enrich one's own understanding ofan impor­ tant period in English literature. STANLEYJ. KAHRL Ohio State University JOHN V. FLEMING, From Bonaventure to Bellini: An Essay in Fran­ ciscan Exegesis. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982. Pp. xviii, 171. $25.00 cloth; $12.50 paper. This book, a sophisticated and detailed exegesis ofa single paint­ ing, Giovanni Bellini's Saint Francis, raises an obvious question: Not a book of literary criticism and not about the period usually classified as the Middle Ages, what does it have to offer students of medieval literature? That John V. Fleming is a literary historian provides a partial answer; more important, his concerns remain the concerns of a literary iconographer. To rediscover meaning in Bel­ lini's painting, he explores the relationship between text and image within the tradition ofmedieval Franciscan spirituality. Thus when Fleming examines a given image, pictorial or verbal, he is neces­ sarily expanding its medieval meaning. The book is therefore ex­ actly what its subtitle indicated, "An Essay in Franciscan Exegesis." Such an exegesis is grounded in the assumption that what is necessary is a deep and thorough understanding ofthe major Fran189 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER ciscan writers, most especially Bonaventure, and a similar under­ standing of the biblical tradition on which the Franciscan sources and indeed the Franciscan movement are based. To someone only casually acquainted with either tradition, there will be a temptation to see in the book a series ofoveringenious explications ofthe realia of the painting, as if Fleming were fitting together a mosaic of meaning by finding exactly the right tesserae from an impressive pile of scriptural, patristic, and visual sources. On the contrary, Fleming's point, as I take it, and with which I entirely agree, is that it is necessary to use a deductive rather than an inductive method. He does not proceed by isolating, let us say, the image ofthe jug in the painting and then exhausting its scriptural and patristic associa­ tions. Rather he writes the book by the more sensible though difficult method of first immersing himselftotally in the tradition. As he himself puts it: "Though the iconographer must perforce attempt to explain the whole in terms ofits parts, those parts in fact claim meaning only by warrant ofthe whole" (p. 128). Nonetheless, as Fleming implies, this tradition must be pre­ sented piecemeal; each chapter defines a major concern of Fran­ ciscan spirituality and through rigorous analysis guides the reader through the ways in which it is made flesh in the painting. Depend­ ing on the gap between the tradition and one's own understanding and sensibility, following the analysis may be a demanding task for the reader. Fortunately, even the most intricate ofthese are written with energy, elegance, and wit. What the painting embodies, finally, is not "moments from the history ofFrancis" but rather "integrated emblems ofthe Francis of history" (p. 159). It is, in other words, a kind of summation of the Franciscan tradition, including but not limited to Francis as a desert saint, surrounded by commonplace emblems ofthe monastic desert tradition; Francis coming in the power and spirit of Elijah, whose stigmatization echoes the Transfiguration of Christ; the Franciscan order as an order unique in the leadership, renewal, and purifica­ tion ofthe church; and Francis as the apocalyptic prophet ofa final call to penance. All ofthis is a lotoffreight for one painting to carry, however rich, and it is a reflection ofthe depth ofthe...


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