PhD candidate Andrea C. Snow has published a new article in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft. Titled “Distorted, Dismembered, Diffused: Rethinking the Body in Old Norse Material Culture,” it examines the strange and schematized bodies that populate Viking Age art.
From the late-eighth through the early-twelfth centuries, medieval Norse objects represented the human body in varying states of ambiguity. While the Latin West would establish conventions for representing figures that visibly asserted the emotive expressivity of the face and body to circumscribe the beholder’s expected emotional (and spiritual) comportment, the figures represented in medieval Norse art are lacking in physiognomic distinctions such as defined facial features or somatic expressions of emotion. If their anatomical configurations do not appear to convey behavioral codes, then what could they refer to? What cultural factors contributed to their distortion, and how were they read by their intended beholders? This article argues that such enigmatic bodies did not represent human anatomy as it appeared before the eye, but gestured to a broad, flexible, and supernatural corporeality that transgressed the divisions between divine, human, and animal of Latin Western art and thought.
You can read it online now via ProjectMUSE! (link for HTML-ing is here: https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/47556)