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Lectures in Art History: Jacqueline Jung, Yale University
September 29 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
“The Gothic Body: Hands, Touch, and Presence in Thirteenth-Century Sculpture”
Register to attend below.
Zoom link will be emailed to registrants 24 hours in advance of the lecture
The sculpted bodies on Gothic cathedrals represent a wide swath of characters — angels and saints, biblical heroes and historical luminaries, local donors and representatives of far-off lands. But beneath their varied appearances, these figures are unifed by a robust corporeal presence that is underscored by the activity of their hands. Their manual activity goes beyond the sort of conventional gestural language that conveys speech. In the way that hands or fingers balance attributes, press against each other or against other body parts, grasp or point at others, manipulate clothing, or perform other sorts of meaningful or superfluous movements, they suggest a shared existence with living people as sensate beings in the physical world. This form of “haptic mimesis” (a term I borrow from film theory) offers insights into medieval understandings of the whole body as a vehicle of perception and communication, complementing or even providing an alternative to the dominance accorded optical vision in theoretical writings and two-dimensional arts. Oriented toward the diverse array of beholders moving before them, Gothic sculptural bodies called attention not only to the act of looking but also to the wider physical sensorium through which people understood each other and the world.
Jacqueline Jung is Associate Professor at Yale University, where she teaches on various forms of medieval European art with a special focus on 13th-century architecture, imagery, and varieties of religious practice. Her new book, Eloquent Bodies: Movement, Expression, and the Human Figure in Gothic Sculpture, appeared this summer from Yale University Press. It develops the interest in the artistic shaping of sacred environments she explored in her first book, The Gothic Screen: Space, Sculpture and Community in the Cathedrals of France and Germany, 1200-1400 (Cambridge University Press, 2013).