period-post

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Dialogue: Exposing the Rhetoric of Exclusion through Medieval Manuscripts

By Kristen Collins and Bryan Keene, originally published on the Getty Iris

We invite your thoughts on an exhibition-in-progress at the Getty that addresses the persistence of prejudice as seen through lingering stereotypes from the Middle Ages.

As curators in the Getty Museum’s department of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, we are interested in how books, and museum collections more broadly, can spark dialogues about inclusivity and diversity. Our manuscripts collection at the Getty consists primarily of objects from Western Europe, which can present challenges when trying to connect with a multicultural and increasingly international audience. 

We are striving to make connections between the Middle Ages and the contemporary world—connections that may not be immediately evident, but are powerful nonetheless. Museums are inherently political organizations, in terms of the ways that collections are assembled, displayed, and interpreted. This year’s meeting of the Association of Art Museum Curators addressed how institutional narratives and implicit bias can skew ideas of history and culture in ways that exclude minorities and gloss over the shameful aspects of our past. Groups such as the Medievalists of Color, the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages, the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship, and the Society for the Study of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages, among others, are applying similar lines of inquiry, seeking to decolonize and diversify the field of medieval studies. We stand with these groups.

We were also inspired by Holland Cotter’s call to arms, as he exhorted museums to tell the truth about art, “about who made objects, and how they work in the world, and how they got to the museum, and what they mean, what values they advertise, good and bad. Go for truth (which, like the telling of history, is always changing), and connect art to life.”

Here is our description of the exhibition, still in draft form:

Medieval manuscripts preserve stories of romance, faith, and knowledge, but their luxurious illuminations can reveal more sinister narratives as well. Typically created for the privileged classes, such books nevertheless provide glimpses of the marginalized and powerless and reflect their tenuous places in society. Attitudes toward Jews and Muslims, the poor, those perceived as sexual or gender deviants, and the foreign peoples beyond European borders can be discerned through caricature and polemical imagery, as well as through marks of erasure and censorship.

As repositories of history and memory, museums reveal much about our shared past, but all too often the stories told from luxury art objects focus on the elite. Through case studies of objects in the Getty’s collection, this exhibition examines the “out groups” living within western Europe. Medieval society was far more diverse than is commonly understood, but diversity did not necessarily engender tolerance. Life contained significant obstacles for those who were not fully abled, wealthy, Caucasian, Christian, heterosexual, cisgender males. For today’s viewer, the vivid images and pervasive narratives in illuminated manuscripts can serve as a stark reminder of the power of rhetoric and the danger of prejudice.

We begin the exhibition with a masterpiece of Romanesque painting, shown above. This manuscript, with its gilded pages and geometric symmetry, reveals the institutionalized antisemitism that formed the basis of Christian rhetoric about the triumph of the Church.

Ecclesia, the personification of the Christian Church, is seen above and to Christ’s right, while the Jewish Synagoga appears on Christ’s left. Often represented as a blindfolded figure, here Synagoga (in red robes) points at Christ, glaring. She holds a banderole representing Old Testament law that proclaims “cursed be he who hangs on the tree.” Below, two additional personifications echo and intensify the antithetical positions of these two figures. In a roundel below Ecclesia, the fair-skinned figure of Life (at far left) gazes calmly across the composition at Death, whose dark complexion and hook nose are seen in caricatures of Jews in other twelfth-century images.

We’d Like Your Comments

We are in the early stages of writing this exhibition, which is scheduled to be presented in the Getty’s manuscripts gallery in January 2018. As we create both the thematic content and the individual object texts—which we will be posting periodically on the Getty Tumblr—we are curious to receive community input. Specifically, we are curious to know any or all of the following:

  • Your level of interest in an exhibition of medieval and Renaissance art exploring these themes
  • Comments on the wording of the exhibition description we’ve shared above (as a whole or in any part)
  • Suggestions for perspectives and points of view we should consider in developing the exhibition
  • Any and all other suggestions or criticisms

Please reblog with your comments, DM us, or contact the curators directly by email at manuscripts@getty.edu.

I just wanted to let a few of you know that if you any of you who are writers of fiction or poetry (or even if you have a gnawing hunger to read more!) you should try Commaful to post your stuff. It’s this really pleasant community of writers who support and actually give back feedback on any work you post. I’ve been there for almost 7 months now and of all my poetry posts, I’ve never gotten one negative comment. I’ve never seen a negative comment on the site period. Each post is like this little slideshow of a book and they’re so easy to make and coming from a really bad place last year mentally with a lingering depression and years of not feeling good about my poetry, I’ve never felt more accepted or inspired until I joined. I hope any who reads or writes like I do checks it out. Commaful.com is so much better for you and your work than Tumblr is.

Also, follow me if you like it and I’ll follow back! I’m wethedreamers there. Come be sad with me and look at my poetry and I’ll look at yours. :)

neptune in the signs

neptune usually spends 14 years in each sign as part of it’s cycle. as the planet of idealism, illusion, creativity, escapism and spirituality, it tends to represent the cultural ideals of the time.

the aries generation: neptune was in aries from 1861 to 1875 and as such traditionally ariean traits like freedom and independence were in focus. serfdom was abolished in russia in 1861 and the emancipation proclamation of 1863 abolished slavery in the united states.

the taurus generation: neptune was in taurus from 1875 to 1889. this placement idealises security and material possessions and coincides with the so called “gilded age” in the united states. during this time, economic growth was rapid and many famously extravagant homes were built in areas like newport.

the gemini generation: neptune was in gemini from 1889 to 1902, and this generation particularly idealised intellect and communication. in the united kingdom, the “souls” group dominated intellectual life and in france this period encompasses much of the belle époque, during which writers like émile zola and colette first came to prominence. also, this period includes the beginning of the jewish golden age in hungary.

the cancer generation: neptune was in cancer from 1902 to 1916 and during this time the home and family life was idealised. the temperance movement and groups like the anti saloon league gained attention in the united states. the emergence of “new liberalism” in the united kingdom also saw the establishment of the foundational welfare state.

the leo generation: neptune was in leo from 1916 to 1929. the idealisation of youth, glamour and artistic expression can be seen in this period. the flapper subculture famously boomed in the united states and the growing film industry led to the creation of hollywood culture. in paris, many young expatriate authors published daring novels and created a scene where free expression was valued. 

the virgo generation: neptune was in virgo from 1929 to 1943. this placement idealises work, positive work ethics and education. many countries experienced a growth in labour forces and unionisation in this period and the “common man” was idealised in film, particularly in the work of directors like frank capra.

the libra generation: neptune was in libra from 1943 to 1957 and as such marriage and relationships were particularly idealised at this time. much of the post war period in culture was famously characterised by a focus on relationships and the “baby boom” is indicative of this placement.

the scorpio generation: neptune was in scorpio from 1957 to 1970, a period in which the idealisation of sex and transformation is particularly evident. in the united states, the sexual revolution began and psychedelic drugs and rock were tools of personal transformation. politically, protest movements in various countries show the desire for governmental transformation.

the sagittarius generation: neptune was in sagittarius from 1970 to 1985. in this period, the search for spiritual and philosophical meaning was idealised as well as different belief systems. eastern religions grew in popularity across the world and the televangelist phenomenon began. the 1970s are often known as the “me decade” due to the cultural focus on spiritual growth.

the capricorn generation: neptune was in capricorn from 1985 to 1998 and success and business were particularly idealised at this time. globalisation occurred at an increasingly fast pace and a distinct business culture developed, aided by technological advances.

the aquarius generation: neptune was in aquarius from 1998 to 2012. in this period, free thinking and inventiveness were idealised. the development of smart phones and the growth of the internet allowed for the development of new ideas. the emergence of social networks resulted in greater connectivity and understanding.

the pisces generation: neptune has been in pisces since 2012 and will be until 2026. during this time, compassion, spirituality and sensitivity will emerge as ideals. this can already be seen in the advances of the LGBTQ+ community and the growth of social activism.

*grabs megaphone*

*clears throat*

PERIODS ARE NOT “JUST GIRLY THINGS”. THEY ARE NOT ONLY WOMEN’S THINGS. PERIODS ARE NOT JUST LADIES’ THINGS. TRANS GUYS AND AFAB ENBIES EXIST.

Thank you.

Oh, and also…

PERIODS ARE NOT AN “ALL LADIES” THING EITHER. TRANS WOMEN EXIST.

Love ya, girls.

Hey there friends since it’s Endometriosis Awareness Month (and also Endo Awareness Week I’m pretty sure) here’s some important info about it:
  • Endometriosis affects one (1) in ten (10) people assigned female at birth
  • It’s when the lining of the uterus grows outside in other areas of the body
  • Its common symptoms are pelvic pain, abdominal pain, lower back pain, heavy/abnormal menstrual bleeding, painful intercourse, nausea, extreme fatigue, digestive problems, and sometimes fertility problems
  • You don’t need all those symptoms to have endometriosis
  • Anyone at any age, race, and identity can be affected as long as they’ve started their period
  • It doesn’t just affect you during your cycle (I’ve been wiped out from this for months now so trust me, I know.)
  • Many doctors, GP’s, and even gynaecologists don’t know much about it
  • Halsey, Whoopi Goldberg, Chaz Bono, Dolly Parton, Daisy Ridley, Marilyn Monroe, Cyndi Lauper, Yuki Murofushi, and even Hillary Clinton all have endo
  • Surgery isn’t the only solution, and birth control, acupuncture and natural medicines usually end up working better anyway
  • There currently isn’t a cure for it

And remember: heavy and painful periods aren’t normal, they’ve just been normalised. You aren’t making it up or overrreacting, and you don’t deserve to suffer like this.

Love n spoons 💕