The Ottonians and the Word: Gospel Books as Objects, Images, and Texts
Lecture by Susannah Fisher
Given at the The Material Text in Pre-Modern and Early Modern Europe Symposium, at Bard College, on March 5, 2014
Introduction: The title of my talk is a homage to that of Rosamond McKitterick’s seminal book The Carolingians and the Written Word, in which we she deftly argued that centuries before the so-called rebirth of literacy in the eleventh century, writing played a profound role in ninth century France and Germany. Over the successive quarter of a century, the status, reception, ornamentation and illustration of the written word during the Carolingian period was re-examined by historians and art historians alike.
A similarly transformative reappraisal of the written word and literacy in the Ottonian period, however, has not been widely undertaken. Examinations of public life, ritual and visual representation, rather than textual communication, continues to be the focus. Today therefore I would like to consider issues of the material texts, literacy and the status of the written word in Ottonian Germany, as they coalesce at the site of deluxe liturgical manuscripts.