Doubts and Ambiguities in the Transmission of Ideas in a Medieval Latin Bestiary: Canterbury Cathedral Archives Lit. Ms D.10
By Diane Heath
Skepsi, Volume 2, Issue 2 (2009)
Abstract: This article connects medieval bestiary studies to doubts and the ambiguity of memory, so as not only to problematize the transmission of ideas from Late Antiquity and early medieval monasticism but also to consider how they imbricate contemporary visual theory on flaws. How did certain classical and early Christian ideas on nature and the visible and invisible worlds contest medieval cultural and literary norms in the medieval Latin bestiary? How does examining these tensions challenge our own perceptions?
By focusing on one chapter in a late thirteenth-century bestiary fragment in Canterbury Cathedral Archives, on the bear or ursus, this article examines how doubts expressed in the margins of the manuscript point to greater concerns about our perception of the value of late exemplars. It also shows how modern visual theory on flaws permits us to engage in a fruitful dialogue with those ideas about seeing developed in Late Antiquity and the early medieval period which are contained in the bestiary.
In conclusion, this article makes the ursus a site of doubt and the flaws in both medieval copying and contemporary image replication a means of looking afresh at the transmission of ideas.