I am pleased to announce that I have received a portion of the 2013 James J. Paxson Memorial Travel Grant from the BABEL Working Group, to help defray the cost of my attendance at the 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo in a few weeks.
I will be presenting on Thursday, May 9, at 1:30 p.m., in Session 94 (Bernhard 210), “Hildegard von Bingen: Bridges to Infinity,” sponsored by the International Society of Hildegard von Bingen Studies. My paper is titled, “Imago expandit splendorem suum: Hildegard of Bingen’s Visio-Theological Designs in the Rupertsberg Scivias Manuscript.” I have copied the abstract below, and you can read the full text here.
A major point of contention within Hildegard studies is the question of her role in the production of the illuminated Scivias manuscript known as the Rupertsberg Codex. While current German scholarship has tended to preclude Hildegard’s hand, pre-war German scholars, who had access to the original manuscript before it was lost, and most modern Anglophone scholars have argued more or less strongly for Hildegard’s influence on the design. This paper argues for Hildegard’s direction of the images based on their function as a theological discourse refracting the text. By directing the iconography and composition of the images, Hildegard used them as a separate visual and theological discourse, equal to and interacting with the textual record of her visions. The images are not ancillary to or derivative of the work; they are integral to it. Points where the images depart from the text are to be understood not as evidence against Hildegard’s involvement but as authorial statements. A key area of the manuscript design that reveals these authorial interventions is the color scheme. The use of certain colors, such as green and red, that have particular meanings in Hildegard’s symbolic vocabulary—even when at odds with the colors described in the recorded vision text—reveals the theological place of each image within Hildegard’s perception of salvation history. Furthermore, the extensive use of silver in the manuscript—a costly and difficult decision, given silver’s tendency to tarnish—can be understood through the theological meanings with which Hildegard imbues the metallic pigment. Such visual markers invested with theological significance thus argue for Hildegard’s design of the manuscript and aid the viewer-reader in interpreting the complex visual allegories at work in Hildegard’s often enigmatic visions.