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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

'The Lindisfarne Gospels: The Performative Voice of Gospel Manuscripts'

21st May 2013, 17:30, Birley Room, Hatfield College , Dr Carol Farr, Independent Scholar, London

The Lindisfarne Gospels was probably displayed to its monastic community on important occasions but also had broader public reception, even if simply by the fame that led eventually to its being glossed in Old English. Moreover, its text, the gospels, played an active public role in the early medieval Christian world: it was presented orally in liturgies, it proclaimed the moment of salvation given by Christ at the Last Supper, and it was Christ’s story to be told to the world. Modern art historical study of the Lindisfarne Gospels has tended, with some exceptions, to understand the manuscript’s decoration either in terms of an individual’s contemplation of the Word or of late seventh- and early eighth-century artistic contexts. In this talk, I will examine connections of its design and decoration with the performative of the gospels. The term ‘performative’ refers not only to its possible viewing during the performance of the liturgy but also the ways in which, as an important copy of the gospels, it was intended to embody the action of the Word in its community. Comparisons with a limited number of Insular gospel books will further highlight the individuality Lindisfarne Gospels’ performative dimension.

Dr Carol Farr is an art historian and specialist in the art of early medieval Britain and Ireland. She has published a book and several studies on the Book of Kells, as well as on a number of other manuscripts connected with Irish and Anglo-Saxon contexts of the seventh through eleventh centuries, including the Lindisfarne Gospels, and on the female audience of Anglo-Saxon sculpture. Formerly associate professor of art history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, she has, since 1997, been based in London where she continues her research and teaching as an independent scholar.

The lecture will be followed by a reception and opportunities for further discussion.

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