"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Performing the Gospels in Byzantium

There are certain verbs and nouns which become trendy and suddenly one sees their proliferation in book and article titles for a decade or so. "Performing" is one such, and is seen in this recent publication of a book that sheds light on Middle Byzantine liturgics and art: Performing the Gospels in Byzantium: Sight, Sound, and Space in the Divine Liturgy  by Roland Betancourt  (Cambridge University Press, 2021), 320pp. About this book the publisher tells us this: 

Tracing the Gospel text from script to illustration to recitation, this study looks at how illuminated manuscripts operated within ritual and architecture. Focusing on a group of richly illuminated lectionaries from the late eleventh century, the book articulates how the process of textual recitation produced marginalia and miniatures that reflected and subverted the manner in which the Gospel was read and simultaneously imagined by readers and listeners alike. This unique approach to manuscript illumination points to images that slowly unfolded in the mind of its listeners as they imagined the text being recited, as meaning carefully changed and built as the text proceeded. By examining this process within specific acoustic architectural spaces and the sonic conditions of medieval chant, the volume brings together the concerns of sound studies, liturgical studies, and art history to demonstrate how images, texts, and recitations played with the environment of the Middle Byzantine church.

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