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qu0thraven in medievalstudies

The Bayeux Tapestry

I am brainstorming a topic for my class and would be excited to hear other's thoughts on this topic.  Any thoughts at all are of interest to me because I am ashamed to admit that I had not heard of this before.  Perhaps that is why I chose this one for my paper.  I know the basics at this point; history of the Norman conquest, not it isn't really a tapestry but embroidery, Latin, only a few people named, very few women depicted, end of tapestry missing etc. 

What is most interesting to me at this point are the borders.  I have read so far that they depict Aesops fables, some other medieval folktales, sometimes seem to be related to the story, sometime not.  May signify dissent of those who made tapestry and disagreed with the way this history was recorded etc.  I have found several interesting sites, articles and mention of books.  Any recommended resources, one's I should not miss? 

I hope it does not look like I am asking other's to do my work for me.  I think better in discussion and just sort of need a place to start.  Thanks.


Other very helpful basics (necessary ones if you're an undergraduate):

How large is it?
When was it made?
Where was it made?
How was it made? (It isn't enough to know that it's an embroidery and not a tapestry, it really helps to know what those things are and how someone in the C11th would go about making one)
Who was it likely to have been made by?
Who was likely to have been the patron (who paid for it)?
Where was it originally intended to be displayed? (if known - if not, what are the theories?)

As for resources, I'd avoid using anything online that isn't an academic resource - this is a very famous work, and very famous works attract loads of theories, not all of which are academically rigorous. I'd stick to academic journals (use JSTOR if your institution gives you access) and books.

Also, as you're interested in the borders, Michael Camille's 'Image on the Edge' will be well worth a look (it's not the newest piece of scholarship, but it's accessible, good quality, and fun to read - and it'll give you essential context for studying this work).

I hope at least some of that was helpful :)

Very Helpful

Thank you for bringing up the basics. I am already aware of most if it but I tend to overlook such things as bland and uninteresting while looking for a novel angle or some illuminating tidbit previously overlooked. I am reminded that these basics are in fact essential because they form a basis and a broad context for any further argument.

Academic journals, got it. JSTOR, check. The book looks fabulous, thanks. I was thinking about checking symbolism and imagery in general. I mean from what little I know pictures played a big role in communication; such as trade signs, pennents, coats of arms etc.
This shows an English copy of the tapestry (with the rude bits taken out) but it's not a bad place to start.
Aw, man. No naughty bits?

No, thanks, that helps a lot.
I actually did a bit of work on the Bayeux Tapestry a while back, including some discussion of the borders. Here are two sources that talk about what you're looking for - you may have already come across them, in fact:

Suzanne Lewis, The Rhetoric of Power in the Bayeux Tapestry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999

J. Bard McNulty, The Narrative Art of the Bayeux Tapestry Master. New York: AMS Press, 1989.

Good luck!
Thank you so much for the suggestions and the well wishes!
You know what I love about that tapestry? "...ubi unus clericus et Ælfgyva."

It is a section of the tapestry with...wait for it....PENIS. Being that my forte is sexuality in the medieval context in art history, I love this bitty.

It shows a nun, Ælfgyva, being "chin chucked," by a priest. According to Michael Camille's, "The Medieval Art of Love," chin chucking was used in romantic art not as a symbol of sweetness, but rather that of breaching boundaries. In this case, it was likely rape. The nun stands in a post-lintel columned structure, and the priest is reaching his hand in, a blatant symbol of penetration. If that doesn't do it for you, there is a smaller man int he margin, butt-ass-nekid with an outreached arm that is position directly beneath the genitalia of the female. It truly would be no surprise that rape occurred, especially on the nunnery front. I think I remember the real question being: who was this nun and why was she labeled by name?

Michael Camille has excellent work on medieval art, and sexuality! But of course my only in depth knowledge about it comes from that segment alone.

If that's an area you want to look into, I'll pop open my filing cabinet and site some more articles and books with more information than I can remember atm.
Wow, that is facinating. While my focus here does not deal with sexuality, this information gives me an excellent example of how the border images relate to, enhances maybe even sometimes undermines the narrative meaning.

While I suspect that understanding sexuality is the key to true equallity, I am not comfortable enough with modern sexuality to delve too deeply into it in the past.

Still I should leave no boulder unturned (don't have time for the stones). And though it won't be necessary at this point I am touched by your offer to share your cites with me.
If you ever get the chance to look into medieval sexuality it's really rather interesting. There is so much that is so different to what we are accustomed too, and many assumptions we make about the period that are wrong. And at the same time some amusing similarities in connection to class and sexuality.

80% of my books are on the topic. Besides, sex is such a great way to keep you interested in getting research done!
I was also a TA in art history for three years. One nice little "duh" tid bit is that Halley's comet was stitched into the tapestry as an additional positive dating method.
I am trying not to get distracted by this tid bit. It is a shiny detail to me because I remember seeing the comet when I was young which is so irrelevant. but I shouldn't ignore it either.
Thank you so much everyone. This was very rewarding research and I hope I am able to revisit it sometime in my future as well as going to check it out in person.