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Anglo-saxon Propaganda in the Bayeux Tapestry (Studies in French Civilization) Hardcover – 31 Oct 2004


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Review

"The Bayeux Tapestry is perhaps the most famous surviving artwork from the medieval period. Its depictions of the events surrounding the victory of William at the Battle of Hastings are familiar to scholars, school children and a broad general public. Yet whilst this remarkable object offers invaluable testimony to this pivotal moment in English history, nine hundred years later it poses two significant questions for the modern viewer. First, where was it made? Secondly - and more intriguing - how was it read? Clermont-Ferrand begins by addressing this first question, for it is the key with which we may hope to unlock the second. Recent art-historical discussions have sought to locate production in either England or Normandy, citing artistic style, linguistic detail and military expertise amongst a range of arguments to build support for each. Building upon this foundation, Clermont-Ferrand argues convincingly for English production - more precisely a Canterbury workshop - under the patronage of the Norman Bishop Odo of Bayeux, Earl of Kent. And it is this dynamic, of a Norman propaganda piece made by a workshop of the recently subjugated nation, that allows for the possibility of a dual reading of the Tapestry." - Dr Paul Hardwick, Trinity & All Saints, UK "[This] is literally an eye-opening study that adds a new and important dimension of meaning to an important visual text. It is also wittily and authentically written. The iconography of the Bayeux Tapestry has been explored in the past almost exclusively from the Norman perspective. The heart of Clermont-Ferrand's book details previously unnoticed elements in the composition of the story the tapestry tells, and convincingly interprets the social and political meaning of those signs. The author sets out to answer such questions as, "What does it mean that William the Conqueror is never called King?' and "How are we to 'read' Harold Godwinson's rescue of the Norman soldiers at Couesnon so reminiscent of Christ's Harrowing of Hell?" (Preface ix), following her suspicions that a subtext underlie the primary text of the tapestry, this being a common feature of medieval texts. She concludes that the tapestry is more about the vanquished Harold, and its patron, Odo, than about the conquering hero. The result is not only a robust subtext, but a politically subversive text, designed for a very different purpose and a very different audience from that intended for the surface text." (From the Commendatory Preface) Christine Herold, The College of Saint Rose"

About the Author

Dr. Meredith Clermont-Ferrand obtained her PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1999. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Medieval Literature at Eastern Connecticut State University and Editor of the literary Journal Connecticut Review.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x8baef51c) out of 5 stars 1 review
HASH(0x8ba36498) out of 5 stars Apparently a PhD disertation. 31 Jan. 2011
By D. P. Long - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This reads like a PhD dissertation. It's a mix of detective work and art history, building on previous interpretations. Every interpretation of the Bayeux Tapestry starts with observing the tapestry, what is and is not included, correlating that to the existing historical record, and then spinning the observations. The short summary: Odo, William's brother, commissioned the tapestry to make himself look better to the English, and the (anonymous but apparently English) artisans took the opportunity to slip some of their own propaganda into the tapestry in the process. Of course, there is more to it than that, but that's the short version.
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