Aarhus Universitetsforlag

Animation between Magic, Miracles and Mechanics

Principles of Life in Medieval Imagery

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295 sider
ISBN 978 87 7219 653 4

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When it comes to images, we are all animists. Deep down, we all know that images can – at least potentially – be alive or come to life. Nowadays, we may tend to rationalize our ingrained animism and explain it away as a mere projection only happening in the space between image and viewer. In the Middle Ages, however, imagery made enthusiastic use of magical, miraculous and mechanical means of animation, empowered and ensouled by both natural and supernatural principles of life. This animist book investigates magic, miracles and mechanics as motors of animation and seeks to understand the living image in solidarity with medieval experience rather than dismissive alienation of it.

Effigies did bleed, weep or lactate, either through divine intervention or through hydraulic machinery. Statues did move or speak, either as demonic oracles or as talking heads with implanted speaking tubes. Marvels made by magic or by miracles were real, as real as the wonders of physical mechanics moving bodily matter. We just need to look and listen more carefully to comprehend these fluid realities, even when – especially when – they challenge our received worldview. Animation was by no means uncontested or uncontradicted, but even its stiffest critics knew that gods and demons could intervene in inanimate matter to set it in motion, to speak in tongues and exude the liquids of life.

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