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Landscapes and Medieval Arts

Danielle Joyner, University of Notre Dame, Fellow 2014–2015

My year as a Garden and Landscape Studies fellow was incredibly productive and inspiring for me. I crystallized the outline for my new book project, Natures Seen, Shaped, and Tended: Rethinking Landscapes and Medieval Arts, which develops a new methodology that both challenges and advances current narratives about medieval art, artists, and their environments. First, to depart from the notion that art—especially painting—merely represents nature with sliding levels of exactitude, I examine varied media, such as diagrams, architecture, metalwork, and earthworks, that correspond to different interactions among people and environments. Second, to reflect on particular and broad medieval concerns, I cast a wide net from Italy to Scandinavia and from around AD 400 to 1450. Third, rather than distilling a single chronological or regional narrative, I selected diverse case studies and organized them into thematic chapters: space and perspective; experience and journey; cultivation and hunting; and death and burial. Since this study is not intended as a comprehensive narrative, I have chosen these themes because they flexibly encompass different media and traditions, acknowledge multiple functions for objects, and recognize varied interactions with the environment. While pursuing this larger project, I was also able to prepare drafts of two articles that expand on case studies for the book project. Ultimately, by exploring varied intersections among people, arts, and the environment, I hope to highlight the value of the arts for broader environmentally oriented questions in medieval studies, while also changing current assumptions about medieval arts and artists.