We are delighted to announce that Molly Lewis, Art History student at the University of Manchester is the winner of the Association for Art History’s 2021 Undergraduate Dissertation Prize for the essay, ’Sinful, Sexual, Sacred: Locating a Thirteenth Century Visuality through the Selective Erasures in Rylands MS French 5’.
Molly’s dissertation was supervised by Dr Cordelia Warr.
Prize winning Abstract
Medieval vision is often conceived as shrouded in superstition and mystery, the mystical antithesis to the rational, objective, camera-obscura-like eye of the modern and contemporary West. The present study seeks to shed some light on the complexities overlooked in this dichotomous narrative by tracing the points at which medieval ocular passions manifest on the pages on a thirteenth century manuscript. The manuscript I have chosen is Rylands MS French 5, a markedly under-researched codex from the mid-thirteenth century. MS French 5 is remarkable for the predominance of its imagery and the carefully selective erasures that mar its pages. These erasures are directed, purposefully or not, at representations of the sinful, the sexual and the divine, and these three touch points guide the study through the hazardous terrain of medieval visuality and visual culture. Through situating the erased folios within their wider cultural context, this study will seek to return to them some of their original power to shock, disgust and arouse the viewer. The medieval ’period eye’ that emerges from this approach is one in flux; fusing old and new ways of seeing in an inherently paradoxical and superfluous mode of sight that resists easy classification