Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

A Place to Believe In: Locating Medieval Landscapes

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

A Place to Believe In: Locating Medieval Landscapes

Article excerpt

A Place to Believe In: Locating Medieval Landscapes. Edited by Clare A. Lees and Gillian R. Overing. (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2006. Pp. x, 272. $65.00 clothbound; $25.00 paperback.)

A collection of ten essays, edited by Clare A. Lees and Gillian R. Overing, is an extension of a conference, "A Place to Believe in: Medieval Monasticism in the Landscape," which brought together the contributors in Whitby (now North Ridding) in the summer of 2003 "in order to think about place while in place (p. 24)."

The volume offers an insight into the workings of complementary fragmentation in medieval historiography. Due to greater division of labor and the bringing together of diverse subdisciplines, every one of which presents different political or ideological motivations as well as different attitudes toward an archive and evidence, such a historiographie strategy presents a reader with a nuanced understanding of the distinction between space and place. Gesturing toward Michel Foucault's analysis of spatial power relations, Michel de Certeau's spatial practices, Pierre Bourdieu's reflexive sociology, and the most recent work in the field of "human/spatial geography," the editors give us an exceËent introduction which describes the scope of the volume, drawing attention to the multiple readings of the concept of place - that is, as a place that "gathers" objects/things, which are both engendered by it and engender it; as a site of and for cultural memory; as a place that identifies a community on the geo-political map; as a locus of material structures; as a place that aUows for the construction of the relationship between these structures and the bodies moving within it; as a place that reveals material and immaterial, real and imaginary, royal and ecclesiastical power relations; and finaUy, as a place that charts geographies of desire, abjection, and devotion in Anglo-Saxon England.

A Place to Believe In is divided into three parts. Part One, "Place Matters," a clear reference to Butlerian "mattering of bodies," consists of essays which deal with Anglo-Saxon monuments, monasteries, and mutable boundaries. Fred Orton is concerned with the Bewcastle Monument, famiËar to many art historians, and how a Heideggerian notion of a built thing could "matter" the monument anew. Focusing on Bede's silence on the geography around him in Ecclesiastical History, Ian Wood puts forth a suggestion that this silence "unmattered" the attention to Jarrow and thus created the impression of a region much more marginalized than it really was. …

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