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Rethinking "Romanesque;" Re-Engaging Roman[z]

Linda Seidel
Gesta
Vol. 45, No. 2, 50th Anniversary of the International Center of Medieval Art (2006), pp. 109-123
DOI: 10.2307/25067135
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25067135
Page Count: 15
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Rethinking "Romanesque;" Re-Engaging Roman[z]
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Abstract

This paper takes as its topic the term Romanesque as it has been used by English-speaking scholars to identify European art of the eleventh and twelfth centuries for nearly two hundred years, at first tentatively, as one of several alternate terms (Byzantine, Norman, Saxon), but for much of the time without reflection as the primary designation. Rather than argue that we should abandon it because of the diachronic and inherently negative image it delineates of descent and decline from Roman antiquity, I shall enthusiastically embrace it, suggesting ways in which it can function as a more productive name than we realize. Rethinking the term, in light of a richer etymological history than has heretofore been presented, and in the context of recently recovered remnants of Roman construction in Gaul, moves us beyond characterization of structural and stylistic features in art and architecture, and reorients us toward thematic aspects and points of view, akin to the manner in which the terms Baroque or Rococo are recognized as defining key visual components of the pictorial art of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

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