COLLECTING THE DESERT IN THE CAROLINGIAN WEST L ynda L. C oon Abstract The Egyptian desert summoned for its early medieval progeny memories of a past age of superhuman askêsis that posed a challenge to Carolingian attempts at Benedictine hegemony. In response, the architects of ninth-century monas- tic reform labored to present their votaries with a carefully controlled mem- ory of the Egyptian past, and they did so through a propagandistic aesthetic of literary, visual, and ritual “bricolage.” Ja ≤ Elsner de ﬁ nes this aesthetic of bricolage as an artistic form based on symbolic ownership of the past through the display of ancient spolia on contemporary monuments (e.g., the sculptured reliefs collected from past, imperial regimes and exhibited as spolia on the Arch of Constantine) or the layering of present-day texts with past literary forms (e.g., Christian typological exegesis of Hebrew Scripture). Similarly, for the Carolingians, who also ventured into the artistic realm of bricolage, col- lecting, embodying, and displaying were methods of exerting control over the past. Introduction Carolingian ascetic intellectuals were connoisseurs and collectors of the textual and material vestiges of the Golden Age of desert asceti- cism. For example, the Carolingian monastic reformer, Benedict
Church History and Religious Culture (formerly Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis) – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2006
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