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Festschrift honouring a pioneer of Insular Iconography

29 Jun 2011

A festschrift honouring the pioneering work in Insular Studies of Dr. Jennifer L. O’Reilly has been published by Cork University Press. Jennifer O'Reilly, who taught medieval history at University College Cork, played a key role in establishing the undergraduate degree programme in the History of Art in Cork. In 2005 she was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, while in 2007 she was enrolled as a member of the Royal Irish Academy in acknowledgement of her work in the field of Insular Studies.

The collection of academic papers entitled, Listen, O Isles, unto me: Studies in Medieval Word and Image in honour of Jennifer O’Reilly was edited by two of O’Reilly’s former students, Dr. Elizabeth Mullins, who teaches in the School of History and Archives, University College Dublin and Dr. Diarmuid Scully, who currently lectures in the School of History, University College Cork. O’Reilly’s extensive interests in the insular and medieval world are reflected in contributions to this volume. Her concern for the transformation of the inheritance of Late Antiquity in the early medieval West, particularly in Irish and Anglo-Saxon monastic culture, is reflected in her scholarly concerns for the interplay between text and image and various iconographic themes in Early Christian, medieval and Renaissance art, including: aspects of the Incarnation and Passion; the Tree of Life; Virtues and Vices; symbolic architecture, maps, diagrams and images of divine order and inner journeys; scribal, author and donor portraits.

The study is divided into three parts. The first section, ‘Inheritance and Transmission’, sets the scene with contributions examining the interplay of Classical and Christian topoi in Late Antique texts; Continental commentators’ appropriation of patristic ideas both directly and through Irish and Anglo-Saxon intermediaries; the representation of Ireland in English and Continental sources. The second section, ‘Monasticism in the Age of Bede’, focuses initially on Bede as heresiologist, exegete, martyrologist and historian, addressing issues that include the cult of saints, reform, and the representation of women. These themes are continued in the section’s other papers; views of conception and birth, the cult of St Gregory the Great, and the understanding of scripture in Adomnán’s Life of Columba. The third section, ‘Exegesis and the Language of Pictures’, explores the visual representation of scriptural exegesis in Insular sculpture and illuminated manuscripts. A number of papers survey the iconography of secular portrait figures, damnation, the beard, and the representation of cherubim and seraphim. Others consider the meaning and symbolism of particular Insular artworks such as the Ruthwell cross, the Book of Kells and Boulogne MS 10.

Dr. Malgorzata Krasnodebska-D'Aughton, a  former student of O'Reilly's and now a notable Franciscan scholar who teaches in the School of History at Cork, and Dr. Damian Bracken, an Insular Studies scholar who teaches in the School of History, have contributed papers to the collection.

The title is currently available in hardback and retails for €49.00. 

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