Asa Simon Mittman deposited Asa Simon Mittman, “Mandeville’s Jews, Colonialism, Certainty, and Art History,” Postcolonising the Medieval Image in the group Medieval Art on Humanities Commons 3 years, 6 months ago
This essay will bring a postcolonial gaze to an eclectic array of subjects, including medieval and modern images and texts, and modern scholarship thereon. It is the result of my thinking not so much about medieval geographical images and texts, like the small gem that is the Psalter Map, Matthew Paris’s Map of the Holy Land and the Book of Sir john Mandeville, to which I will shortly turn, but rather, with and through them, because doing so has led me increasingly to think about certitude, about the feeling of deeply rooted certainty (or the wilful quest to achieve it through repeated assertions thereof). There are several types of certitude that I would like to think about, here. There is the certitude of the colonial viewpoint, secure in its superiority over the Other, of the correctness of its own perspective; of the medieval geographical enterprise; and of the historical and art historical viewpoint brought thereto, ever seeking the correct answer to the ‘problems’ art presents, especially art of a presupposed benighted culture at a remove from our own in place or time. I will tackle each of these briefly, in an attempt to explore some of the issues that I believe underlie many discussions of medieval art, especially of medieval images of maps and monsters. In so doing, though, I hope to make a few broader assertions about the value of postcolonial thinking, within and beyond art history. I will begin, though, with a medieval book.