A Feast for the Eyes

Art, Performance, and the Late Medieval Banquet

Christina Normore

Christina Normore

272 pages | 4 color plates, 35 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226242200 Will Publish May 2015
E-book $44.00 ISBN: 9780226242347 Will Publish May 2015
To read accounts of late medieval banquets is to enter a fantastic world where live lions guard nude statues, gilded stags burst into song, and musicians play from within pies. Such vivid works of art and performance required collaboration among artists in many fields, as well as the participation of the audience.

A Feast for the Eyes is the first book-length study of the court banquets of northwestern Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Christina Normore draws on an array of artworks, archival documents, chroniclers’ accounts, and cookbooks to re-create these events and reassess the late medieval visual culture in which banquets were staged. Feast participants, she shows, developed sophisticated ways of appreciating artistic skill and attending to their own processes of perception, thereby forging a court culture that delighted in the exercise of fine aesthetic judgment.

Challenging modern assumptions about the nature of artistic production and reception, A Feast for the Eyes yields fresh insight into the long history of multimedia work and the complex relationships between spectacle and spectators.
Anne D. Hedeman, University of Kansas
“In seeking to understand the medieval feast, Normore approaches a number of genres: chronicles, mémoires, letters, inventories, cookbooks, French romance and poetry, and visual arts ranging from metalwork to tapestry. Her mastery of this broad variety of material from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries is in itself a major accomplishment. Through fresh and thorough research, Normore situates the medium of the entremets within the feast and thereby gives readers access to this highly original and very different art form. This book is important.”
Stephen Perkinson, Bowdoin College
“Normore’s readings of images are convincing and eloquent. Not only do they shed light on previously misunderstood or ignored elements of those images, but they also elucidate ways in which the images would have played an instrumental role in shaping their audiences’ understanding of, and participation in, rituals of the table. Beautifully written, A Feast for the Eyes brings the period to life in a masterful way.”
Larry Silver, University of Pennsylvania
“Normore has revealed a marvel-filled combination of visual, culinary, mechanical, and performing arts and re-created the elite experience of banqueting, freely and fruitfully crossing disciplinary boundaries. Her reconstituted entremets offer a bounty for medievalists of all stripes and bring to life the autumnal blaze within late medieval chronicles.”
Stephen Campbell, Johns Hopkins University
“With its demonstration of the inseparability of the aesthetic and the political in the multi-media arts of the Burgundian banquet, this book will be welcomed by scholars of pre-modern courtly culture. Normore challenges the received view of such spectacle as the self-consuming excess of a civilization in decline; the entertainments she describes were not only regarded as important historical events, but functioned as secular eucharists that transformed the hedonistic into community values and provided a choreography for the legitimate performance of emotion. A Feast for the Eyes is a key revisionist study of aristocratic leisure.”

Introduction: Setting the Table
Chapter 1: Between the Dishes
Chapter 2: Spectator-Spectacle
Chapter 3: Efficacy and Hypocrisy
Chapter 4: Dining Well
Chapter 5: Stranger at the Table
Chapter 6: Wedding Reception

For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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