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Rebecca Olson | College of Liberal Arts | Oregon State University

It is also a deliberate turn from that scholarship, which weighs heavily in the critical balance. He also points up facets of the labor associated with weaving.

She posits that attending to the arras qua arras allows us to consider the function of a largely overlooked but prevalent feature of Early Modern literature, blank or unekphrastic tapestries. Moreover their presence in a royal court, like other blank and described tapestries in The Faerie Queene , invokes associations with actual and literary tapestries and royal courts external to the poem. In the chapter on Spenser, Olson first refines the arguments made earlier in the book.

12 MAGICAL ART TECHNIQUES

Added emphasis is given to the concept of the blank arras as a device , which Olson points out has the double meaning of imagery and craftsmanship. When Spenser introduces blank arras hangings, he is fully aware that they lack the device associated with ekphrastic tapestries, but he also values their use as a strategy for enlisting readers to fill in the gap imaginatively, to adopt some creative responsibility for the text itself.


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These range, readers gather, from Early Modern printed texts through the analog literary phenomenon of second-person adventure narratives popularized by Bantam Books in the last quarter of the 20 th century. In both plays, the tapestries seen by the audience are simultaneously court objects and stage properties.

These figures need not suggest actual portraits of an Old Hamlet and Claudius, she explains; Hamlet may point to figures on the curtain that are either mythological Olson considers the possibility of a Titanomachia scene or historical Olson posits a Danish royal portrait tapestry woven for the banqueting hall at Kronborg between and or both, depending on what the audience sees or thinks they see.

Olson demonstrates why it is important to note that at this moment, the hanging is referred to as an arras, whereas later, it is described as a tapestry: in the Early Modern period, arras was used almost exclusively to refer to stage properties, while tapestry, a much rarer term in Early Modern drama, was used to refer to off-stage textiles, art objects that characters describe.

Arras Hanging

Arras Hanging: The Textile That Determined Early Modern Literature and Drama reveals that in the early modern period, when cloth-making was ubiquitous and high-quality tapestries called arras hangings were the most valuable objects in England, such metaphors were literal. The arras in particular provided a narrative model for writers such as Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare, who exploited their audience's familiarity with weaving to engage them in highly idiosyncratic and "hands on" ways.

Specifically, undescribed or "blank" tapestries in the period's fiction presented audiences with opportunities to "see" whatever they desired, and thus weave themselves into the story.

Rebecca Olson

Far more than background objects, literary and dramatic arras hangings have much to teach us about the intersections between texts and textiles at the dawn of print, and, more broadly, about the status of visual art in post-Reformation England. Pinterest Twitter Facebook. Inspiskalenteri by mmiisas Miisa Rotola-Pukkila. Tunne lukkosi Kimmo Takanen.