Monumental Sounds

Art and Listening before Dante


In Monumental Sounds, Matthew G. Shoaf examines interactions between sight and hearing in spectacular church decoration in Italy between 1260 and 1320. In this "age of vision," authorities' concerns about whether and how worshipers listened to sacred speech spurred Giotto and other artists to reconfigure sacred stories to activate listening and ultimately bypass phenomenal experience for attitudes of inner receptivity. New naturalistic styles served that work, prompting viewers to give voice to depicted speech and guiding them toward spiritually fruitful auditory discipline. This study reimagines narrative pictures as site-specific extensions of a cultural system that made listening a meaningful practice. Close reading of religious texts, poetry, and art historiography augments Shoaf's novel approach to pictorial naturalism and art's multisensorial dimensions.

This book has received the Weiss-Brown Publication Subvention Award from the Newberry Library. The award supports the publication of outstanding works of scholarship that cover European civilization before 1700 in the areas of music, theater, French or Italian literature, or cultural studies.

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Matthew G. Shoaf, Ph.D. (2003, University of Chicago) is a former Associate Professor of Art History at Ursinus College. He has published articles on art and sound in Word & Image and has edited several books.
List of Illustrations

Introduction: An Unheard Art
 1 Knowing Hearing
 2 Hearing Eclipsed
 3 Shapers of Ears
 4 Monumental Sounds

1 Listening Up
 1 Aural Sensitivities
 2 Lost Hearing
 3 Great Listeners

2 The Ear, Estranged
 1 Seeing Listening
 2 Ear Blindness
 3 Stasis and Significance

3 A Feast for the Ears
 1 Giotto’s The Wedding Feast at Cana
 2 Scale of Listening
 3 Rebirth through the Ear
 4 Aural Ambitions

4 Sound Restoration
 1 Nicola Pisano’s Pulpit in Pisa
 2 Raising Voices
 3 Silenced Skeptic
 4 Antique Resonance
 5 Muted Clergy
 6 Sculptural Ephpheta!

5 Higher Fidelity
 1 The Isaac Frescoes in Assisi
 2 Return of the Repressed Sense
 3 Aural Ancestry
 4 Hidden by Sight
 5 Auditory Interests

Conclusion: Humbling Sight
Art historians, specialists of late medieval art, scholars of religious studies and music, those interested in sensory history, pre-modern sound, medieval disability; graduate students, advanced undergraduate students, academic libraries. Keywords: Italy, medieval, narrative art, religion, sermons, speech, voice, senses, auditory perception, ears, Giotto, Nicola Pisano.
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