Monday, May 21, 2007

Bayeux Tapestry: a medieval "graphic novel" in a video version!

I was just talking about a graphic novel, 300, and its recent movie version, er, 300. This reminded me of a really old graphic novel, or perhaps we should say graphic history, that has also been redone in video form: the Bayeux Tapestry.

The Bayeux Tapestry is a huge embroidery history of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 that hangs in a church in the Norman city of Bayeux. It shows the story of William the Conqueror taking possession of England from the point of view of the winners -- many people think that it was made for William's brother, Odo, the fighting bishop of Bayeux (and after the conquest, Earl of Kent).

The modern animation of this work gives it more impact to our eyes, which are accustomed to moving pictures and which are disappointed when we don't get state of the art images. But students in the upcoming course, Medieval England, might want to consider how impressive this embroidery 70 meters (230 ft.) long was to contemporaries. And indeed it's a very detailed story well portrayed (even if some parts are obscure to us). You have to wonder who conceived of this project, and whether they had any precedents to refer to. I can't think of any.

In Medieval England we will be covering 1100 years or so. The sources for that huge range of time will be diverse. Sometimes we'll only have archaeology to guide us. But we will always be trying to make the connection between what a written work, piece of art, artifact, or site meant originally, and what it might be able to tell us now.

For a non-animated version of the BT, see this site.

Labels: , , , , ,