Carmina figurata e a teoria da imagem carolíngia: contributos para uma reflexão sobre a relação texto-imagem

Vânia Maria Coutinho

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The thesis focuses on the figured poems composed between c. 780 and c. 814, by Alcuin, Josephus Scottus, Theodulf and Rabanus Maurus, related with their contemporary political, social, cultural and religious circumstances. These works not only reverberate a comprehensive ideological project, but also build it. Despite the fact they are engaged with the dominant elite, the poems – surely by the existence of images that bestow their originality – express their own life, their presence, and one capable of generating effects in the common space. There is a remarkably numerous production of figured poems in the very same period in which the Carolingian court addresses the Byzantine quarrel of the images. Some of the Franks’ arguments of the Libri Carolini are considered in order to ponder if they formulate a sort of ‘image state theory’, to which the figured poems, namely the ones composed by Rabanus Maurus, would respond. According to some historiographical approaches, under appreciation would be the value of the Scriptures and of the writing culture over the image, a notion also confirmed in Rabanus Maurus poem “Ad Bonosum”. Hence, the Carolingian figured poetry would be subordinating its full visuality to the Word, to the text, to its meaning and spiritual vocation. Figuration, devoided of its materiality, would act primarily as an appeal to the invisible and to an experience of religiosity. An idea that is under discussion in this research, along with the difficulty in stabilizing one single conception of image. Bearing in mind the origin and poetic lineage of the figured poems, as well as their reception at specific moments in history, it is explored how the resistance to the full acknowledgment of their pictorial features has its own historical background. That is, contexts where an antinomy between text and image is formed – namely through the modern period dispute between painting and poetry or through the development of logocentric epistemological paradigms (of theological, cultural or political origin) – constrain, even today, our models of analysis of the carmina figurata. In this sense, the image is presented as irreducible to multiple textualizing solutions, in order to see what the figured poems show, alongside with what they say. The goal is also to focus on the effects of the image, harbouring the unique qualities of figured poetry well beyond the strict opposition between word and image, and the discussions about the supremacy of the word. The reflection on image presented in Rabanus Maurus’ and Theodulf’s works offers a remarkable opportunity to discuss notions of the medieval image. Its conceptual and theoretical contributions to Art History and to the critical studies of the relation between word and image are undeniable, and they are so besides their temporal circumstance.
Original languagePortuguese
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • NOVA University Lisbon
  • Leal, Joana Cunha, Supervisor, External person
Award date7 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2016

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