Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Bayeux Tapestry: New Interpretations

A new book on The Bayeux Tapestry has just been released which offers a wide variety of new ideas about the famous embroidered cloth. The Bayeux Tapestry: New Interpretations, published by Boydell and Brewer, gives eleven essays on the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and scenes from the battle iself, and is renowned among scholars of medieval history, art and literature.

Edited by Dan Terkla, Martin Foys and Karen Eileen Overbey, the book is a collection from a combination of well-established scholars and voices new to Tapestry studies. “We truly hope to live up to the title of the book, New Interpretations,” said Terkla. “Not only does the book take a multi-disciplinary approach, with scholars from fields ranging from history to art to Anglo-Saxon studies contributing, but its particular mix of seasoned and young scholars can provide a new perspective.”

Terkla’s chapter, titled “From Hastingus to Hastings and Beyond: Inexorable Inevitability on the Bayeux Tapestry,” situates the Norman invasion of 1066 in a context that reaches back to the first Viking ruler in Normandy, Hastingus, forward to William and the Norman invasion, and beyond to the broader history of Norman conquests. Setting the Tapestry in this broad context causes one to wonder, as Terkla does, “Did Hastingus’s presence in Normandy set into motion an inevitable link that runs all the way to William?” He argues that the Tapestry’s design creates a sense of historical inevitability through its use of line.

“You can look at the Tapestry and see the ways in which the ground and waterlines run, how gestures are configured,” said Terkla. “It all pulls the eyes from left to right. All of the visual elements come together to imply the inevitability of this Norman conquest and future conquests.”

The idea for the book surfaced during a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar, directed by R. Howard Bloch at Yale, that Terkla attended in 2005. Inspired by the seminar, he co-organized sessions in 2006 for the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, England, and then co-organized an international conference at the British Museum dedicated to the Tapestry in 2008.

“The Tapestry has captured the interest of scholars and leaders for centuries,” said Terkla, who noted that Napoleon and the Nazis studied it for tips on invading England. The Tapestry “invites viewers to see it as part of a continuum of history. I am hoping the book encourages readers to step back and discover something they have not realized about the Tapestry before.”


Problematizing Patronage: Odo of Bayeux and the Bayeux Tapestry, by Elizabeth Carson Pastan and Stephen D White

Auctoritas, Consilium et Auxilium: Images of Authority in the Bayeux Tapestry, by Shirley Ann Brown

Taking Place: Reliquaries and Territorial Authority in the Bayeux Embroidery, by Karen Eileen Overbey

On the Nature of Things in the Bayeux Tapestry and its World, by Valerie Allen

Making Sounds Visible in the Bayeux Tapestry, by R. Brilliant

Anglo-Saxon Women, Norman Knights and a 'Third Sex' in the Bayeux Embroidery, by Madeline H. Caviness

Behind the Bayeux Tapestry, by Gale R. Owen-Crocker

Embroidery Errors in the Bayeux Tapestry and Their Relevance for Understanding Its Design and Production, by Michael Lewis

From Hasting to Hastings and Beyond: Inexorable Inevitability on the Bayeux Tapestry, by Daniel Terkla

Pulling the Arrow Out: The Legend of Harold's Death and the Bayeux Tapestry, by Martin Foys

The Bayeux Tapestry: A Selective Bibliography, by Daniel Terkla

Please also see our featured section The Bayeux Tapestry for more articles and news

Click here to purchase The Bayeux Tapestry: New Interpretations from