Categories of Medieval Culture by A. J. Gurevich

By A. J. Gurevich

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The one mIrrors the other. Just as there was no basic opposition between man and his natural surroundings, sn there was no opposition between nature and culture. In modern times, nature has come to be [56J Macrocosm and microcosm construed as the empirical world, as an e~tra-human d,atum, an element that human culture can manIpulate; but In the Middle Ages no clear boundary was recognised between the two " or at best, it was vague and movable. val mind understood it was God's creatIon. The personIficatIon of Nature found in the twelfth-century philosophical allegories is the handmaiden of God, the incarnation of his thoughts and designs in the material world.

Ascribing to nature his own traits ar:d qualities, ~e also imagined himself as similar to nature In. every detaIl. Man was aware of his inner links with the particular part of space which he happened to own and/or which was his, 'ho~e'. We saw above that the Germanic tribes regarded Inhented landed property as 'homeland' or 'fatherland'. This 'loc~lised microcosm' was related in Germanic belief to a world pIcture -built up on the basis of this model. , , ' I t will be seen from all thIS that medIeval man s Ideas of space were in a very high degree symbolical in nature; ideas of life and death, good and evil, right and wrong, sacr~d and secular, were united with concepts of up and down, WIth t~e cardinal points of the world and with parts of the spatIal universe; they had topographical coordinates.

Parts appears in Old Scandinavian poetry. The. IcelandIc or Norwegian skald does not pay equal attentIon to a~l the events related in his poem, nor to the. whole perso~ahty ~ of the protagonist - he concentra:es e~tIrely on ~he IntensIve isolation of one detail, one partIculanty, some s~ngle chara~­ teristic of the hero, or a single episode of the actIOn; and thIS singularity has to represent the whole. In both the art and the poetry of the barbarians, the part symbolises the. whole, acts as a substitute for it; representation of the part IS more than sufficient to evoke in the beholder's mind the whole.

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