Cut on the Norman Bias: Fabulous Borders and Visual Glosses on the Bayeax Tapestry
KeywordsEnglish Language and Literature
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AbstractHarold Godwinson, King of England for nine months in 1066, was undeniably an assertive opportunist - albeit a brave one -and perhaps a traitor; Edward the Confessor was a misguided monarch -or at least a bad judge of character-and William of Normandy was a righteous conqueror, a ruler asserting his legal right to the English crown. This, at least, is the interpretation of historical events presented by the Bayeux Tapestry, the late eleventh-century embroidery that Otto Pacht has called the ‘earliest work of secular art on a monumental scale which has survived from the Middle Ages.’3 In this study, I posit an interpretative program that shows how the Tapestry’s Norman bias was manifested and emphasized by its designer’s intratextual, interactive use of imaginal marginalia, specifically the eight appearances of the Norman chevrons and the pictographs representing the Tapestry’s nine Aesopic fables.4 Each group of marginal images demonstrates, via its interaction with the main panel narrative, the permeability of the Tapestry’s inscribed borders and the need for an inclusive reading, one which recognizes the futility of imaginal separation and the representational richness possible when the urge toward such narrative divisiveness is overcome.