Review of Situating Composition: Composition Studies and the Politics of Location, by Lisa Ede
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AbstractI have always been fascinated by the triptychs of the Middle Ages, such as Bernardo Daddi’s “Triptych: Madonna, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Paul.” Triptychs are three panels usually hinged together that tell three stories and one. The center panel is the main focus with the two side panels providing two more narratives but in dialogue with the primary one, thus producing a fourth story. Just as the title of Daddi’s triptych suggests, each panel represents a different time, a different place, and different circumstances of religious teachings, while it simultaneously reinforces the continuity and community across all three. Like the Roman writing tablet from which this art form draws its name, the triptych opens to meanings institutional and individual, a testament to the religious doctrines via the work of an artist’s imagination. What I value about the triptychs are their dialogic relationships between artistic vision and Christian didacticism, form and function, and innovation and tradition. Multivalent and multivocal, the religious triptych requires that viewers focus on the subject of each panel and their relatedness to the others within the con-texts of the knowledge, history, and practices of Christianity as well as on the hinged-and-framed structure’s material location as an altarpiece.