|Shoemakers in the Relics of St. Stephen Window at Chartres|
I hope that I can work in the window above from Chartres cathedral, because it's stained glass within stained glass and presents the duality of material and immaterial so beautifully. First of all, it's a phenomenally lush and gorgeous window, taken by Henri Feraudy, an incredibly generous photographer who has kindly let me publish his stunning images on several occasions. Secondly, it depicts the handling of stained glass (held up on an altar) in a way that is utterly impossible in actuality (stained glass is assembled within its architectural frame puzzle piece by puzzle piece, soldered tracery by soldered tracery). This heaviest, most unwieldly of mediums is here light as a feather, balanced devotionally.
Now the challenge is to make that jumble into something lucid and convincing. I see Chaucer using stained glass to call attention to a new tension between the material and the immaterial within the new experience of reading alone in silence. This same tension (material / immaterial) exists within a communal oral performance as well: different terms of material (the performer's body) and immaterial (voice). I don't like the word "immaterial" (though I need it for the contrast) - immaterial sounds dismissive. The colors projected by light through a stained glass window are immaterial, but quite powerful (beautiful, awe-inspiring, drenching). The voice of a narrator projected during an oral performance is also immaterial, but also all-encompassing, fervent, intense. Material / projected doesn't make sense - but that's where my immaterial stuff is going.
Bottom line: what does it mean to read and what does Chaucer have to say about it? He uses stained glass to get us thinking (I argue).
Now, again, to make this lucid, while grading exams, gobs of papers, oh yea - teaching, advising students, chairing the department, doing committee work (etc etc), and engaging in the kids' wildly active activities (and we don't even do that much). No matter: I will not be deterred! The deliciousness of this idea keeps me coming back for more; and the living room / dining room where Mac and I do our grading and class prep (our poor studies buried under books and piles of projects) are now filled with the honeyed smell of the Hawaiian flowers, which seem to have had some kind of second awakening: they are all wide open and delicately, sweetly sweetly fragrant and more present than ever. Material / immaterial.