The Eye of the Dragon: Viewing a Medieval Iconography from the Other Side, panel at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 14–17, 2015
From the iconic heroism of Saint George to the resolute piety of Margaret of Antioch; from the arrow-shooting Bahram Gur to anonymous spear-wielding riders, slayers of dragons have received considerable art historical attention. Individual slayers, as well as the iconography itself have been extensively studied and critically contextualized to reveal multi-layered meanings and changing identities. In his study on the Islamic Rider of the Gerona Beatus, O. K. Werckmeister demonstrated how, in the context of the Reconquista, the identity of the slayer could switch from good to evil, while Oya Pancaroglu argued that in Medieval Anatolia slayer images were both products and facilitators of cross-cultural exchange. Dragons and other monsters have been under the lens of art historians, too. Michael Camille and Debra Strickland have emphasized their roles as surrogates for social types and political adversaries. In that sense, the victims of the slayers, though independent of the iconography, have also been studied. However, it is difficult to say that the perspectives of the victims have received equal attention.
This panel calls for papers that will look at the slayer iconography from the position of the slain rather than the slayer. It seeks papers that will approach the image visually and conceptually from bottom up and explore alternative and innovative interpretations. What can this switch of gaze reveal about the relationship between the dragon and the slayer? In what novel ways can we interpret the visual asymmetry between them? Would it correspond to actual social asymmetries, or to their subversion? Does the diagonal of the spear pin down and stabilize differences and antagonisms, or does it cut across and mediate between them? Especially welcome are papers that move beyond Western European examples and provide comparative perspectives.