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Stranger at the Table

Stranger at the Table

(p.131) Chapter Five Stranger at the Table
A Feast for the Eyes
Christina Normore
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the aesthetic counterpart to the habits of observation and judgment traced in previous chapters. Entremets and other art works are regularly praised as wonderful, marvelous or strange. These terms are shown to relate to an object or performance’s ability to draw attention to its skilled making and the processes of perception alike. Paradox is prized in this art because of its ability to test interpretive skills, providing a means to display discernment publically and encouraging feast participants to find pleasure in the exercise of judgment. Such discernment is often considered by scholars to be a secularizing force: this chapter instead argues that similar strategies are at work in devotional art of the period, where they are turned towards spiritual ends.

Keywords:   aesthetics, paradox, ambiguity, discernment, wonder, marvels, estrangeté, Jan van Eyck

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