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Andrea Denny-Brown F'17

Andrea Denny-Brown

Associate Professor
English
University of California, Riverside
last updated: 09/25/17

Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars 2017
Associate Professor
English
University of California, Riverside
Criminal Ornament: Aesthetic Misbehavior in the Fifteenth Century

“Criminal Ornament” claims a new importance for the aesthetic category of medieval ornament in Western intellectual history. The project demonstrates the emergence of ornament as a provocative interdisciplinary technique in late medieval verbal, visual, and decorative arts that also played a crucial if antithetical role in the articulation of modernist aesthetics in the early twentieth century. Poetic ornament––the use of ornate, self-consciously artificial forms of poetic expression such as polysyllabic Latinate words, alliterative patterning, and aural accumulation and resonance––dominated English courtly verse in the fifteenth century. It took part in a larger cultural fascination with ornament more broadly in this period, and often simulated decorative gestures in the applied and decorative arts. As important as it was to its own literary-historical moment, however, medieval ornament also played a critical role in modernist ideas emerging in the first decades of the twentieth century.