In Mervelous Signals, Eugene Vance writes that "there is scarcely a term, practice, or concept in contemporary theory that does not have some rich antecedent in medieval thought." Hermeneutics, of course, began as close reading of the Bible especially topologies between the Old and New Testament. The rhetoric of medieval visual art is a rhetoric of the Word cast as icon an invitation to ponder what is left unsaid by the symbol. Which is to state the truism that Medievals, like us, thought in terms of symbols. Christ was the Word Incarnate and words incarnate, the text/image was part of a Great Chain of Being, each being forming a link in a chain emanating from the mind of God.
It was natural, then, for Dante to write his elaborate narrative poem, his grand tour through the hierarchy of creation from God to Satan by using the device of catena: a chaining rhyme scheme. (755k)
In a codex a book like the Moralized Bible images linked texts to other texts, the Old Testament to the New. Psalm 80, for example, a prayer for the restoration of the Lord's Vineyard (Israel) prefigures Christ and this teleology is taught by a crucifixion posture, a figuration in which readers were to orient themselves, which they did through gestures praying with outstretched arms an embodied similitude for Christ's crucifixion, another form of prayer a figurative vine just as prayer is a type of crucifixion a laying down of one's own life in order to be absorbed into the spiritual the figurative branches. A catena, a re-embodiment of a fruit-bearing text that is infinite.
Then something happened.