Two particular perspectives inform this wide-ranging and richly illustrated survey of the art produced in England, or by English artists, between c. 600 and c.1100, in a variety of media, manuscripts, stone and wooden sculpture, ivory carving, textiles, and architecture. Firstly, from a post-colonial angle, it examines the way art can both create and narrate national and cultural identity over the centuries during which England was coming into being, moving from Romano-Britain to Anglo-Saxon England to Anglo-Scandinavian England to Anglo-Norman England. Secondly, it treats Anglo-Saxon art as works of art, works that have both an aesthetic and an emotional value, rather than as simply passive historical or archaeological objects. This double focus on art as an aesthetic vehicle and art as an active political force allows us to ask questions not only about what makes something a work of art, but what makes it endure as such, as well as questions about the work that art does in the creation of peoples, cultures, nations and histories.
Professor Catherine Karkov teaches in the School of Fine Art, University of Leeds.