Friday, June 19, 2009

Rejuvenate and Renew Reading Challenge

I joined mjmbecky's from One Literature Nut Rejuvenate and Renew Reading Challenge a few weeks ago.  Here are the details of the challenge:

Here's the challenge:
  • Choose any three non-fiction books that deal with a topic you've wanted to learn more about. This could be money & finance, home decorating, budget tips, weight loss, nutrition, beauty & fashion, writing, religion, philosophy, literary theory, or even a biography. (You get the picture.) Basically, take three how to or self help books that you've been wanting to read, and join in!
  • Read these books between June 1st and September 1st.
  • Sign up by posting a simple comment below. (I didn't want to make things too complicated for this first challenge...for myself, or for anyone else!)
  • Take the button created above and post in your own blog, with a link back here so that we can all see what everyone is reading.
  • Review your books, and once a week I'll put up a post that you can link your own post/review.
  • Enjoy finding out more about what everyone else is learning this summer!
I'm happy to report that I completed my first book in the challenge last night!  I chose to read Symbol & Magic in Egyptian Art by Richard H. Wilkinson.

This book was recommend to me by Harmony0stars, and it was a great introductory book into the symbolism that's prevalent in Ancient Egyptian Art.

All of Egyptian art is functional--meaning it's never simply decorative.  All statues, paintings, and objects that we know from the art of the Egyptians served a spiritual and religious function.  It also likely had layers upon layers of symbolic meaning.  I'm not going to go into the specifics of how the symbols interact with each other too much, because that would be like rewriting the book (something I definitely don't want to do), but the types of symbols Wilkinson covers are:
  • Form--self-explanatory.  What a thing is can take on symbolic meaning--for example, a mirror is not functional as just a mirror, but symbolic of Re Horakhty (god of the sun).
  • Size--This essentially refers to hieratic scaling (where the most important people in the image are the largest and the least important are the smallest).  Hieratic scaling is not symbolic; however, in certain instances in Egyptian art, hieratic scaling can take on symbolic overtones.  Monumental statues, like the one of Ramses that inspired "Ozymandias," were likely made so big because things in the afterlife were supposed to be huge.
  • Location--To the Egyptians, their land was literally the center of the universe.  The Nile reflected the river in the heavens (or the Milky Way), and the earth itself consisted of a series of worlds or concentric rings (Dante's Inferno, anyone?), with Egypt literally in the middle.  The location of temples and tombs often reflect this world view in a relative or absolute way.
  • Materials--Certain materials contain certain symbolic connotations; kind of straight-forward.
  • Color--Ditto; certain colors symbolize certain things.  One of the interesting points in this chapter is that colors were often interchangeable--green and black, for example, since black could be the earth and green symbolized fecundity.  Also, nearly all hieroglyphs written in an official capacity were color-coded to give added meaning to what was being written.
  • Numbers--Not necessarily numerology, just a general symbolism of numbers that Egyptians thought were auspicious.
  • Hieroglyphs--This was by far my favorite chapter in the book.  Hieroglyphs also had symbolic meaning and were pretty much analogous to painting or sculpture.  In fact, Champollion (guy who translated the Rosetta Stone) said "a statue is often 'in reality... only a single glyph, a veritable character of written script.'" (151)  The Egyptians thought the glyphs that decorated their temples came alive and had their own personality and symbolic meaning.  They not only read them phonetically, like we read our script, but ideographically, as a rebus, and as visual analogies and metaphors.  In comparison, our modern script seems pretty lame.
  • Actions--Many of the actions pharaohs and others take part in on their tomb walls have symbolic meaning.  The jubilee race, for example, is something nearly every single pharaoh is shown taking part in.  The race was the pharaoh's symbolic claiming of the land of Egypt. 
  • Gestures--Just like us (waving hello, shaking hands, flipping someone off), the Ancient Egyptians used symbolic gestures in everyday life which appear on their tombs.  This seems like an truly fascinating topic, but Wilkinson doesn't spend enough time on it, in my opinion.
So, as you can see, symbolism in Egyptian art is a very complex subject, which Wilkinson condenses into an admirably short and readable text.  I wouldn't say this is a good book for people who don't know anything about Egyptian Art to start with--I still think Egyptian Art by Jaromir Malek is the best introduction to the subject that I've come across--but if you do know the basics about it and are interested in the symbols of Egyptian Art, this is definitely a book I would recommend.  In fact, I would consider reading more of Wilkinson's books in the future.

So that's it for my first book in the Rejuvenate and Renew Challenge.  There are still two more to go!  I think I'm going to tackle Buddhism next with a book Rebecca at I'm Lost in Books sent me.  I just want to say thank you to mjmbecky for hosting this challenge and giving me an incentive to read the nonfiction books I wanted to this summer!  I am so happy I read Symbol & Magic in Egyptian Art, and if it hadn't been for this challenge, it would still be sitting in my TBR stack.  So thank you, mjmbecky!

Powered by ScribeFire.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...