December 04, 2008

Malcolm Miller at Chartres

Bits and pieces on Malcom Miller, the English Guide at Chartres Cathedral since the 1950's, and still going strong as of October, 2008 (and here). First, via a French Journal blog entry, a Globe & Mail article from last March called Decoding the windows at Chartres.

Now a short video of one of his classic bits, the audience participatory flying buttress demo. My guess is that this is from the early 80's -

Miller tends to illicit a love him or hate him response. Academics don't much like him, and some tourists don't like him because he can be brusque and arrogant. I find his manner prickly but I like some of his ideas, particularly the emphasis on the windows as narrative.

I know that some academics criticize him for emphasizing the 'Cathedral as library' idea that he touts so enthusiastically. I think the point scholars are trying to make is that there is no way to prove historically that the stained glass in Chartres or any other Cathedral was used as a teaching or storytelling tool.

Still, I've never quite understood why scholars tend to downplay the narrative aspects of the windows. It's so obvious, and so unique. I've covered this sequential narrative aspect of Gothic stained glass in blog posts before - in The Comics Thing and Hypertexting the Gothic Cathedral. I would highly recommend Stuart Whatling's Corpus Narratologica site if you're interested in narrative in medieval stained glass.

Malcolm Miller goes into this narrative aspect in a 2001 NPR radio interview, from the program 'All Things Considered' - Chartres Cathedral on NPR. One narrative window he discusses, the Good Samaritan window, is the window I heard him 'read' when I saw him at Chartres in 1985.

Posted by Tom at December 4, 2008 09:48 PM