In the Middle Ages the cardinal virtue Prudence is revered and her depiction widespread. In the modern era, however, few Westerners esteem Prudence or can recognize her iconography. This dissertation describes what happens to her personification between the sixth and twenty-first centuries by examining cultural artifacts ranging from Constantinople to the United States using content analysis, iconography, intertextuality, and depth psychology.
A content analysis of 456 artworks portraying Prudence shows that her depiction begins by the fifth century, peaks during the sixteenth, and then declines. The results provide a detailed accounting of her presentation. Further iconographic analysis of key artworks focusing on two of Prudence’s symbols—book and mirror—and the discussion of related literature form a comprehensive picture of her evolution.
Bookish Prudence is firmly established as a secular virtue allied to education and philosophic wisdom in the Anicia Juliana Codex (512). Centuries later Prudence surfaces in Europe redefined for a burgeoning Christian culture and associated with memory and reading practices. Content analysis shows that sixty percent of artworks featuring bookish Prudence have a religious context, pointing to why she recedes as secularism rises.
The mirror—subsequently incorporated—adds further thematic depth suggesting self-knowledge, reason, anima mundi, and propriety. Giotto’s Prudentia offers a starting point to explore Prudence’s mirror of self-knowledge. Authors from Boethius to Shakespeare contribute to the development of Prudence’s mirror of reason. Medieval mythography unravels the enigma of Prudence’s absence in the tarot despite the presence of the other cardinal virtues, and uncovers Prudence’s relationship to the World Soul. Finally, several eighteenth century artworks show Prudence tasked with policing female desire and encouraging propriety.
By the modern era the formerly multifaceted Prudence becomes narrowly characterized as cautious or prudish, evidenced in popular culture (e.g., film). Her value might appear negligible. However, the fuller embodiment of Prudence as manifested in the Middle Ages reemerges in the field of psychology where archetypal Prudence is apparent in Jung's paradigm. This revelation together with corroborative research in neuroscience compels a reconceptualization of and new context for virtue ethics in the post-modern world.
|Commitee:||Coleman, Cathy, White, Dana|
|School:||Pacifica Graduate Institute|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 79/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Medieval literature, Art history, Ethics|
|Keywords:||Content analysis, Depth psychology, Iconography, Prudence, Tarot, Virtue|
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