Past Events

Manufacturing Giants: A Material History of Gogmagog and Corineus from the 15th century to the present

Lecture – Alixe Bovey

  • 4 May 2016
  • 6:00 – 8:00 pm
  • Lecture Room, Paul Mellon Centre

In his 12th-century History of the Kings of England, Geoffrey of Monmouth described the colonisation of Albion by a group of Trojan refugees led by the Brutus, a descendant of Aeneas. Albion - soon renamed Brutayne, after Brutus - was at that time overrun with giants, the most hideous of which was the Gogmagog. Brutus exterminated all of the giants but spared Gogmagog, who was reserved for a final match with Brutus’s champion Corineus. After a rib-cracking struggle, Corineus heaved Gogmagog over the cliffs of Plymouth to his death on the rocks below. Paradoxically, Gogmagog’s end turned out to be the beginning of a dynamic tradition in which he and his erstwhile enemy Corineus have stood as emblems of British history and guardians of the City of London. Inscribed on the landscape, depicted on the pages of manuscripts and printed books, fashioned from wicker and plasterboard, and carved from timber, figures of Gogmagog and Corineus have been made, destroyed, and remade continuously from the fifteenth century to the present. This paper examines the extraordinarily enduring legacy of this tale as a embodied in and maintained by the production of images of the giant. How, why, and to what end were these giants made, and how is their material existence entwined with their mythic status?

All are welcome! However, places are limited, so if you would like to attend please contact our Events Manager, Ella Fleming on events@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk

The seminar will be followed by a drinks reception.

About the speaker

  • Alixe Bovey is a specialist in the art and culture of the later Middle Ages, with particular interests in illuminated manuscripts, pictorial narrative, and the relationship between myth and material culture across historical periods and geographical boundaries. She is Head of Research at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she is also senior lecturer in medieval art history. Her work on Gogmagog and Corineus is part of a book project entitled Giants in the City: Mythic History as Material Culture in London from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century, which is generously supported by a mid-career fellowship from the British Academy.