Illuminating a Culture, a History, a Tradition: Conceptual Blending in the St. John's Bible


  • Erin E. Eighan



Spring 2010, humanities, English, linguistics


In 1998, St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota commissioned Donald Jackson to produce one of the first hand-written, hand-illuminated Bibles since the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century. The on-going project bridges disparate traditions in a unique blend of the medieval and postmodern eras. This article adopts cognitive literary theory to examine the St. John's Bible, specifically the frontispiece to the Gospel of John, and the text-image interaction contained within as products of conceptual blending. A cognitive historical approach to the St. John's Bible reveals the complicated relationship of the modern-day audience to the illuminated text. Tensions are inevitable within any cognitive blend; the same applies to the reader-viewer's experience of text-image integration here. The key to cognitive blending is the emergent experience of the target element. In this case, the postmodern Bible as target blends with its medieval predecessors to produce the St. John's Bible-an intersubjective, multimodal, cross-generational artifact of a cognitive blend.

Author Biography

Erin E. Eighan

Erin E. Eighan is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences from St. Cloud, Minnesota majoring in English with a minor in Linguistics. As a graduate of St. John's Prep in Collegeville, Minnesota, this project was literally close to home for her. She would like to thank Professor Alan Richardson for his guidance in cognitive literary history, without whom she could not have discovered this point of convergence in her studies. This article is dedicated to her late grandmother, Mary Ann Eighan, for her endless love, kindness, and support.




How to Cite

Eighan, E. E. (2010). Illuminating a Culture, a History, a Tradition: Conceptual Blending in the St. John’s Bible. Elements, 6(1).