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The Edges of the Medieval World

Edited by Gerhard Jaritz

Publication Year: 1930

In the Middles Ages, the edges of one’s world could represent different meanings. On the one hand, they might have been situated in far-away regions, mainly in the east and north, that one most often only knew from hearsay and which were inhabited by strange beings: humans with their faces on their chest, without a mouth, or with dog heads. On the other hand, the edges of one’s world could just mean the borders of the community where one lived and that one sometimes might not have had the possibility to cross during one’s whole life. In this volume specialists from eight European countries offer their ideas about different edges of the medieval world and contribute to a discussion that has been increasing greatly in Medieval Studies in recent times.

Published by: Central European University Press

Series: CEU Medievalia


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Table of Contents

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pp. v-7

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-3

In his literary oeuvre, the Chilean writer Luis Sepúlveda (b. 1949) has concentrated on ecological topics. In 1989, he wrote Mundo del fin del Mundo dealing with the killing of whales in the seas off Patagonia and actions initiated against it.1 This novel shows very well that the ends of the world need not only be something far away and therefore irrelevant for a society living in the “centre” but may also have to be seen as particularly important, and thereby near, in a number of respects touching all of humankind. In our days the same is particularly true about remote areas of the world confronted with...

Edges of the World - Edges of Time

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pp. 4-20

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From the Peripheries to the Centres and Back Again: Visual Culture and the Edges of This World

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pp. 21-38

Fabulous creatures and savage barbarians were the most significant beings from the edges of the world that could be encountered in a variety of sources in different historical periods.1 They appeared in ancient Greek and Roman thought, in the texts of early Christian authorities, and in literary, historical and scientific works by medieval and early modern authors, often illustrated to clarify the message and increase its effect. Such creatures lived far away – at the end of the seas, in the East, in India, Africa and, later, also in the Americas. The monocoli, for instance, were swift one-legged beings that could protect themselves from the heat of the sun in the shade of their big foot, and...

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The Picture of the World in Old Norse Sources

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pp. 39-45

To begin I will give a short survey of the Old Norse picture of the world in different written sources, such as mythological sources, Christian literature and saga literature. Special importance will, however, be attached to some geographical observations and descriptions found in a few texts describing sailing and distances at sea and descriptions of geography found in the Norwegian work Konungs skuggsjá (The King’s Mirror) from around 1250.1...

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"The Land of the Norwegians is the Last in the World": A Mid-Eleventh-Century Description of the Nordic Countries From the Pen of Adam of Bremen1

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pp. 46-54

In his discussion of the lands of the North, Adam of Bremen’s first reference to Norway stresses that “…Nortmannia is the farthest country of the world”. The country stretches, he says, “…with its main ridge bent toward the uttermost North…” and it “…has its bounds in the Rhiphaean Mountains where the tired world also comes to an end.”2 “Beyond Norway…”, he continues, “…you will find no human habitation, nothing but ocean, terrible to look upon and limitless, encircling the whole world.”3
It is in the fourth chapter of his book about the archbishopric of Hamburg- Bremen4 that Adam makes a change in his scope. Whereas the first three chapters are...

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Political Rhetoric and the Edges of CChristianity: Livonia and its Evil Enemies in the Fifteenth Century1

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pp. 55-69

Medieval Livonia was born through battles and confrontations. Crusaders, military orders, and vassals migrating from Germany had conquered the pagans in the territory of Estonia and Latvia by approximately the year 1300, yet this did not mean peace for Livonia. Lithuanians and Samogitians remained pagan up until the turn of the fourteenth century and into the fifteenth. The political authority of Lithuania also expanded to the neighbouring areas of Orthodox Russia: Polotsk, and occasionally Pskov, Russians became subjects of the pagan grand dukes of Lithuania. Sporadic border conflicts...

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Living on the Edge: Pirates and the Livonians in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

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pp. 70-81

The land ends at the coast and the sea begins. For the concept of edges, the coast is in many ways a complex, one could even say blurred, environment. From the geographic point of view the coastline is clearly defined as the land’s end. The humans living in this environment, however, are amphibious. The costal folk earn an important part of their livelihood on the sea: navigare necesse est. Furthermore, the sea seems to form an almost infinite field of action, a world of its own, which from a landlubber’s perspective always remains alien and different. But, even if one would want to advocate the idea of an independent...

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Darkness on the Edge of Town: Life at the Flurgrenze in Medieval and Traditional Narrative

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pp. 82-98

Exploring the edges of the medieval world, and the concepts of edges in the medieval world, is one way of meeting the criticism of Frits van Oostroom, offered in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology’s recent stock-taking of the field, to the effect that: “... modern medieval studies has neglected to historicize ‘space’”.1 The following contribution will be from the perspectives of performance culture (which includes theatre but is much more than theatre), and particularly of discursive culture (which includes literature but is much more than literature). Performance culture includes activities...

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The Margins of one's Small World: The Outskirts of Towns in Late Medieval and arly Modern Visual Representations

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pp. 99-112

Depictions of the outskirts of towns and the countryside in the visual arts embody another sort of “edge” amongst the many kinds discussed in this volume. The notion that I apply indicates that the viewpoint is the one of townspeople. The images show areas which are out of an urban centre – districts further away from the administrative, commercial, and major spiritual institutions of the town. Places of production, the dwellings of simple people, areas for recreation and – in certain cases – for public punishment are shown instead. These scenes bring one to the extreme margin of an inhabited area or the zone where town and countryside meet and merge together...

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What is Exotic?
Sources of Animals and Animal Products from the Edges of the Medieval World

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pp. 113-129

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is the most impressive predator of the Arctic wastes; modern Europeans have become familiarised with these animals after centuries of polar exploration, their most intimate and violent behaviour has been captured on film, whilst their iconic associations range from confectionary to the accelerating degradation of the circumpolar environment.1 Their distinctive appearance and exclusive distribution in an environment where human activity is severely restricted, has meant that polar bears are one of the few animals that remain virtually ‘exotic’ – foreign – at a global scale. This is...

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The Beast of Muhu: A Hybrid from the Periphery

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pp. 130-135

The organizers of this workshop on the Edges of the Medieval World having opted to hold it on the edge of modern Europe, participants duly steeled themselves for the encounter with the creatures of this particular periphery, rumoured to range from wood-ticks and adders, through elk and bears, to wolves. Nothing however had prepared them for the “beast of Muhu,” lurking within the very venue of their deliberations, a disturbing hybrid of the human and the animal (indeed of more than one animal). In what follows its characteristics, habits and environment are surveyed by a...

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Tibi Silens Laus: Silence at the Edge of Language

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pp. 136-141

After expounding his version of negative theology and concluding that no positive statement can be made about God’s essence, Moses Maimonides (1138–1204) opened chapter 59 of the first book of his Guide of the Perplexed with a question:
Someone may ask and say: If there is no device leading to the apprehension of the true reality of His essence and if demonstration proves that it can only be apprehended that He exists and that it is impossible, as has been demonstrated, to ascribe to Him affirmative attributes, in what respect can there be superiority or inferiority between those who apprehend Him?1

List of Contributors

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pp. 142-151

Back Cover

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p. 152-152

E-ISBN-13: 9786155211706
Print-ISBN-13: 9789639776456

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 1930

Edition: 1st
Series Title: CEU Medievalia