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Dante and the Poets
While the structure and themes of the Divine Comedy are defined by the narrative of a spiritual pilgrimage guided by Christian truth, Winthrop Wetherbee’s remarkable new study reveals that Dante’s engagement with the great Latin poets Vergil, Ovid, Lucan, and Statius constitutes a second, complementary narrative centered on psychological and artistic self-discovery. This fresh, illuminating approach departs from the usual treatment of classical poets in Dante criticism, which assigns them a merely allegorical function. Their true importance to Dante’s project is much greater. As Wetherbee meticulously shows, Dante’s use of the poets is grounded in an astute understanding of their historical situation and a deeply sympathetic reading of their poetry. Dante may have been motivated to correct pagan thought and imagery, but more pervasive was his desire to recreate classical style and to restore classical auctoritas to his own times. Dante’s journey in the Commedia, beginning with the pilgrim’s assumption of a tragic view of the human condition, progresses with the great poetry of the classical past as an intrinsic component of—not just a foil to—the spiritual experience. Dante ultimately recognizes classical poetry as an essential means to his discovery of truth. A stunning contribution by one of the nation’s leading medievalists, Wetherbee’s investigation of the poem’s classicism makes possible an ethical and spiritual but non-Christian reading of Dante, one that will spur new research and become an indispensable tool for teaching the Commedia.
Medicine, Power, and the Care of the Dying
In this original and compelling book, Jeffrey P. Bishop, a philosopher, ethicist, and physician, argues that something has gone sadly amiss in the care of the dying by contemporary medicine and in our social and political views of death, as shaped by our scientific successes and ongoing debates about euthanasia and the “right to die”—or to live. The Anticipatory Corpse: Medicine, Power, and the Care of the Dying, informed by Foucault’s genealogy of medicine and power as well as by a thorough grasp of current medical practices and medical ethics, argues that a view of people as machines in motion—people as, in effect, temporarily animated corpses with interchangeable parts—has become epistemologically normative for medicine. The dead body is subtly anticipated in our practices of exercising control over the suffering person, whether through technological mastery in the intensive care unit or through the impersonal, quasi-scientific assessments of psychological and spiritual “medicine.”
David J. Leigh explores the innovative influences of the Book of Revelation and ideas of an end time on fiction of the twentieth century, and probes philosophical, political, and theological issues raised by apocalyptic writers from Walker Percy, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams to Doris Lessing, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo. Leigh tackles head on a fundamental question about Christian-inspired eschatology: Does it sanction, as theologically sacred or philosophically ultimate, the kind of “last battles” between good and evil that provoke human beings to demonize and destroy the other? Against the backdrop of this question, Leigh examines twenty modern and postmodern apocalyptic novels, juxtaposing them in ways that expose a new understanding of each. The novels are clustered for analysis in chapters that follow seven basic eschatological patterns—the last days imagined as an ultimate journey, a cosmic battle, a transformed self, an ultimate challenge, the organic union of human and divine, the new heaven and new earth, and the ultimate way of religious pluralism. For religious novelists, these patterns point toward spiritual possibilities in the final days of human life or of the universe. For more political novelists—Ralph Ellison, Russell Hoban, and Salman Rushdie among them—the patterns are used to critique political or social movements of self-destruction. Beyond the twenty novels closely analyzed, Leigh makes pertinent reference to many more as well as to reflections from theologians Jürgen Moltmann, Zachary Hayes, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Paul Ricoeur. Both a guidebook and a critical assessment, Leigh’s work brings theological concepts to bear on end-of-the-world fiction in an admirably clear and accessible manner.
Metaphysical Foundations, Moral Theory, and Theological Context
The purpose of Aquinas's Ethics is to place Thomas Aquinas's moral theory in its full philosophical and theological context and to do so in a way that makes Aquinas (1224/5-1274) readily accessible to students and interested general readers, including those encountering Aquinas for the first time. Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Colleen McCluskey, and Christina Van Dyke begin by explaining Aquinas's theories of the human person and human action, since these ground his moral theory. In their interpretation, Aquinas's theological commitments crucially shape his account of the human person, human capacities for action, and human flourishing. The authors develop a comprehensive picture of Aquinas's thought, which is designed to help students understand how his concept of happiness and the good life are part of a coherent, theologically-informed worldview. Many studies of Aquinas naturally focus on certain areas of his thought and tend to assume a general knowledge of the whole. Aquinas's Ethics takes the opposite approach: it intentionally links his metaphysics and anthropology to his action theory and ethics to illuminate how the moral theory is built on foundations laid elsewhere. The authors emphasize the integration of concepts of virtue, natural law, and divine grace within Aquinas's ethics, rather than treating such topics in isolation or opposition. Their approach, presented in clear and deliberately non-specialist language, reveals the coherent nature of Aquinas's account of the moral life and of what fulfills us as human beings. The result is a rich and engaging framework for further investigation of Aquinas's thought and its applications.
Poetry, Public Performance, and the Presentation of the Past
Arabic literary salons emerged in ninth-century Iraq and, by the tenth, were flourishing in Baghdad and other urban centers. In an age before broadcast media and classroom education, salons were the primary source of entertainment and escape for middle- and upper-rank members of society, serving also as a space and means for educating the young. Although salons relied on a culture of oral performance from memory, scholars of Arabic literature have focused almost exclusively on the written dimensions of the tradition. That emphasis, argues Samer Ali, has neglected the interplay of oral and written, as well as of religious and secular knowledge in salon society, and the surprising ways in which these seemingly discrete categories blurred in the lived experience of participants. Looking at the period from 500 to 1250, and using methods from European medieval studies, folklore, and cultural anthropology, Ali interprets Arabic manuscripts in order to answer fundamental questions about literary salons as a social institution. He identifies salons not only as sites for socializing and educating, but as loci for performing literature and oral history; for creating and transmitting cultural identity; and for continually reinterpreting the past. A fascinating recovery of a key element of humanistic culture, Ali’s work will encourage a recasting of our understanding of verbal art, cultural memory, and daily life in medieval Arab culture.
In his Ascetics, Authority, and the Church in the Age of Jerome and Cassian, published in 1978, Philip Rousseau presented a survey of asceticism in the western church until about 400, including a selective study of Jerome, and then, moving into the fifth century, a reading of Sulpicius and Cassian. Rousseau explored such societal changes as the eventual triumph of the cenobitic movement and its growing effect within the church, not least on the episcopate. He focused primarily on the development among ascetics of a certain concept of spiritual authority; on the attraction of that concept for a wider audience; and on its enduring formulation within a literary tradition of great influence. For this second edition, Rousseau has supplied a new introduction with extensive bibliographical references in which he charts the ways in which scholarship on early Christian asceticism has developed since his compelling and influential original argument.
Revising a Classical Ideal
Augustine and the Cure of Souls situates Augustine within the ancient philosophical tradition of using words to order emotions. Paul Kolbet uncovers a profound continuity in Augustine’s thought, from his earliest pre-baptismal writings to his final acts as bishop, revealing a man deeply indebted to the Roman past and yet distinctly Christian. Rather than supplanting his classical learning, Augustine’s Christianity reinvigorated precisely those elements of Roman wisdom that he believed were slipping into decadence. In particular, Kolbet addresses the manner in which Augustine not only used classical rhetorical theory to express his theological vision, but also infused it with theological content. This book offers a fresh reading of Augustine’s writings—particularly his numerous, though often neglected, sermons—and provides an accessible point of entry into the great North African bishop’s life and thought.
On Irish American Poetry
As the first comprehensive study of Irish American poetry ever published, Awake in America seeks to establish a conversation between Irish and Irish American literature that challenges many of the long-accepted boundaries between the two. In this distinctive book, Daniel Tobin presents a series of essays that combine poetry and literary criticism to form what he calls the poet’s essay. The first section of Awake in America reconsiders the dual tradition of Irish poetry through discussions of nineteenth- and twentieth-century poets as well as contemporary writers. The second section features a series of shorter chapters on poets in America. The third section explores the theme of “Crossings” and includes a consideration of Irish American and African American literature. The fourth, and final, section is comprised of a compositional memoir in which Tobin explores the role of hidden history in his own long poem, The Narrows. Awake in America offers an innovative reading of literary tradition in light of the routes by which tradition evolves as well as the roots from which tradition originates. It will be welcomed by poetry aficionados and by all scholars and readers of Irish and Irish American literature.
A Writing Life
Part memoir, part handbook, part survey of the contemporary literary scene, Joan Frank’s Because You Have To: A Writing Life is a collection of essays that, taken together, provide a walking tour of the writing life. Frank’s aim is to form a coherent vision, one that may provide some communion about realities of the writer's vocation that have struck her as rarely revealed. Frank offers what she has learned as a writer not only to other writers, but to those to whom good writing matters. Her insights about "thinking on paper" are never dogmatic or pontifical; rather, they are cordial and intellectually welcoming. Original, witty, and practical, Frank ably steers us through the journey of her own life as a writer, as well as through the careers and work of other writers. Her subjects range widely, from the “boot camp” conditioning of marketing work to squaring off with rejection and envy; from sustaining belief in art’s necessity to the baffling subjectivity of literary perception and the magical books that nourish writers. Frank’s personal journey is wonderfully told, so that what in these essays is particular becomes useful and universal.
The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart
On 31 May 1310, at the Place de Grève in Paris, the Dominican inquisitor William of Paris read out a sentence that declared Marguerite “called Porete,” a beguine from Hainault, to be a relapsed heretic, released her to secular authority for punishment, and ordered that all copies of a book she had written be confiscated. William next consigned Guiard of Cressonessart, an apocalyptic activist in the tradition of Joachim of Fiore and a would-be defender of Marguerite, to perpetual imprisonment. Over several months, William of Paris conducted inquisitorial processes against them, complete with multiple consultations of experts in theology and canon law. Though Guiard recanted at the last moment and thus saved his life, Marguerite went to her execution the day after her sentencing.