State University of New York Press

SUNY series in Medieval Studies

Paul E. Szarmach

Published by: State University of New York Press

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SUNY series in Medieval Studies

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Anglo-Saxon Styles

Art historian Meyer Schapiro defined style as “the constant form—and sometimes the constant elements, qualities, and expression—in the art of an individual or group.” Today, style is frequently overlooked as a critical tool, with our interest instead resting with the personal, the ephemeral, and the fragmentary. Anglo-Saxon Styles demonstrates just how vital style remains in a methodological and theoretical prism, regardless of the object, individual, fragment, or process studied. Contributors from a variety of disciplines—including literature, art history, manuscript studies, philology, and more— consider the definitions and implications of style in Anglo-Saxon culture and in contemporary scholarship. They demonstrate that the idea of style as a “constant form” has its limitations, and that style is in fact the ordering of form, both verbal and visual. Anglo-Saxon texts and images carry meanings and express agendas, presenting us with paradoxes and riddles that require us to keep questioning the meanings of style.

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Devils, Women, and Jews

Reflections of the Other in Medieval Sermon Stories

Analyzes and illustrates the demonization of women and Jews in medieval sermon stories, retelling over one hundred of these tales in modern English. Contemporary misogyny and antisemitism have their roots in the demonization of women and Jews in medieval Christendom. In church art and mass preaching, the construct of the devil as an outcast from heaven and the source of all evil was linked both to the conception of women as sensual and malicious figures betraying man’s soul on its arduous journey to salvation and to the notion of Jews as treacherous dissidents in the Christian landscape. These stereotypes, widely disseminated for over three hundred years, persist today. The exemplum, or cautionary story incorporated into preachers’ manuals and popular homilies, was an important mode of religious teaching for clerical and lay folk alike. Sermon narratives drawn from Hindu mythology, Arab storytelling, and secular folktales entertained all classes of medieval society while dispensing theological and cultural instruction. In Devils, Women, and Jews, the vital genre of the medieval sermon story is, for the first time, made accessible to specialists and nonspecialists alike. Rendered in modern English, the tales provide an invaluable primary resource for medievalists, anthropologists, psychologists, folklorists, and students of women’s studies and Judaica. Critical introductions and explanatory headnotes contextualize the tales, and comprehensive endnotes and a bibliography allow readers to follow up analogue and subject studies in their own areas of interest.

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King's English, The

Strategies of Translation in the Old English Boethius

In the late ninth century, while England was fighting off Viking incursions, Alfred the Great devoted time and resources not only to military campaigns but also to a campaign of translation and education unprecedented in early medieval Europe. The King’s English explores how Alfred’s translation of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy from Latin into Old English exposed Anglo-Saxon elites to classical literature, history, science, and Christian thought. More radically, the Boethius, as it became known, told its audiences how a leader should think and what he should be, providing models for leadership and wisdom that live on in England to this day. It also brought prestige to its kingly translator and enshrined his dialect, West Saxon, as the literary language of the English people. Nicole Guenther Discenza looks at the sources Alfred used in his translation and demonstrates his selectivity in choosing what to retain, what to borrow, and how to represent it to his Anglo-Saxon audience. Alfred’s appeals to Latin prestige, spiritual authority, Old English poetry, and everyday experience in England combine to make the Old English Boethius a powerful text and a rich source for our understanding of Anglo-Saxon literature, culture, and society.

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Medieval French Alexander, The

Alexander the Great was one of the legendary Nine Worthies in the medieval canon of ancient and modern heroes, and medieval writers exploited his legend in a wide variety of literary and didactic texts. Addressing the classical legacy to the Middle Ages as expressed in four centuries of vernacular narratives, this volume offers the first systematic collective study of Alexander the Great’s thematic prominence in medieval culture. Contributors from Britain, France, the Netherlands, and the United States combine sensitive textual analyses with perspectives from such diverse fields as art history, codicology, anthropology, sociology, the history of mentalities, and postcolonial theory. Overall, the collection offers a provocative rethinking of the monumental medieval French tradition of Alexander the Great, as well as valuable insight into the emergence and transformations of French literature between the early twelfth century and the end of the Middle Ages.

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