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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.
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.
Contacts and Concepts in Medieval Britain
Traces of the living animal run across the entire corpus of medieval writing and reveal how pervasively animals mattered in medieval thought and practice. In fascinating scenes of cross-species encounters, a raven offers St. Cuthbert a lump of lard that waterproofs his visitors' boots for a whole year, a scholar finds inspiration for his studies in his cat's perfect focus on killing mice, and a dispossessed knight wins back his heritage only to give it up again in order to save the life of his warhorse. Readers have often taken such encounters to be merely figurative or fanciful, but Susan Crane discovers that these scenes of interaction are firmly grounded in the intimate cohabitation with animals that characterized every medieval milieu from palace to village. The animal encounters of medieval literature reveal their full meaning only when we recover the living animal's place within the written animal.
The grip of a certain humanism was strong in medieval Britain, as it is today: the humanism that conceives animals in diametrical opposition to humankind. Yet medieval writing was far from univocal in this regard. Latin and vernacular works abound in other ways of thinking about animals that invite the saint, the scholar, and the knight to explore how bodies and minds interpenetrate across species lines. Crane brings these other ways of thinking to light in her readings of the beast fable, the hunting treatise, the saint's life, the bestiary, and other genres. Her substantial contribution to the field of animal studies investigates how animals and people interact in culture making, how conceiving the animal is integral to conceiving the human, and how cross-species encounters transform both their animal and their human participants.
We know almost nothing about the anonymous authors of Euphrosyne, Eustace, Mary of Egypt, and The Seven Sleepers, except that each was interested in reading, translating, and transmitting one of these four texts. Each of the four essays in this collection explores what those reasons might have been. None of the four contributors uses Ælfric as the exclusive lens for analysis, and each piece adopts a different theoretical or methodological approach to the text in question; in the process, the four anonymous texts are put into conversation with the Gospels, Freudian psychoanalysis, a fragmentary, fire-damaged manuscript, Old English homilies, and a novel published in 2006. In offering four new essays on the anonymous interpolations in Ælfric's Lives of Saints that take four very different approaches to the texts in question, we hope to open additional lines of inquiry into the lives of the se saints and to promote new scholarship on the anonymous hagiography of Anglo-Saxon England.
The Art Markets in Italy, 1400-1700
On There Being Only One Intellect
The introduction places the work historically and sketches the controversy to which it was a contribution. Part 2 includes the Latin Leonine text and McInerny's translation. Part 3 analyzes the basic arguments of Thomas's work and provides a series of interpretive essays meant to make Thomas accessible to today's readers.
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.