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Studies by Time Period > Medieval and Renaissance Studies

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The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution Cover

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The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

By Angelica Duran

In The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution, Angelica Duran reveals the way in which Milton’s works interacted with the revolutionary work of his contemporaries in science to participate in the dynamic “advancement of learning” of the time period. Bringing together primary materials by early modern scientists, including Robert Boyle, William Gilbert, William Harvey, Isaac Newton, John Ray, and John Wilkins as well as educational reformers such as Samuel Hartlib and Henry Oldenburg, The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution positions Milton’s literature as a coequal partner with the new cosmological theories, mathematical developments, telescopes, and scientific tracts that so thoroughly affected every aspect of recorded life in seventeenth century England. Duran shows, for example, how new developments in ornithology worked to shape the Lady’s power in the young Milton’s celebratory A Mask, how mathematics informed the sexual relationship of Adam and Eve in his mature epic Paradise Lost, and how developments in optics transformed the blinded hero of the blind author’s moving tragedy Samson Agonistes. While this study is indebted to the work of historians of science—from C. P. Snow and Thomas Kuhn to Stephen Shapin and Stephen Jay Gould—it is not a history of science per se, but rather a cultural study that appreciates poetry as a unique lens through which early modern England’s large-scale developments in education and science are clarified and reflected. What emerges is an intimate sense of how the enormous changes of the English Scientific Revolution affected individual lives and found their ways into Milton’s enduring poetry and prose.

Aislinge Meic Conglinne Cover

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Aislinge Meic Conglinne

The Vision of Mac Conglinne

Lahney Preston-Matto

Aislinge Meic Conglinne, an anonymous Middle Irish romance, recounts the efforts of the eponymous hero to exchange the hardscrabble life of a clerical scholar for the prestigious life of a poet. Mac Conglinne wins the patronage of Cathal mac Finguine, the king of Munster, after rescuing him from a "demon of gluttony" by reciting a fantastic, food-laden vision of alternate worlds. An accomplished and original eleventh-century satiric narrative poem, Aislinge Meic Conglinne is now available for the first time as a stand-alone translation.

Allegory and Philosophy in Avicenna (Ibn Sina) Cover

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Allegory and Philosophy in Avicenna (Ibn Sina)

With a Translation of the Book of the Prophet Muhammad's Ascent to Heaven

By Peter Heath

Islamic allegory is the product of a cohesive literary tradition to which few contributed as significantly as Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the eleventh-century Muslim philosopher. Peter Heath here offers a detailed examination of Avicenna's contribution, paying special attention to Avicenna's psychology and poetics and to the ways in which they influenced strains of theological, mystical, and literary thought in subsequent Islamic—and Western—intellectual and religious history.

Heath begins by showing how Avicenna's writings fit into the context and general history of Islamic allegory and explores the interaction among allegory, allegoresis, and philosophy in Avicenna's thought. He then provides a brief introduction to Avicenna as an historical figure. From there, he examines the ways in which Avicenna's cosmological, psychological, and epistemological theories find parallel, if diverse, expression in the disparate formats of philosophical and allegorical narration. Included in this book is an illustration of Avicenna's allegorical practice. This takes the form of a translation of the Mi'raj Nama (The Book of the Prophet Muhammad's Ascent to Heaven), a short treatise in Persian generally attributed to Avicenna.

The text concludes with an investigation of the literary dimension Avicenna's allegorical theory and practice by examining his use of description metaphor. Allegory and Philosophy in Avicenna is an original and important work that breaks new ground by applying the techniques of modern literary criticism to the study of Medieval Islamic philosophy. It will be of interest to scholars and students of medieval Islamic and Western literature and philosophy.

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Alliterative Revivals

By Christine Chism

Alliterative Revivals is the first full-length study of the sophisticated historical consciousness of late medieval alliterative romance. Drawing from historicism, feminism, performance studies, and postcolonial theory, Christine Chism argues that these poems animate British history by reviving and acknowledging potentially threatening figures from the medieval past—pagan judges, primeval giants, Greek knights, Jewish forefathers, Egyptian sorcerers, and dead ancestors. In addressing the ways alliterative poems centralize history—the dangerous but profitable commerce of the present with the past—Chism's book shifts the emphasis from the philological questions that have preoccupied studies of alliterative romance and offers a new argument about the uses of alliterative poetry, how it appealed to its original producers and audiences, and why it deserves attention now.

Alliterative Revivals examines eight poems: St. Erkenwald, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Wars of Alexander, The Siege of Jerusalem, the alliterative Morte Arthure, De Tribus Regibus Mortuis, The Awntyrs off Arthure, and Somer Sunday. Chism both historicizes these texts and argues that they are themselves obsessed with history, dramatizing encounters between the ancient past and the medieval present as a way for fourteenth-century contemporaries to examine and rethink a range of ideologies.

These poems project contemporary conflicts into vivid, vast, and spectacular historical theaters in order to reimagine the complex relations between monarchy and nobility, ecclesiastical authority and lay piety, courtly and provincial culture, western Christendom and its easterly others, and the living and their dead progenitors. In this, alliterative romance joins hands with other late fourteenth-century literary texts that make trouble at the borders of aristocratic culture.

America Goes to War Cover

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America Goes to War

The Civil War and Its Meaning in American Culture

Bruce Catton

A fascinating study of the first modern war and its effect on American Culture.

The American Kaleidoscope Cover

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The American Kaleidoscope

Race, Ethnicity, and the Civic Culture

Lawrence H. Fuchs

Do recent changes in American law and politics mean that our national motto -- e pluribus unum -- is at last becoming a reality? Lawrence H. Fuchs searches for answers to this question by examining the historical patterns of American ethnicity and the ways in which a national political culture has evolved to accommodate ethnic diversity. Fuchs looks first at white European immigrants, showing how most of them and especially their children became part of a unifying political culture. He also describes the ways in which systems of coercive pluralism kept persons of color from fully participating in the civic culture. He documents the dismantling of those systems and the emergence of a more inclusive and stronger civic culture in which voluntary pluralism flourishes.

In comparing past patterns of ethnicity in America with those of today, Fuchs finds reasons for optimism. Diversity itself has become a unifying principle, and Americans now celebrate ethnicity. One encouraging result is the acculturation of recent immigrants from Third World countries. But Fuchs also examines the tough issues of racial and ethnic conflict and the problems of the ethno-underclass, the new outsiders. The American Kaleidoscope ends with a searching analysis of public policies that protect individual rights and enable ethnic diversity to prosper.

Because of his lifelong involvement with issues of race relations and ethnicity, Lawrence H. Fuchs is singularly qualified to write on a grand scale about the interdependence in the United States of the unum and the pluribus. His book helps to clarify some difficult issues that policymakers will surely face in the future, such as those dealing with immigration, language, and affirmative action.

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Amoral Gower

Language, Sex, and Politics

Diane Watt

“Moral Gower” he was called by friend and sometime rival Geoffrey Chaucer, and his “Confessio Amantis” has been viewed as an uncomplicated analysis of the universe, combining erotic narratives with ethical guidance and political commentary. Diane Watt offers the first sustained reading of John Gower’s “Confessio” to argue that this early vernacular text offers no real solutions to the ethical problems it raises—and in fact actively encourages perverse readings.

Drawing on a combination of queer and feminist theory, ethical criticism, and psychoanalytic, historicist, and textual criticism, Watt focuses on the language, sex, and politics in Gower’s writing. How, she asks, is Gower’s “Confessio” related to contemporary controversies over vernacular translation and debates about language politics? How is Gower’s treatment of rhetoric and language gendered and sexualized, and what bearing does this have on the ethical and political structure of the text? What is the relationship between the erotic, ethical, and political sections of “Confessio Amantis”? Watt demonstrates that Gower engaged in the sort of critical thinking more commonly associated with Chaucer and William Langland at the same time that she contributes to modern debates about the ethics of criticism.

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Anatomy of a Crusade, 1213-1221

By James M. Powell

James M. Powell here offers a new interpretation of the Fifth Crusade's historical and social impact, and a richly rewarding view of life in the thirteenth century. Powell addresses such questions as the degree of popular interest in the crusades, the religious climate of the period, the social structure of the membership of the crusade, and the effects of the recruitment effort on the outcome.

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The Ancient Flame

Dante and the Poets

Winthrop Wetherbee

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.

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Ancient Perspectives on Aristotles De anima

Gerd Van Riel, Pierre Destrée (eds)

Aristotle’s treatise On the Soul figures among the most influential texts in the intellectual history of the West. It is the first systematic treatise on the nature and functioning of the human soul, presenting Aristotle’s authoritative analyses of, among others, sense perception, imagination, memory, and intellect. The ongoing debates on this difficult work continue the commentary tradition that dates back to antiquity. This volume offers a selection of papers by distinguished scholars, exploring the ancient perspectives on Aristotle’s De anima, from Aristotle’s earliest successors through the Aristotelian Commentators at the end of Antiquity. It constitutes a twin publication with a volume entitled Medieval Perspectives on Aristotle’s De anima (to be published in the Series ‘Philosophes Médiévaux’, Peeters Publ.), both volumes appearing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the De Wulf Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy at K.U. Leuven and U.C. Louvain. Contributions by: Enrico Berti, Klaus Corcilius, Frans de Haas, Andrea Falcon, Patrick Macfarlane, Pierre-Marie Morel, Ronald Polansky, R.W. Sharples, Nathanael Stein, Annick Stevens, Joel Yurdin, Marco Zingano.

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