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Studies by Time Period > Medieval and Renaissance Studies
The Justification for Conquest in the Seventeenth Century
Juan de Solorzano Pereira (1575-1654) was a lawyer who spent eighteen years as a judge in Peru before returning to Spain to serve on the Councils of Castile and of the Indies. Considered one of the finest lawyers in Spain, his work, De Indiarum Jure, was the most sophisticated defense of the Spanish conquest of the Americas ever written, and he was widely cited in Europe and the Americas until the early nineteenth century.
His work, and that of the Spanish School of international law theorists generally, is often seen as leading to Hugo Grotius and modern international law. However, as James Muldoon shows, the De Indiarum Jure represents the fullest development of a medieval Catholic theory of international order that provided an alternative to the Grotian theory.
Language, Sex, and Politics
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.
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.
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.
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.
"BEOWULF,LAW, AND THEMAKING OF GERMANIC ANTIQUITY"
This book, the first study in English devoted entirely to Andreas Capellanus's De Amore, presents a comprehensive inquiry into the influence of scholasticism on the structure and organization of the work, applying methods of medieval philosophy and intellectual history to an important problem in medieval literary studies.
Preaching, Performance, and Gender in the Later Middle Ages
Texts by, for, and about preachers from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries reveal an intense interest in the preacher's human nature and its intersection with his "angelic" role. Far from simply denigrating embodiment or excluding it from consideration, these works recognize its centrality to the office of preacher and the ways in which preachers, like Christ, needed humanness to make their performance of doctrine effective for their audiences. At the same time, the texts warned of the preacher's susceptibility to the fleshly failings of lust, vainglory, deception, and greed. Preaching's problematic juxtaposition of the earthly and the spiritual made images of women preachers, real and fictional, key to understanding and exploiting the power, as well as the dangers, of the feminized flesh.
Addressing the underexamined bodies of the clergy in light of both medieval and modern discussions of female authority and the body of Christ in medieval culture, Angels and Earthly Creatures reinserts women into the history of preaching and brings together discourses that would have been intertwined in the Middle Ages but are often treated separately by scholars. The examination of handbooks for preachers as literary texts also demonstrates their extensive interaction with secular literary traditions, explored here with particular reference to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
Through a close and insightful reading of a wide variety of texts and figures, including Hildegard of Bingen, Birgitta of Sweden, and Catherine of Siena, Waters offers an original examination of the preacher's unique role as an intermediary—standing between heaven and earth, between God and people, participating in and responsible to both sides of that divide.
The Supernatural and Its Visual Representation
Supernatural phenomena and causalities played an important role in medieval society. Religious practice was relying upon a set of cult images and the sacral status of these depictions of divine or supernatural persons became the object of heated debates and provoked iconoclastic reactions. The miraculous intervention of saints or other divine agents, the wondrous realities beyond understanding, or the manifestations of magic attributed to diabolic forces, were contained by a variety of discourses, described and discussed in religion, philosophy, chronicles, literature and fiction, and also in a large number of pictures and material objects. The nine essays in this collection discusses how supernatural phenomena – especially angels and devils – found visual manifestation in Latin and Eastern Christianity as well as Judaism in the late medieval, early renaissance period.
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.