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Studies by Time Period > Medieval and Renaissance Studies
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.
A Forgotten Heritage
Arabic culture was a central and shaping phenomenon in medieval Europe, yet its influence on medieval literature has been ignored or marginalized for the last two centuries. In this ground-breaking book, now returned to print with a new afterword by the author, María Rosa Menocal argues that major modifications of the medieval canon and its literary history are necessary.
Menocal reviews the Arabic cultural presence in a variety of key settings, including the courts of William of Aquitaine and Frederick II, the universities in London, Paris, and Bologna, and Cluny under Peter the Venerable, and she examines how our perception of specific texts including the courtly love lyric and the works of Dante and Boccaccio would be altered by an acknowledgment of the Arabic cultural component.
Insular Fictions from Chivalric Romance to the Novel
Pinet looks closely at Amadís de Gaula and the Liber insularum archipelagi as the first examples of these genres. Both isolario and chivalric romance (libros de caballerías) make of the island a flexible yet cohesive framework that becomes intrinsic to the construction of their respective genres. The popularity of these forms throughout the seventeenth century in turn bears witness to the numerous possibilities the archipelagic structure offered, ultimately taken up by the grand genres of each discipline—the atlas and the novel.
Moving from verbal descriptions to engravings and tapestry weavings, and from the chivalric politics and ethics proposed in the Amadís de Gaula to the Insula Barataria episode in Don Quixote, Pinet’s analysis of insularity and the use of the island structure reveals diverging roles for fiction, illuminating both the emergence of the novel and contemporary philosophical discussion on fiction.
Theodore Evergates provides the first systematic analysis of the aristocracy in the county of Champagne under the independent counts. He argues that three factors—the rise of the comital state, fiefholding, and the conjugal family—were critical to shaping a loose assortment of baronial and knightly families into an aristocracy with shared customs, institutions, and identity. Evergates mines the rich, varied, and in some respects unique collection of source materials from Champagne to provide a dynamic picture of a medieval aristocracy and its evolving symbiotic relationship with the counts.
Count Henry the Liberal (1152-81) began the process of transforming a quasi-independent baronage accustomed to collegial governance into an elite of landholding families subordinate to the count and his officials. By the time Countess Jeanne married the future King Philip IV of France in 1284, the fiefholding families of Champagne had become a distinct provincial nobility. Throughout, it was the conjugal community, rather than primogeniture or patrilineage, that remained the core familial institution determining the customs regarding community property, dowry, dower, and partible inheritance. Those customs guaranteed that every lineage would survive, but frequently through a younger son or daughter. The life courses of women and men, influenced not only by social norms but also by individual choice and circumstance, were equally unpredictable. Evergates concludes that imposed models of "the aristocratic family" fail to capture the diversity of individual lives and lineages within one of the more vibrant principalities of medieval France.
Were aristocratic women in medieval France little more than appendages to patrilineal families, valued as objects of exchange and necessary only for the production of male heirs? Such was the view proposed by the great French historian Georges Duby more than three decades ago and still widely accepted. In Aristocratic Women in Medieval France another model is put forth: women of the landholding elite—from countesses down to the wives of ordinary knights—had considerable rights, and exercised surprising power.
The authors of the volume offer five case studies of women from the mid-eleventh through the thirteenth centuries, and from regions as diverse as Blois-Chartres, Champagne, Flanders, and Occitania. They show not only the diversity of life experiences these women enjoyed but the range of social and political roles open to them. The ecclesiastical and secular sources they mine confirm that women were regarded as full members of both their natal and affinal families, were never excluded from inheriting and controlling property, and did not have their share of family property limited to dowries. Women across France exchanged oaths for fiefs and assumed responsibilities for enfeoffed knights. As feudal lords, they settled disputes involving vassals, fortified castles, and even led troops into battle.
Aristocratic Women in Medieval France clearly shows that it is no longer possible to depict well-born women as powerless in medieval society. Demonstrating the importance of aristocratic women in a period during which they have been too long assumed to have lacked influence, it forces us to reframe our understanding of the high Middle Ages.
The present volume contains a collection of papers on the reception of Aristotle's Problemata, a multifaceted text asking various questions about medical, scientific or everyday topics. This text is one of the most neglected Aristotelian treatises, because of its heterogeneous character and its so-called 'inauthenticity'. It has been the subject of a complex transmission. In ancient times, Aristotle's text has been augmented and adapted, while still other authors composed similar collections of Problemata. In the Middle Ages, Problemata collections have been translated into Arabic, Latin, and Middle French, each translation being characterized by its own particularities. The Latin translation lead to an extremely influential commentary by the Italian physician Peter of Abano, whereas Evrart de Conty, who made the Middle French translation, added himself a commentary to each discussed problem, often using Peter of Abano's text as source. Also in the Renaissance, the Problemata appealed to the interest of physicians and philosophers. In their contributions to this book, the authors analyse this complex web of relations between source-texts, translations, and commentaries, in different times and tongues.
Art and the Religious Image in El Greco’s Italy is the first book-length examination of the early career of one of the early modern period’s most notoriously misunderstood figures. Born around 1541, Domenikos Theotokopoulos began his career as an icon painter on the island of Crete. He is best known, under the name “El Greco,” for the works he created while in Spain, paintings that have provoked both rapt admiration and scornful disapproval since his death in 1614. But the nearly ten years he spent in Venice and Rome, from 1567 to 1576, have remained underexplored until now. Andrew Casper’s examination of this period allows us to gain a proper understanding of El Greco’s entire career and reveals much about the tumultuous environment for religious painting after the Council of Trent. Casper’s analysis portrays El Greco as an active participant in some of the most formative artistic discussions of his time. It shows how the paintings of his early career explore the form, function, and conception of the religious image in the second half of the sixteenth century, and how he cultivated artistic fame by incorporating aspects of the styles of Michelangelo, Titian, and other contemporary masters. Beyond this, El Greco’s paintings bear the marks of an artist attentive to theoretical speculation on the artistic process, the current understandings of the science of optics and perspective, and the role of Roman antiquity for Christian ideology. All of these characteristics demonstrate El Greco’s unique understanding of the merger of artistic craft with devotional intent through what Casper terms the “artful icon.”
Douglas Kelly provides a comprehensive and historically valid analysis of the art of medieval French romance as the romancers themselves describe it. He focuses on well-known writers, such as Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France, and also draws on a wide range of other sources—prose romances, non-Arthurian romances, thirteenth-century verse romances, and variant versions from the later Middle Ages.
Kelly is the first scholar to present the “art” of medieval romance to a modern audience through the interventions and comments of medieval writers themselves. The book begins by examining the difficulties scholars perceive in medieval literature: problems such as source and intertextuality, structure in its manifold modern meanings, and character psychology and individuality. These issues frame Kelly’s identification and discussion of all the known authorial interventions on the art and craft of romance. Kelly’s careful reconstruction of the “art” of romance, based on the records left by the romancers themselves, will be an invaluable resource and guide for all medievalists.
Rojas and Delicado
Rojas's Celestina (1499) is perhaps the second greatest work of Spanish literature, right after Don Quixote, and Delicado sought to surpass it with La Lozana andaluza (1530), an important precedent of the picaresque novel.Both works were written during the height of the Inquisition, when the only relatively safe way for New Christian writers of Jewish extraction like Rojas and Delicado to express what they felt about the discrimination they suffered and their doubts regarding the faith that had been forced upon their ancestors was in a covert, indirect manner. Some scholars have detected this subversive element in Rojas' and Delicado's corrosive view of the Christian societies in which they lived, but this book goes far beyond such impressionism, showing through abundant textual evidence that these two authors used superficial bawdiness and claims regarding the morality of their respective works as cover to encode attacks against the central dogmas of Christianity: the Annunciation, the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, and the Holy Trinity.This book, which will generate controversy among Hispanists, many of whom have refused to examine these works for non-Catholic views, will be of interest not only to students and scholars of Spanish literature, but also to those involved in Jewish studies, Medieval European history, and cultural studies.
The Complete Works of Hartmann von Aue
Hartmann von Aue (c. 1170-1215) is universally recognized as the first medieval German poet to create world-class literature. He crafted German into a language of refined literary expression that paved the way for writers such as Gottfried von Strassburg, Walther von der Vogelweide, and Wolfram von Eschenbach. This volume presents the English reader for the first time with the complete works of Hartmann in readable, idiomatic English. Hartmann's literary efforts cover all the major genres and themes of medieval courtly literature. His Arthurian romances, Erec and Iwein, which he modeled after Chrétien de Troyes, introduced the Arthurian world to German audiences and set the standard for later German writers. His lyric poetry treats many aspects of courtly love, including fine examples of the crusading song. His dialogue on love delineates the theory of courtly relationships between the sexes and the quandary the lover experiences. His verse novellas Gregorius and Poor Heinrich transcend the world of mere human dimensions and examine the place and duties of the human in the divine scheme of things. Longfellow would later use Poor Heinrich in his Golden Legend. Arthurian Romances, Tales, and Lyric Poetry is a major work destined to place Hartmann at the center of medieval courtly literature for English readers.