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Studies by Time Period > Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Transversal Performance and Cultural Dissidence in Early Modern England
In this book Bryan Reynolds argues that early modern England experienced a sociocultural phenomenon, unprecedented in English history, which has been largely overlooked by historians and critics. Beginning in the 1520s, a distinct "criminal culture" of beggars, vagabonds, confidence tricksters, prostitutes, and gypsies emerged and flourished. This community defined itself through its criminal conduct and dissident thought and was, in turn,officially defined by and against the dominant conceptions of English cultural normality. Examining plays, popular pamphlets, laws, poems, and scholarly work from the period, Reynolds demonstrates that this criminal culture, though diverse, was united by its own ideology, language, and aesthetic. Using his transversal theory, he shows how the enduring presence of this criminal culture markedly influenced the mainstream culture's aesthetic sensibilities, socioeconomic organization, and systems of belief. He maps the effects of the public theater's transformative force of transversality, such as through the criminality represented by Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, and Dekker, on both Elizabethan and Jacobean society and the scholarship devoted to it.
The Matter of the Medieval Child
Becoming Human argues that human identity was articulated and extended across a wide range of textual, visual, and artifactual assemblages from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. J. Allan Mitchell shows how the formation of the child expresses a manifold and mutable style of being. To be human is to learn to dwell among a welter of things.
A searching and provocative historical inquiry into human becoming, the book presents a set of idiosyncratic essays on embryology and infancy, play and games, and manners, meals, and other messes. While it makes significant contributions to medieval scholarship on the body, family, and material culture, Becoming Human theorizes anew what might be called a medieval ecological imaginary. Mitchell examines a broad array of phenomenal objects—including medical diagrams, toy knights, tableware, conduct texts, dream visions, and scientific instruments—and in the process reanimates distinctly medieval ontologies.
In addressing the emergence of the human in the later Middle Ages, Mitchell identifies areas where humanity remains at risk. In illuminating the past, he shines fresh light on our present.
The First Millennium Refocused
Islam emerged amid flourishing Christian and Jewish cultures, yet students of Antiquity and the Middle Ages mostly ignore it. Despite intensive study of late Antiquity over the last fifty years, even generous definitions of this period have reached only the eighth century, whereas Islam did not mature sufficiently to compare with Christianity or rabbinic Judaism until the tenth century. Before and After Muhammad suggests a new way of thinking about the historical relationship between the scriptural monotheisms, integrating Islam into European and West Asian history.
Garth Fowden identifies the whole of the First Millennium--from Augustus and Christ to the formation of a recognizably Islamic worldview by the time of the philosopher Avicenna--as the proper chronological unit of analysis for understanding the emergence and maturation of the three monotheistic faiths across Eurasia. Fowden proposes not just a chronological expansion of late Antiquity but also an eastward shift in the geographical frame to embrace Iran.
In Before and After Muhammad, Fowden looks at Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alongside other important developments in Greek philosophy and Roman law, to reveal how the First Millennium was bound together by diverse exegetical traditions that nurtured communities and often stimulated each other.
Asocial Sexuality in Early Modern England
Engaging the poems of Wyatt, Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella, Spenser’s Amoretti and The Faerie Queene, and Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and the Sonnets, Gil demonstrates how sexuality was conceived as a relationship system inhabited by men and women interchangeably—set apart from the “norm” and not institutionalized in a private or domestic realm. Going beyond the sodomy-as-transgression analytic, he asserts the existence of socially inconsequential sexual bonds while recognizing the pleasurable effects of violating the supposed traditional modes of bonding and ideals of universal humanity and social hierarchy.
Celebrating the ability of corporeal emotions to interpret connections between people who share nothing in terms of societal structure, Before Intimacy shows how these works of early modern literature provide a discourse of sexuality that strives to understand status differences in erotic contexts and thereby question key assumptions of modernity.
Daniel Juan Gil is assistant professor of English at TCU.
Asian Peoples and Cultures in European Travel Writing, 1245-1510
A distinct European perspective on Asia emerged in the late Middle Ages. Early reports of a homogeneous "India" of marvels and monsters gave way to accounts written by medieval travelers that indulged readers' curiosity about far-flung landscapes and cultures without exhibiting the attitudes evident in the later writings of aspiring imperialists. Mining the accounts of more than twenty Europeans who made—or claimed to have made—journeys to Mongolia, China, India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia between the mid-thirteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Kim Phillips reconstructs a medieval European vision of Asia that was by turns critical, neutral, and admiring.
In offering a cultural history of the encounter between medieval Latin Christians and the distant East, Before Orientalism reveals how Europeans' prevailing preoccupations with food and eating habits, gender roles, sexualities, civility, and the foreign body helped shape their perceptions of Asian peoples and societies. Phillips gives particular attention to the texts' known or likely audiences, the cultural settings within which they found a foothold, and the broader impact of their descriptions, while also considering the motivations of their writers. She reveals in rich detail responses from European travelers that ranged from pragmatism to wonder. Fear of military might, admiration for high standards of civic life and court culture, and even delight in foreign magnificence rarely assumed the kind of secular Eurocentric superiority that would later characterize Orientalism. Placing medieval writing on the East in the context of an emergent "Europe" whose explorers sought to learn more than to rule, Before Orientalism complicates our understanding of medieval attitudes toward the foreign.
The Latin Church at the Turn of the First Millennium
Historians typically single out the hundred-year period from about 1050 to 1150 as the pivotal moment in the history of the Latin Church, for it was then that the Gregorian Reform movement established the ecclesiastical structure that would ensure Rome's dominance throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. In Before the Gregorian Reform John Howe challenges this familiar narrative by examining earlier, "pre-Gregorian" reform efforts within the Church. He finds that they were more extensive and widespread than previously thought and that they actually established a foundation for the subsequent Gregorian Reform movement.
The low point in the history of Christendom came in the late ninth and early tenth centuries—a period when much of Europe was overwhelmed by barbarian raids and widespread civil disorder, which left the Church in a state of disarray. As Howe shows, however, the destruction gave rise to creativity. Aristocrats and churchmen rebuilt churches and constructed new ones, competing against each other so that church building, like castle building, acquired its own momentum. Patrons strove to improve ecclesiastical furnishings, liturgy, and spirituality. Schools were constructed to staff the new churches. Moreover, Howe shows that these reform efforts paralleled broader economic, social, and cultural trends in Western Europe including the revival of long-distance trade, the rise of technology, and the emergence of feudal lordship. The result was that by the mid-eleventh century a wealthy, unified, better-organized, better-educated, more spiritually sensitive Latin Church was assuming a leading place in the broader Christian world.
Before the Gregorian Reform challenges us to rethink the history of the Church and its place in the broader narrative of European history. Compellingly written and generously illustrated, it is a book for all medievalists as well as general readers interested in the Middle Ages and Church history.
Southern Italy in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries
Histories of medieval Europe have typically ignored southern Italy, looking south only in the Norman period. Yet Southern Italy in the ninth and tenth centuries was a complex and vibrant world that deserves to be better understood. In Before the Normans, Barbara M. Kreutz writes the first modern study in English of the land, political structures, and cultures of southern Italy in the two centuries before the Norman conquests. This was a pan-Meditteranean society, where the Roman past and Lombard-Germanic culture met Byzantine and Islamic civilization, creating a rich and unusual mix.
The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart
On 31 May 1310, at the Place de Grève in Paris, the Dominican inquisitor William of Paris read out a sentence that declared Marguerite “called Porete,” a beguine from Hainault, to be a relapsed heretic, released her to secular authority for punishment, and ordered that all copies of a book she had written be confiscated. William next consigned Guiard of Cressonessart, an apocalyptic activist in the tradition of Joachim of Fiore and a would-be defender of Marguerite, to perpetual imprisonment. Over several months, William of Paris conducted inquisitorial processes against them, complete with multiple consultations of experts in theology and canon law. Though Guiard recanted at the last moment and thus saved his life, Marguerite went to her execution the day after her sentencing.
Gender, Patronage, and Spiritual Authority
In the thirteenth century, Paris was the largest city in Western Europe, the royal capital of France, and the seat of one of Europe's most important universities. In this vibrant and cosmopolitan city, the beguines, women who wished to devote their lives to Christian ideals without taking formal vows, enjoyed a level of patronage and esteem that was uncommon among like communities elsewhere. Some Parisian beguines owned shops and played a vital role in the city's textile industry and economy. French royals and nobles financially supported the beguinages, and university clerics looked to the beguines for inspiration in their pedagogical endeavors. The Beguines of Medieval Paris examines these religious communities and their direct participation in the city's commercial, intellectual, and religious life.
Drawing on an array of sources, including sermons, religious literature, tax rolls, and royal account books, Tanya Stabler Miller contextualizes the history of Parisian beguines within a spectrum of lay religious activity and theological controversy. She examines the impact of women on the construction of medieval clerical identity, the valuation of women's voices and activities, and the surprising ways in which local networks and legal structures permitted women to continue to identify as beguines long after a church council prohibited the beguine status. Based on intensive archival research, The Beguines of Medieval Paris makes an original contribution to the history of female religiosity and labor, university politics and intellectual debates, royal piety, and the central place of Paris in the commerce and culture of medieval Europe.