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Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England
Gender and Sowlehele in Middle English Allegory
In medieval allegory, Body and Soul were often pitted against one another in debate. In Body Against Soul: Gender and Sowlehele in Middle English Allegory, Masha Raskolnikov argues that such debates function as a mode of thinking about psychology, gender, and power in the Middle Ages. Neither theological nor medical in nature, works of sowlehele (“soul-heal”) described the self to itself in everyday language—moderns might call this kind of writing “self-help.” Bringing together contemporary feminist and queer theory along with medieval psychological thought, Body Against Soul examines Piers Plowman, the “Katherine Group,” and the history of psychological allegory and debate. In so doing, it rewrites the history of the Body to include its recently neglected fellow, the Soul. The topic of this book is one that runs through all of Western history and remains of primary interest to modern theorists—how “my” body relates to “me.” In the allegorical tradition traced by this study, a male person could imagine himself as a being populated by female personifications, because Latin and Romance languages tended to gender abstract nouns as female. However, since Middle English had ceased to inflect abstract nouns as male or female, writers were free to gender abstractions like “Will” or “Reason” any way they liked. This permitted some psychological allegories to avoid the representational tension caused by placing a female soul inside a male body, instead creating surprisingly queer same-sex inner worlds. The didactic intent driving sowlehele is, it turns out, complicated by the erotics of the struggle to establish a hierarchy of the self’s inner powers.
In this study of the relationship between Boethius and Thomas Aquinas, Ralph McInerny dispels the notion that Aquinas misunderstood the early philosopher and argues instead that he learned from Boethius, assimilated his ideas, and proved to be a reliable interpreter of his thought.
A Translation of the Middle High German Kaiserchronik
The Kaiserchronik (c.1152–1165) is the first verse chronicle to have been written in a language other than Latin. This story recounts the exploits of the Roman, Byzantine, Carolingian, and Holy Roman kings and rulers, from the establishment of Rome to the start of the Second Crusade. As an early example of popular history, it was written for a non-monastic audience who would have preferred to read, or may only have been able to read, in German. As a rhymed chronicle, its combined use of the styles of language found within a vernacular epic and a factual treaty was a German innovation. The Book of Emperors is the first complete translation of the Kaiserchronik from Middle High German to English. It is a rich resource not only for medieval German scholars and students, but also for those working in early cultural studies. It brings together an understanding of the conception of kingship in the German Middle Ages, from the relationship between emperor and king, to the moral, theological, and legal foundations of claims and legitimacy and the medieval epistemological approaches to historiography. This translation includes a substantial introduction that discusses the historical and philological context of the work, as well as the themes of power and kingship. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction that distinguishes historical truths from the epic fiction found within the original text.
By Christine de Pizan
Christine de Pizan, one of the earliest known women authors, wrote the Livre de paix (Book of Peace) between 1412 and 1414, a period of severe corruption and civil unrest in her native France. The book offered Pizan a platform from which to expound her views on contemporary politics and to put forth a strict moral code to which she believed all governments should aspire. The text’s intended recipient was the dauphin, Louis of Guyenne; Christine felt that Louis had the political and social influence to fill a void left by years of incompetent leadership. Drawing in equal parts from the Bible and from classical ethical theory, the Livre de paix was revolutionary in its timing, viewpoint, and content. This volume, edited by Karen Green, Constant J. Mews, and Janice Pinder, boasts the first full English translation of Pizan’s work along with the original French text. The editors also place the Livre de paix in historical context, provide a brief biography of Pizan, and offer insight into the translation process.
This translation makes this fascinating text accessible for the first time to an English-speaking audience. A substantial introduction to Agnellus and his composition of the text is included along with a full bibliography
The miracle stories surrounding Sainte Foy form one of the most complete sets of material relating to a medieval saint's cult and its practices. Pamela Sheingorn's superb translation from the Medieval Latin texts now makes this literature available in English. The Book of Sainte Foy recounts the virgin saint's martyrdom in the third century (Passio), the theft of her relics in the late ninth century by the monks of the monastery at Conques (Translatio), and her diverse miracles (Liber miraculorum); also included is a rendering of the Provençal Chanson de Sainte Foy, translated by Robert L. A. Clark.
The miracles distinguish Sainte Foy as an unusual and highly individualistic child saint displaying a fondness for gold and pretty things, as well as a penchant for playing practical jokes on her worshippers. In his record of Sainte Foy, Bernard of Angers, the eleventh-century author of the first parts of the Liber miraculorum, emphasized the saint's "unheard of" miracles, such as replacing missing body parts and bringing dead animals back to life.
The introduction to the volume situates Sainte Foy in the history in the history of hagiography and places the saint and her monastery in the social context of the high Middle Ages. Sheingorn also evokes the rugged landscape of south central France, the picturesque village of Conques on the pilgrimage road, and, most important, the golden, jewel-encrusted reliquary statue that medieval believers saw as the embodiment of Sainte Foy's miracle-working power. In no other book will readers enjoy such a comprehensive portrait of Sainte Foy and the culture that nurtured her.
Playwrights, Stationers, and Readers in Early Modern England
The Book of the Play is a collection of essays that examines early modern drama in the context of book history. Focusing on the publication, marketing, and readership of plays opens fresh perspectives on the relationship between the cultures of print and performance and more broadly between drama and the public sphere. Marta Straznicky’s introduction offers a survey of approaches to the history of play reading in this period, and the collection as a whole consolidates recent work in textual, bibliographic, and cultural studies of printed drama. Individually, the essays advance our understanding of play reading as a practice with distinct material forms, discourses, social settings, and institutional affiliation. Part One, “Real and Imagined Communities,” includes four essays on play-reading communities and the terms in which they are distinguished from the reading public at large. Cyndia Clegg surveys the construction of readers in prefaces to published plays; Lucy Munro traces three separate readings of a single play, Edward Sharpham’s The Fleer; Marta Straznicky studies women as readers of printed drama; and Elizabeth Sauer describes how play reading was mobilized for political purposes in the period of the civil war. In Part Two, “Play Reading and the Book Trade,” five essays consider the impact of play reading on the public sphere through the lens of publishing practices. Zachary Lesser offers a revisionist account of black-letter typeface and the extent to which it may be understood as an index of popular culture; Alan Farmer examines how the emerging news trade of the 1620s and 1630s affected the marketing of printed drama; Peter Berek traces the use of generic terms on title pages of plays to reveal their intersection with the broader culture of reading; Lauren Shohet demonstrates that the Stuart masque had a parallel existence in the culture of print; and Douglas Brooks traces the impact print had on eclipsing performance as the medium in which the dramatist could legitimately lay claim to having authored his text. The individual essays focus on selected communities of readers, publication histories, and ideologies and practices of reading; the collection as a whole demonstrates the importance of textual production and reception to understanding the place of drama in the early modern public sphere.
Natural Philosophy in England, 1550-1600
Ranging from alchemy to necromancy, books of secrets? offered medieval readers an affordable and accessible collection of knowledge about the natural world. Allison Kaveys study traces the cultural relevance of these books and also charts their influence on the people who read them. Citing the importance of printers in choosing the books contents, she points out how these books legitimized manipulating nature, thereby expanding cultural categories, such as masculinity, femininity, gentleman, lady, and midwife, to include the willful command of the natural world.
Metaphor and Embodiment in the Lives of Pious Women, 200-1500
The early Christian writer Tertullian first applied the epithet "bride of Christ" to the uppity virgins of Carthage as a means of enforcing female obedience. Henceforth, the virgin as Christ's spouse was expected to manifest matronly modesty and due submission, hobbling virginity's ancient capacity to destabilize gender roles. In the early Middle Ages, the focus on virginity and the attendant anxiety over its possible loss reinforced the emphasis on claustration in female religious communities, while also profoundly disparaging the nonvirginal members of a given community.
With the rising importance of intentionality in determining a person's spiritual profile in the high Middle Ages, the title of bride could be applied and appropriated to laywomen who were nonvirgins as well. Such instances of democratization coincided with the rise of bridal mysticism and a progressive somatization of female spirituality. These factors helped cultivate an increasingly literal and eroticized discourse: women began to undergo mystical enactments of their union with Christ, including ecstatic consummations and vivid phantom pregnancies. Female mystics also became increasingly intimate with their confessors and other clerical confidants, who were sometimes represented as stand-ins for the celestial bridegroom. The dramatic merging of the spiritual and physical in female expressions of religiosity made church authorities fearful, an anxiety that would coalesce around the figure of the witch and her carnal induction into the Sabbath.