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Lordship, Status, and Process in Twelfth-Century Europe
The authors of Cultures of Power proffer diverse perspectives on the prehistory of government in Northern France, Spain, Germany, the Low Countries, and England. Political, social, ecclesiastical, and cultural history are brought to bear on topics such as aristocracies, women, rituals, commemoration, and manifestations of power through literary, legal, and scriptural means.
Blood, Gender, and Medieval Literature
In The Curse of Eve, the Wound of the Hero, Peggy McCracken explores the role of blood symbolism in establishing and maintaining the sex-gender systems of medieval culture. Reading a variety of literary texts in relation to historical, medical, and religious discourses about blood, and in the context of anthropological and religious studies, McCracken offers a provocative examination of the ways gendered cultural values were mapped onto blood in the Middle Ages.
As McCracken demonstrates, blood is gendered when that of men is prized in stories about battle and that of women is excluded from the public arena in which social and political hierarchies are contested and defined through chivalric contest. In her examination of the conceptualization of familial relationships, she uncovers the privileges that are grounded in gendered definitions of blood relationships. She shows that in narratives about sacrifice a father's relationship to his son is described as a shared blood, whereas texts about women accused of giving birth to monstrous children define the mother's contribution to conception in terms of corrupted, often menstrual blood. Turning to fictional representations of bloody martyrdom and of eucharistic ritual, McCracken juxtaposes the blood of the wounded guardian of the grail with that of Christ and suggests that the blood from the grail king's wound is characterized in opposition to that of women and Jewish men.
Drawing on a range of French and other literary texts, McCracken shows how the dominant ideas about blood in medieval culture point to ways of seeing modern values associated with blood in a new light, and how modern representations in turn suggest new perspectives on medieval perceptions.
The Aesthetics of Transgression
During his lifetime, Dante was condemned as corrupt and banned from Florence on pain of death. But in 1329, eight years after his death, he was again viciously condemned—this time as a heretic and false prophet—by Friar Guido Vernani. From Vernani’s inquisitorial viewpoint, the author of the Commedia “seduced” his readers by offering them “a vessel of demonic poison” mixed with poetic fantasies designed to destroy the “healthful truth” of Catholicism. Thanks to such pious vituperations, a sulphurous fume of unorthodoxy has persistently clung to the mantle of Dante’s poetic fame.
The primary critical purpose of Dante & the Unorthodox is to examine the aesthetic impulses behind the theological and political reasons for Dante’s allegory of mid-life divergence from the papally prescribed “way of salvation.” Marking the septicentennial of his exile, the book’s eighteen critical essays, three excerpts from an allegorical drama, and a portfolio of fourteen contemporary artworks address the issue of the poet’s conflicted relation to orthodoxy.
By bringing the unorthodox out of the realm of “secret things,” by uncensoring them at every turn, Dante dared to oppose the censorious regime of Latin Christianity with a transgressive zeal more threatening to papal authority than the demonic hostility feared by Friar Vernani.
Dante and the Blessed Virgin is distinguished philosopher Ralph McInerny’s eloquent reading of one of western literature’s most famous works by a Catholic writer. The book provides Catholic readers new to Dante’s The Divine Comedy (or Commedia) with a concise companion volume. McInerny argues that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the key to Dante. She is behind the scenes at the very beginning of the Commedia, and she is found at the end in the magnificent closing cantos of the Paradiso. McInerny also discusses Dante’s Vita Nuova, where Mary is present as the object of the young Beatrice’s devotion. McInerny draws from a diverse group of writers throughout this book, including Plato, Aristotle, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, and George Santayana, among others. It is St. Thomas, however, to whom McInerny most often turns, and this book also provides an accessible introduction to Thomistic moral philosophy focusing on the appetites, the ordering of goods, the distinction between the natural and the supernatural orders, the classification of capital vices and virtues, and the nature of the theological virtues. This engagingly written book will serve as a source of inspiration and devotion for anyone approaching Dante’s work for the first time as well as those who value the work of Ralph McInerny.
In this book, Teodolinda Barolini explores the sources of Italian literary culture in the figures of its lyric poets and its three crowns: Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Barolini views the origins of Italian literary culture through four prisms: the ideological/philosophical, the intertextual/multicultural, the structural/formal, and the social.The essays in the first section treat the ideology of love and desire from the early lyric tradition to the Inferno and its antecedents in philosophy and theology. In the second, Barolini focuses on Dante as heir to both the Christian visionary and the classical pagan traditions (with emphasis on Vergil and Ovid). The essays in the third part analyze the narrative character of Dante's Vita nuova, Petrarch's lyric sequence, and Boccaccio's Decameron. Barolini also looks at the cultural implications of the editorial history of Dante's rime and at what sparso versus organico spells in the Italian imaginary. In the section on gender, she argues that the didactic texts intended for women's use and instruction, as explored by Guittone, Dante, and Boccaccio-but not by Petrarch-were more progressive than the courtly style for which the Italian tradition is celebrated.Moving from the lyric origins of the Divine Comedy in Dante and the Lyric Pastto Petrarch's regressive stance on gender in Notes toward a Gendered History of Italian Literature-and encompassing, among others, Giacomo da Lentini, Guido Cavalcanti, and Guittone d'Arezzo-these sixteen essays by one of our leading critics frame the literary culture of thirteenth-and fourteenth-century Italy in fresh, illuminating ways that will prove useful and instructive to students and scholars alike.
Theology as Poetry
In Dante's Commedia: Theology as Poetry, an international group of theologians and Dante scholars provide a uniquely rich set of perspectives focused on the relationship between theology and poetry in the Commedia. Examining Dante's treatment of questions of language, personhood, and the body; his engagement with the theological tradition he inherited; and the implications of his work for contemporary theology, the contributors argue for the close intersection of theology and poetry in the text as well as the importance of theology for Dante studies. Through discussion of issues ranging from Dante's use of imagery of the Church to the significance of the smile for his poetic project, the essayists offer convincing evidence that his theology is not what underlies his narrative poem, nor what is contained within it: it is instead fully integrated with its poetic and narrative texture. As the essays demonstrate, the Commedia is firmly rooted in the medieval tradition of reflection on the nature of theological language, while simultaneously presenting its readers with unprecedented, sustained poetic experimentation. Understood in this way, Dante emerges as one of the most original theological voices of the Middle Ages.
Gender and Monastic Practice in the Early Medieval West
In Dark Age Bodies Lynda L. Coon reconstructs the gender ideology of monastic masculinity through an investigation of early medieval readings of the body. Focusing on the Carolingian era, Coon evaluates the ritual and liturgical performances of monastic bodies within the imaginative landscapes of same-sex ascetic communities in northern Europe. She demonstrates how the priestly body plays a significant role in shaping major aspects of Carolingian history, such as the revival of classicism, movements for clerical reform, and church-state relations. In the political realm, Carolingian churchmen consistently exploited monastic constructions of gender to assert the power of the monastery. Stressing the superior qualities of priestly virility, clerical elites forged a model of gender that sought to feminize lay male bodies through a variety of textual, ritual, and spatial means.
Focusing on three central themes—the body, architecture, and ritual practice—the book draws from a variety of visual and textual materials, including poetry, grammar manuals, rhetorical treatises, biblical exegesis, monastic regulations, hagiographies, illuminated manuscripts, building plans, and cloister design. Interdisciplinary in scope, Dark Age Bodies brings together scholarship in architectural history and cultural anthropology with recent works in religion, classics, and gender to present a significant reconsideration of Carolingian culture.
Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Islamic Iberia
Al-Andalus, the Arabic name for the medieval Islamic state in Iberia, endured for over 750 years following the Arab and Berber conquest of Hispania in 711. While the popular perception of al-Andalus is that of a land of religious tolerance and cultural cooperation, the fact is that we know relatively little about how Muslims governed Christians and Jews in al-Andalus and about social relations among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus, Janina M. Safran takes a close look at the structure and practice of Muslim political and legal-religious authority and offers a rare look at intercommunal life in Iberia during the first three centuries of Islamic rule.
Safran makes creative use of a body of evidence that until now has gone largely untapped by historians-the writings and opinions of Andalusi and Maghribi jurists during the Umayyad dynasty. These sources enable her to bring to life a society undergoing dramatic transformation. Obvious differences between conquerors and conquered and Muslims and non-Muslims became blurred over time by transculturation, intermarriage, and conversion. Safran examines ample evidence of intimate contact between individuals of different religious communities and of legal-juridical accommodation to develop an argument about how legal-religious authorities interpreted the social contract between the Muslim regime and the Christian and Jewish populations. Providing a variety of examples of boundary-testing and negotiation and bringing judges, jurists, and their legal opinions and texts into the narrative of Andalusi history, Safran deepens our understanding of the politics of Umayyad rule, makes Islamic law tangibly social, and renders intercommunal relations vividly personal.