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Medieval Short Stories and the Function of Reversal
Short works known for their humor and ribaldry, the fabliaux were comic or satirical tales told by wandering minstrels in medieval France. Although the fabliaux are widely acknowledged as inspiring Giovanni Boccaccio’s masterpiece, the Decameron, this theory has never been substantiated beyond perceived commonalities in length and theme. This new and provocative interpretation examines the formal similarities between the Decameron’s tales of wit, wisdom, and practical jokes and the popular thirteenth-century fabliaux.
Katherine Brown examines these works through a prism of reversal and chiasmus to show that Boccaccio was not only inspired by the content of the fabliaux but also by their fundamental design--where a passage of truth could be read as a lie or a tale of life as a tale of death. Brown reveals close resemblances in rhetoric, literary models, and narrative structure to demonstrate how the Old French manuscripts of the fabliaux were adapted in the organization of the Decameron.
Identifying specific examples of fabliaux transformed by Boccaccio for his classic Decameron, Brown shows how Boccaccio refashioned borrowed literary themes and devices, playing with endless possibilities of literary creation through manipulations of his model texts.
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.
The Nouvelles Récréations et Joyeaux Devis of Bonaventure des Périers are here translated for the first time into modern English. The translators have been successful in retaining the vitality of this important French Renaissance satirist, turning his colloquial sixteenth-century French into equally colloquial and lively American. The translation of the 129 tales is prefaced by a biographical study of des Périers both as man and artist, and a critical bibliography is also included.
A Translation of Don Juan Manuel's El Conde Lucanor
Don Juan Manuel, nephew of King Alfonso X, The Wise, knew well the appeal of exempla (moralized tales), which he believed should entertain if they were to provide ways and means for solving life's problems. His fourteenth-century book, known as El Conde lucanor, is considered by many to be the purest Spanish prose before the immortal Don Quixote of Cervantes written two centuries later. He found inspiration for his tales in classical and eastern literatures, Spanish history, and folklore. His stories are not translations, but are his retelling of some of the best stories in existence. The translation succeeds in making the author speak as clearly to the modern reader as to readers of his own time.
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.
The Unity of Malory's Morte Darthur
Beginning with a consideration of Malory's ingenious chronology, this study shows that Malory achieved thematic and structural unity by selecting from the great mass of Arthurian legend three narrative strands -- the intrigues of Lancelot and Guinevere, the Grail quest, and the feud between the houses of Lot and Pellinore -- using these to illustrate a single theme -- the rise, flowering, and downfall of an ideal civilization. This selection and use of diverse materials, Charles Moorman asserts, indicates clearly that Malory set to work with a preconceived plan and that he did achieve his purpose, to write the "haole book of Kyng Arthur."
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