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Studies by Time Period > Medieval and Renaissance Studies

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Christianity's Quiet Success Cover

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Christianity's Quiet Success

The Eusebius Gallicanus Sermon Collection and the Power of the Church in Late Antique Gaul

Lisa Kaaren Bailey

Lisa Kaaren Bailey’s Christianity’s Quiet Success: The Eusebius Gallicanus Sermon Collection and the Power of the Church in Late Antique Gaul is the first major study of the Eusebius Gallicanus collection of anonymous, multi-authored sermons from fifth- and sixth-century Gaul. Bailey sheds new light on these sermons, which were strikingly popular and influential from late antiquity to the High Middle Ages, as the large number of surviving manuscripts attests. They were used for centuries by clergy as a preaching guide and by monks and pious lay people as devotional reading. Bailey’s analysis demonstrates the extent to which these stylistically simple and straightforward sermons emphasize consensus, harmony, and mutuality as the central values of a congregation. Preachers encouraged tolerance among their congregants and promoted a model of leadership that placed themselves at the center of the community rather than above it. These sermons make clear the delicate balancing act required of late antique and warly medieval pastors as they attempted to explain the Christian faith and also maintain the clerical control considered necessary for a universal church. The Eusebius Gallicanus collection gives us fresh insight inyo the process by which the Catholic Church influenced the lives of Western Europeans.

The Church in the Republic Cover

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The Church in the Republic

Gallicanism and political ideology in Renaissance France

Jotham Parsons

The Church in the Republic offers a new interpretation of the relationship between religion and politics in Europe at the dawn of the modern age.

Cinematic Hamlet Cover

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Cinematic Hamlet

The Films of Olivier, Zeffirelli, Branagh, and Almereyda

Patrick J. Cook

Hamlet has inspired four outstanding film adaptations that continue to delight a wide and varied audience and to offer provocative new interpretations of Shakespeare’s most popular play. Cinematic Hamlet contains the first scene-by-scene analysis of the methods used by Laurence Olivier, Franco Zeffirelli, Kenneth Branagh, and Michael Almereyda to translate Hamlet into highly distinctive and remarkably effective films.

 
Applying recent developments in neuroscience and psychology, Patrick J. Cook argues that film is a medium deploying an abundance of devices whose task it is to direct attention away from the film’s viewing processes and toward the object represented. Through careful analysis of each film’s devices, he explores the ways in which four brilliant directors rework the play into a radically different medium, engaging the viewer through powerful instinctive drives and creating audiovisual vehicles that support and complement Shakespeare’s words and story.
 
Cinematic Hamlet will prove to be indispensable for anyone wishing to understand how these films rework Shakespeare into the powerful medium of film.

The Cistercian Evolution Cover

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The Cistercian Evolution

The Invention of a Religious Order in Twelfth-Century Europe

By Constance Hoffman Berman

According to the received history, the Cistercian order was founded in Cîteaux, France, in 1098 by a group of Benedictine monks who wished for a stricter community. They sought a monastic life that called for extreme asceticism, rejection of feudal revenues, and manual labor for monks. Their third leader, Stephen Harding, issued a constitution, the Carta Caritatis, that called for the uniformity of custom in all Cistercian monasteries and the establishment of an annual general chapter meeting at Cîteaux.

The Cistercian order grew phenomenally in the mid-twelfth century, reaching beyond France to Portugal in the west, Sweden in the north, and the eastern Mediterranean, ostensibly through a process of apostolic gestation, whereby members of a motherhouse would go forth to establish a new house. The abbey at Clairvaux, founded by Bernard in 1115, was alone responsible for founding 68 of the 338 Cistercian abbeys in existence by 1153. But this well-established view of a centrally organized order whose founders envisioned the shape and form of a religious order at its prime is not borne out in the historical record.

Through an investigation of early Cistercian documents, Constance Hoffman Berman proves that no reliable reference to Stephen's Carta Caritatis appears before the mid-twelfth century, and that the document is more likely to date from 1165 than from 1119. The implications of this fact are profound. Instead of being a charter by which more than 300 Cistercian houses were set up by a central authority, the document becomes a means of bringing under centralized administrative control a large number of loosely affiliated and already existing monastic houses of monks as well as nuns who shared Cistercian customs. The likely reason for this administrative structuring was to check the influence of the overdominant house of Clairvaux, which threatened the authority of Cîteaux through Bernard's highly successful creation of new monastic communities.

For centuries the growth of the Cistercian order has been presented as a spontaneous spirituality that swept western Europe through the power of the first house at Cîteaux. Berman suggests instead that the creation of the religious order was a collaborative activity, less driven by centralized institutions; its formation was intended to solve practical problems about monastic administration. With the publication of The Cistercian Evolution, for the first time the mechanisms are revealed by which the monks of Cîteaux reshaped fact to build and administer one of the most powerful and influential religious orders of the Middle Ages.

Cities of Ladies Cover

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Cities of Ladies

Beguine Communities in the Medieval Low Countries, 1200-1565

By Walter Simons

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2002

In the early thirteenth century, semireligious communities of women began to form in the cities and towns of the Low Countries. These beguines, as the women came to be known, led lives of contemplation and prayer and earned their livings as laborers or teachers.

In Cities of Ladies, the first history of the beguines to appear in English in fifty years, Walter Simons traces the transformation of informal clusters of single women to large beguinages. These veritable single-sex cities offered lower- and middle-class women an alternative to both marriage and convent life. While the region's expanding urban economies initially valued the communities for their cheap labor supply, severe economic crises by the fourteenth century restricted women's opportunities for work. Church authorities had also grown less tolerant of religious experimentation, hailing as subversive some aspects of beguine mysticism. To Simons, however, such accusations of heresy against the beguines were largely generated from a profound anxiety about their intellectual ambitions and their claims to a chaste life outside the cloister. Under ecclesiastical and economic pressure, beguine communities dwindled in size and influence, surviving only by adopting a posture of restraint and submission to church authorities.

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The Claims of Poverty

Literature, Culture, and Ideology in Late Medieval England

Kate Crassons

In The Claims of Poverty, Kate Crassons explores a widespread ideological crisis concerning poverty that emerged in the aftermath of the plague in late medieval England. She identifies poverty as a central preoccupation in texts ranging from Piers Plowman and Wycliffite writings to The Book of Margery Kempe and the York cycle plays. Crassons shows that these and other works form a complex body of writing in which poets, dramatists, and preachers anxiously wrestled with the status of poverty as a force that is at once a sacred imitation of Christ and a social stigma; a voluntary form of life and an unwelcome hardship; an economic reality and a spiritual disposition. Crassons argues that literary texts significantly influenced the cultural conversation about poverty, deepening our understanding of its urgency as a social, economic, and religious issue. These texts not only record debates about the nature of poverty as a form of either vice or virtue, but explore epistemological and ethical aspects of the debates. When faced with a claim of poverty, people effectively become readers interpreting the signs of need in the body and speech of their fellow human beings. The literary and dramatic texts of late medieval England embodied the complexity of such interaction with particular acuteness, revealing the ethical stakes of interpretation as an act with direct material consequences. As The Claims of Poverty demonstrates, medieval literature shaped perceptions about who is defined as "poor," and in so doing it emerged as a powerful cultural force that promoted competing models of community, sanctity, and justice.

The Clerical Dilemma Cover

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The Clerical Dilemma

Peter of Blois and literate culture in the twelfth century

John D. Cotts

The Clerical Dilemma is the first book-length study of Peter of Blois's life, thought, and writings in any language

Clio and the Crown Cover

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Clio and the Crown

The Politics of History in Medieval and Early Modern Spain

Richard L. Kagan

Monarchs throughout the ages have commissioned official histories that cast their reigns in a favorable light for future generations. These accounts, sanctioned and supported by the ruling government, often gloss over the more controversial aspects of a king's or queen’s time on the throne. Instead, they present highly selective and positive readings of a monarch’s contribution to national identity and global affairs. In Clio and the Crown, Richard L. Kagan examines the official histories of Spanish monarchs from medieval times to the middle of the 18th century. He expertly guides readers through the different kinds of official histories commissioned: those whose primary focus was the monarch; those that centered on the Spanish kingdom as a whole; and those that celebrated Spain’s conquest of the New World. In doing so, Kagan also documents the life and work of individual court chroniclers, examines changes in the practice of official history, and highlights the political machinations that influenced the redaction of such histories. Just as world leaders today rely on fast-talking press officers to explain their sometimes questionable actions to the public, so too did the kings and queens of medieval and early modern Spain. Monarchs often went to great lengths to exert complete control over the official history of their reign, physically intimidating historians, destroying and seizing manuscripts and books, rewriting past histories, and restricting history writing to authorized persons. Still, the larger practice of history writing—as conducted by nonroyalist historians, various scholars and writers, and even church historians—provided a corrective to official histories. Kagan concludes that despite its blemishes, the writing of official histories contributed, however imperfectly, to the practice of historiography itself.

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Coire Sois, The Cauldron of Knowledge

A Companion to Early Irish Saga

Tomas O Cathasaigh

Coire Sois, The Cauldron of Knowledge: A Companion to Early Irish Saga offers thirty-one previously published essays by Tomás Ó Cathasaigh, which together constitute a magisterial survey of early Irish narrative literature in the vernacular. Ó Cathasaigh has been called “the father of early Irish literary criticism,” with writings among the most influential in the field. He pioneered the analysis of the classic early Irish tales as literary texts, a breakthrough at a time when they were valued mainly as repositories of grammatical forms, historical data, and mythological debris. All four of the Mythological, Ulster, King, and Finn Cycles are represented here in readings of richness, complexity, and sophistication, supported by absolute philological rigor and yet easy for the non-specialist to follow. The book covers key terms, important characters, recurring themes, rhetorical strategies, and the narrative logic of this literature. It also surveys the work of the many others whose explorations were launched by Ó Cathasaigh's first encounters with the literature. As the most authoritative single volume on the essential texts and themes of early Irish saga, this collection will be an indispensable resource for established scholars, and an ideal introduction for newcomers to one of the richest and most under-studied literatures of medieval Europe.

Collections in Context Cover

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Collections in Context

The Organization of Knowledge and Community in Europe

Edited by Karen Fresco and Anne D. Hedeman

The fourteen essays that comprise Collections in Context: The Organization of Knowledge and Community in Europe interrogate questions posed by French, Flemish, English, and Italian collections of all sorts—libraries as a whole, anthologies and miscellanies assembled within a single manuscript or printed book, and even illustrated ivory boxes. Collecting became an increasingly important activity during the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries, when the decreased cost of producing books made ownership available to more people. But the act of collecting is never neutral: it gathers information, orders material (especially linear texts), and prioritizes everything—in short, collecting both organizes and comments on knowledge. Moreover, the context of a collection must reveal something about identity, but whose? That of the compiler? The reader or viewer? The donor? The patron? With essays by a wide array of international scholars, Collections in Context demonstrates that the very act of collecting inevitably imposes some kind of relationship among what might otherwise be naively thought of as disparate elements and simultaneously exposes something about the community that created and used the collection. Thus, Collections in Context offers unusual insights into how collecting both produced knowledge and built community in early modern Europe.

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