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Studies by Time Period > Medieval and Renaissance Studies
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
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.
A Translation of El Libro del Cavallero Zifar
The Book of the Knight Zifar (or Cifar), Spain's first novel of chivalry, is the tale of a virtuous but unfortunate knight who has fallen from grace and must seek redemption through suffering and good deeds. Because of a curse that repeatedly deprives him of that most important of knightly accoutrements -- his horse -- Zifar and his family must flee their native India and wander through distant lands seeking to regain their rank and fortune. A series of mishaps divides the family, and the novel follows their separate adventures -- alternatively heroic, comic, and miraculous -- until at length they are reunited and their honor restored.
The anonymous author of Zifar based his early fourteenth-century novel on the medieval story of the life of St. Eustacius, but onto this trunk he grafted a surprising variety of narrative types: Oriental tales of romance and magic, biblical stories, moralizing fables popular since the Middle Ages, including several from Aesop, and instructions in the rules of proper knightly conduct. Humor in the form of puns, jokes, and old proverbs also runs through the novel. In particular, the foolish/wise Knave offers a comic contrast to the heroic Knight, whom he must continually rescue through the application of common sense.
Zifar was to have an important influence on later Spanish literature, and perhaps on Cervantes' great tale of a knight and his squire, Don Quixote. All those with an interest in Spanish literature and medieval life will be grateful for Mr. Nelson's excellent translation, which brings to life this extraordinary early novel.
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.