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In this brief and incisive book, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills tells the story of the Confessions--what motivated Augustine to dictate it, how it asks to be read, and the many ways it has been misread in the one-and-a-half millennia since it was composed. Following Wills's biography of Augustine and his translation of the Confessions, this is an unparalleled introduction to one of the most important books in the Christian and Western traditions.
Understandably fascinated by the story of Augustine's life, modern readers have largely succumbed to the temptation to read the Confessions as autobiography. But, Wills argues, this is a mistake. The book is not autobiography but rather a long prayer, suffused with the language of Scripture and addressed to God, not man. Augustine tells the story of his life not for its own significance but in order to discern how, as a drama of sin and salvation leading to God, it fits into sacred history. "We have to read Augustine as we do Dante," Wills writes, "alert to rich layer upon layer of Scriptural and theological symbolism." Wills also addresses the long afterlife of the book, from controversy in its own time and relative neglect during the Middle Ages to a renewed prominence beginning in the fourteenth century and persisting to today, when the Confessions has become an object of interest not just for Christians but also historians, philosophers, psychiatrists, and literary critics.
With unmatched clarity and skill, Wills strips away the centuries of misunderstanding that have accumulated around Augustine's spiritual classic.
An Introspective Philosophy
Augustine's Love of Wisdom is an analytical and interpretive focus on the first thirty chapters of book ten of Augustine's Autobiographical Confessions. Bourke provides a rich synthesis of key tenets of Augustine's psychology in the context of his philosophical system and selects the most intensive writing of Augustine on the intricacies of the human psyche, providing the reader with insight on an Augustinian explanatory method, introspection.
The Augustinian Epic, Petrarch to Milton rewrites the history of the Renaissance Vergilian epic by incorporating the neo-Latin side of the story alongside the vernacular one, revealing how epics spoke to each other "across the language gap" and together comprised a single, "Augustinian tradition" of epic poetry. Beginning with Petrarch's Africa, Warner offers major new interpretations of Renaissance epics both famous and forgotten—from Milton's Paradise Lost to a Latin Christiad by his near-contemporary, Alexander Ross—thereby shedding new light on the development of the epic genre. For advanced undergraduate students, graduate students, and scholars in the fields of Italian, English, and Comparative literatures as well as the Classics and the history of religion and literature.
Jean Gerson and the Transformation of Late Medieval Learning
Widely recognized by contemporaries as the most powerful theologian of his generation, Jean Gerson (1363-1429) dominated the stage of western Europe during a time of plague, fratricidal war, and religious schism. Yet modern scholarship has struggled to define Gerson's place in history, even as it searches for a compelling narrative to tell the story of his era.
Daniel Hobbins argues for a new understanding of Gerson as a man of letters actively managing the publication of his works in a period of rapid expansion in written culture. More broadly, Hobbins casts Gerson as a mirror of the complex cultural and intellectual shifts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In contrast to earlier theologians, Gerson took a more humanist approach to reading and to authorship. He distributed his works, both Latin and French, to a more diverse medieval public. And he succeeded in reaching a truly international audience of readers within his lifetime. Through such efforts, Gerson effectively embodies the aspirations of a generation of writers and intellectuals. Removed from the narrow confines of late scholastic theology and placed into a broad interdisciplinary context, his writings open a window onto the fascinating landscape of fifteenth-century Europe.
The picture of late medieval culture that emerges from this study is neither a specter of decaying scholasticism nor a triumphalist narrative of budding humanism and reform. Instead, Hobbins describes a period of creative and dynamic growth, when new attitudes toward writing and debate demanded and eventually produced new technologies of the written word.
The impact of Averroes’ natural philosophy on the history of philosophy and science. Ibn Rushd (1126–1198) or Averroes, is widely known as the unrivalled commentator on virtually all works by Aristotle. His commentaries and treatises were used as manuals for understanding Aristotelian philosophy until the Age of the Enlightenment. Both Averroes and the movement commonly known as ‘Latin Averroism’ have attracted considerable attention from historians of philosophy and science. Whereas most studies focus on Averroes’ psychology, particularly on his doctrine of the ‘unity of the intellect’, Averroes’ natural philosophy as a whole and its influence still remain largely unexplored. This volume aims to fill the gap by studying various aspects of Averroes’ natural philosophical thought, in order to evaluate its impact on the history of philosophy and science between the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. Contributors: Jean-Baptiste Brenet (Université de Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne), Cristina Cerami (cnrs, umr 7219: sphere/chspam), Silvia Donati (Albertus-Magnus-Institut, Bonn), Dag Nikolaus Hasse (Julius-Maximilians- Universität Würzburg), Craig Martin (Oakland University), Edith Dudley Sylla (North Carolina State University), Cecilia Trifogli (All Souls College, Oxford)
Ordinary Life in the Middle Ages
In The Axe and the Oath, one of the world's leading medieval historians presents a compelling picture of daily life in the Middle Ages as it was experienced by ordinary people. Writing for general readers, Robert Fossier vividly describes how these vulnerable people confronted life, from birth to death, including childhood, marriage, work, sex, food, illness, religion, and the natural world. While most histories of the period focus on the ideas and actions of the few who wielded power and stress how different medieval people were from us, Fossier concentrates on the other nine-tenths of humanity in the period and concludes that "medieval man is us."
Drawing on a broad range of evidence, Fossier describes how medieval men and women encountered, coped with, and understood the basic material facts of their lives. We learn how people related to agriculture, animals, the weather, the forest, and the sea; how they used alcohol and drugs; and how they buried their dead. But The Axe and the Oath is about much more than simply the material demands of life. We also learn how ordinary people experienced the social, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of medieval life, from memory and imagination to writing and the Church. The result is a sweeping new vision of the Middle Ages that will entertain and enlighten readers.
The Russian Radical
Author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand (1905–1982) is one of the most widely read philosophers of the twentieth century. Yet, despite the sale of over thirty million copies of her works, there have been few serious scholarly examinations of her thought. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical provides a comprehensive analysis of the intellectual roots and philosophy of this controversial thinker. It has been nearly twenty years since the original publication of Chris Sciabarra’s Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Those years have witnessed an explosive increase in Rand sightings across the social landscape: in books on philosophy, politics, and culture; in film and literature; and in contemporary American politics, from the rise of the Tea Party to recent presidential campaigns. During this time Sciabarra continued to work toward the reclamation of the dialectical method in the service of a radical libertarian politics, culminating in his book Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism (Penn State, 2000). In this new edition of Ayn Rand, Chris Sciabarra adds two chapters that present in-depth analysis of the most complete transcripts to date documenting Rand’s education at Petrograd State University. A new preface places the book in the context of Sciabarra’s own research and the recent expansion of interest in Rand’s philosophy. Finally, this edition includes a postscript that answers a recent critic of Sciabarra’s historical work on Rand. Shoshana Milgram, Rand’s biographer, has tried to cast doubt on Rand’s own recollections of having studied with the famous Russian philosopher N. O. Lossky. Sciabarra shows that Milgram’s analysis fails to cast doubt on Rand’s recollections—or on Sciabarra’s historical thesis.
People and Prosperity in Southern Spain from Caesar to Septimius Severus
Baetica, the present-day region of Andalusia in southern Spain, was the wealthiest province of the Roman Empire. Its society was dynamic and marked by upward social and economic mobility, as the imperial peace allowed the emergence of a substantial middle social and economic stratum. Indeed, so mutually beneficial was the imposition of Roman rule on the local population of Baetica that it demands a new understanding of the relationship between Imperial Rome and its provinces. Baetica Felix builds a new model of Roman-provincial relations through a socio-economic history of the province from Julius Caesar to the end of the second century A.D. Describing and analyzing the impact of Roman rule on a core province, Evan Haley addresses two broad questions: what effect did Roman rule have on patterns of settlement and production in Baetica, and how did it contribute to wealth generation and social mobility? His findings conclusively demonstrate that meeting the multiple demands of the Roman state created a substantial freeborn and ex-slave "middle stratum" of the population that outnumbered both the super-rich elite and the destitute poor.
The Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire
The Migration Age is still envisioned as an onrush of expansionary "Germans" pouring unwanted into the Roman Empire and subjecting it to pressures so great that its western parts collapsed under the weight. Further developing the themes set forth in his classic Barbarians and Romans, Walter Goffart dismantles this grand narrative, shaking the barbarians of late antiquity out of this "Germanic" setting and reimagining the role of foreigners in the Later Roman Empire.
The Empire was not swamped by a migratory Germanic flood for the simple reason that there was no single ancient Germanic civilization to be transplanted onto ex-Roman soil. Since the sixteenth century, the belief that purposeful Germans existed in parallel with the Romans has been a fixed point in European history. Goffart uncovers the origins of this historical untruth and argues that any projection of a modern Germany out of an ancient one is illusory. Rather, the multiplicity of northern peoples once living on the edges of the Empire participated with the Romans in the larger stirrings of late antiquity. Most relevant among these was the long militarization that gripped late Roman society concurrently with its Christianization.
If the fragmented foreign peoples with which the Empire dealt gave Rome an advantage in maintaining its ascendancy, the readiness to admit military talents of any social origin to positions of leadership opened the door of imperial service to immigrants from beyond its frontiers. Many barbarians were settled in the provinces without dislodging the Roman residents or destabilizing landownership; some were even incorporated into the ruling families of the Empire. The outcome of this process, Goffart argues, was a society headed by elites of soldiers and Christian clergy—one we have come to call medieval.
Reorienting the Past in the Poetry of Early Modern England
In the late sixteenth century, English merchants and diplomats ventured into the eastern Mediterranean to trade directly with the Turks, the keepers of an important emerging empire in the Western Hemisphere, and these initial exchanges had a profound effect on English literature. While the theater investigated representations of religious and ethnic identity in its portrayals of Turks and Muslims, poetry, Miriam Jacobson argues, explored East-West exchanges primarily through language and the material text. Just as English markets were flooded with exotic goods, so was the English language awash in freshly imported words describing items such as sugar, jewels, plants, spices, paints, and dyes, as well as technological advancements such as the use of Arabic numerals in arithmetic and the concept of zero.
Even as these Eastern words and imports found their way into English poetry, poets wrestled with paying homage to classical authors and styles. As Barbarous Antiquity reveals, poems adapted from Latin or Greek sources and set in the ancient classical world were now reoriented to reflect a contemporary, mercantile Ottoman landscape. As Renaissance English writers including Shakespeare, Jonson, Marlowe, and Chapman weighed their reliance on classical poetic models against contemporary cultural exchanges, a new form of poetry developed, positioned at the crossroads of East and West, ancient and modern. Building each chapter around the intersection of an Eastern import and a classical model, Jacobson shows how Renaissance English poetry not only reconstructed the classical past but offered a critique of that very enterprise with a new set of words and metaphors imported from the East.