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Afterlives

The Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages

by Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Simultaneously real and unreal, the dead are people, yet they are not. The society of medieval Europe developed a rich set of imaginative traditions about death and the afterlife, using the dead as a point of entry for thinking about the self, regeneration, and loss. These macabre preoccupations are evident in the widespread popularity of stories about the returned dead, who interacted with the living both as disembodied spirits and as living corpses or revenants. In Afterlives, Nancy Mandeville Caciola explores this extraordinary phenomenon of the living's relation­ship with the dead in Europe during the five hundred years after the year 1000.

Caciola considers both Christian and pagan beliefs, showing how certain traditions survived and evolved over time, and how attitudes both diverged and overlapped through different contexts and social strata. As she shows, the intersection of Christian eschatology with various pagan afterlife imaginings—from the classical paganisms of the Mediterranean to the Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, and Scandinavian paganisms indigenous to northern Europe—brought new cultural values about the dead into the Christian fold as Christianity spread across Europe. Indeed, the Church proved surprisingly open to these influences, absorbing new images of death and afterlife in unpredictable fashion. Over time, however, the persistence of regional cultures and beliefs would be counterbalanced by the effects of an increasingly centralized Church hierarchy. Through it all, one thing remained constant: the deep desire in medieval people to bring together the living and the dead into a single community enduring across the generations.

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Against All England

Regional Identity and Cheshire Writing, 1195-1656

Robert W. Barrett, Jr.

Against All England examines a diverse set of poems, plays, and chronicles produced in Cheshire and its vicinity from the 1190s to the 1650s that collectively argue for the localization of British literary history. These works, including very early monastic writing emanating from St. Werburgh’s Abbey, the Chester Whitsun plays, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, seventeenth-century ceremonials, and various Stanley romances, share in the creation and revision of England’s cultural tradition, demonstrating a vested interest in the intersection of landscape, language, and politics. Barrett’s book grounds itself in Cestrian evidence in order to offer scholars a new, dynamic model of cultural topography, one that acknowledges the complex interlacing of regional and national identities within the longue durée extending from the post-Conquest period to the Restoration. Covering nearly five centuries of literary production within a single geographical location, the book challenges still dominant chronologies of literary history that emphasize cultural rupture and view the “Renaissance” as a sharp break from England’s medieval past.

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The Age of Grace

Charis in Early Greek Poetry

Bonnie MacLachlan

Although "grace" in today's secular usage often connotes beauty or good manners, to the ancient Greeks it was both an aesthetic and a moral concept central to social order--a transformative power grounded in favor, thanks, repayment, delight, pleasure, and, above all, reciprocity. Here Bonnie MacLachlan explores the Greek concept of grace, or charis, as depicted in poetic works from Homer to Aeschylus, to tap into the essential meaning behind the manifold uses of the term. She also relates it to other important concepts in the moral language of the eighth century \B.C.E.

Examining epic, lyric, erotic, epinician, and tragic poetry, and the cult of the Charites themselves, MacLachlan shows how charis governed human relations of all sorts, from the battlefield to bed: Achilles sulks, and jeopardizes the Greek victory in the Trojan War, because there was no charis in Agamemnon's gesture of reconciliation; the young Telemachus, filled with the gift of charis, speaks persuasively before the assembly of Ithacans; young men and women in erotic poems shine with charis when they are sexually mature. In shaping her definition of charis as a mutually shared pleasure that breaks down the barriers of the self, MacLachlan seeks to elucidate many poetic passages that have long mystified the commentators.

Originally published in 1993.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

By Angelica Duran

In The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution, Angelica Duran reveals the way in which Milton’s works interacted with the revolutionary work of his contemporaries in science to participate in the dynamic “advancement of learning” of the time period. Bringing together primary materials by early modern scientists, including Robert Boyle, William Gilbert, William Harvey, Isaac Newton, John Ray, and John Wilkins as well as educational reformers such as Samuel Hartlib and Henry Oldenburg, The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution positions Milton’s literature as a coequal partner with the new cosmological theories, mathematical developments, telescopes, and scientific tracts that so thoroughly affected every aspect of recorded life in seventeenth century England. Duran shows, for example, how new developments in ornithology worked to shape the Lady’s power in the young Milton’s celebratory A Mask, how mathematics informed the sexual relationship of Adam and Eve in his mature epic Paradise Lost, and how developments in optics transformed the blinded hero of the blind author’s moving tragedy Samson Agonistes. While this study is indebted to the work of historians of science—from C. P. Snow and Thomas Kuhn to Stephen Shapin and Stephen Jay Gould—it is not a history of science per se, but rather a cultural study that appreciates poetry as a unique lens through which early modern England’s large-scale developments in education and science are clarified and reflected. What emerges is an intimate sense of how the enormous changes of the English Scientific Revolution affected individual lives and found their ways into Milton’s enduring poetry and prose.

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Aislinge Meic Conglinne

The Vision of Mac Conglinne

Lahney Preston-Matto

Aislinge Meic Conglinne, an anonymous Middle Irish romance, recounts the efforts of the eponymous hero to exchange the hardscrabble life of a clerical scholar for the prestigious life of a poet. Mac Conglinne wins the patronage of Cathal mac Finguine, the king of Munster, after rescuing him from a "demon of gluttony" by reciting a fantastic, food-laden vision of alternate worlds. An accomplished and original eleventh-century satiric narrative poem, Aislinge Meic Conglinne is now available for the first time as a stand-alone translation.

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Alchemical Belief

Occultism in the Religious Culture of Early Modern England

Bruce Janacek

What did it mean to believe in alchemy in early modern England? In this book, Bruce Janacek considers alchemical beliefs in the context of the writings of Thomas Tymme, Robert Fludd, Francis Bacon, Sir Kenelm Digby, and Elias Ashmole. Rather than examine alchemy from a scientific or medical perspective, Janacek presents it as integrated into the broader political, philosophical, and religious upheavals of the first half of the seventeenth century, arguing that the interest of these elite figures in alchemy was part of an understanding that supported their national—and in some cases royalist—loyalty and theological orthodoxy. Janacek investigates how and why individuals who supported or were actually placed at the traditional center of power in England’s church and state believed in the relevance of alchemy at a time when their society, their government, their careers, and, in some cases, their very lives were at stake.

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Alexander’s Veterans and the Early Wars of the Successors

By Joseph Roisman

This first focused analysis of veterans’ experiences in ancient Greece offers a fresh, “bottom-up” perspective on important military and political aspects of early Hellenistic history.

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Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions

Frank L. Holt

To all those who witnessed his extraordinary conquests, from Albania to India, Alexander the Great appeared invincible. How Alexander himself promoted this appearance—how he abetted the belief that he enjoyed divine favor and commanded even the forces of nature against his enemies—is the subject of Frank L. Holt's absorbing book.

Solid evidence for the "supernaturalized" Alexander lies in a rare series of medallions that depict the triumphant young king at war against the elephants, archers, and chariots of Rajah Porus of India at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. Recovered from Afghanistan and Iraq in sensational and sometimes perilous circumstances, these ancient artifacts have long animated the modern historical debate about Alexander. Holt's book, the first devoted to the mystery of these ancient medallions, takes us into the history of their discovery and interpretation, into the knowable facts of their manufacture and meaning, and, ultimately, into the king's own psyche and his frightening theology of war. The result is a valuable analysis of Alexander history and myth, a vivid account of numismatics, and a spellbinding look into the age-old mechanics of megalomania.

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Alexandria in Late Antiquity

Topography and Social Conflict

Christopher Haas

Second only to Rome in the ancient world, Alexandria was home to many of late antiquity's most brilliant writers, philosophers, and theologians—among them Philo, Origen, Arius, Athanasius, Hypatia, Cyril, and John Philoponus. Now, in Alexandria in Late Antiquity, Christopher Haas offers the first book to place these figures within the physical and social context of Alexandria's bustling urban milieu. Because of its clear demarcation of communal boundaries, Alexandria provides the modern historian with an ideal opportunity to probe the multicultural makeup of an ancient urban unit. Haas explores the broad avenues and back alleys of Alexandria's neighborhoods, its suburbs and waterfront, and aspects of material culture that underlay Alexandrian social and intellectual life. Organizing his discussion around the city's religious and ethnic blocs—Jews, pagans, and Christians—he details the fiercely competitive nature of Alexandrian social dynamics. In contrast to recent scholarship, which cites Alexandria as a model for peaceful coexistence within a culturally diverse community, Haas finds that the diverse groups' struggles for social dominance and cultural hegemony often resulted in violence and bloodshed—a volatile situation frequently exacerbated by imperial intervention on one side or the other. Eventually, Haas concludes, Alexandrian society achieved a certain stability and reintegration—a process that resulted in the transformation of Alexandrian civic identity during the crucial centuries between antiquity and the Middle Ages.

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Allegory and Philosophy in Avicenna (Ibn Sina)

With a Translation of the Book of the Prophet Muhammad's Ascent to Heaven

By Peter Heath

Islamic allegory is the product of a cohesive literary tradition to which few contributed as significantly as Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the eleventh-century Muslim philosopher. Peter Heath here offers a detailed examination of Avicenna's contribution, paying special attention to Avicenna's psychology and poetics and to the ways in which they influenced strains of theological, mystical, and literary thought in subsequent Islamic—and Western—intellectual and religious history.

Heath begins by showing how Avicenna's writings fit into the context and general history of Islamic allegory and explores the interaction among allegory, allegoresis, and philosophy in Avicenna's thought. He then provides a brief introduction to Avicenna as an historical figure. From there, he examines the ways in which Avicenna's cosmological, psychological, and epistemological theories find parallel, if diverse, expression in the disparate formats of philosophical and allegorical narration. Included in this book is an illustration of Avicenna's allegorical practice. This takes the form of a translation of the Mi'raj Nama (The Book of the Prophet Muhammad's Ascent to Heaven), a short treatise in Persian generally attributed to Avicenna.

The text concludes with an investigation of the literary dimension Avicenna's allegorical theory and practice by examining his use of description metaphor. Allegory and Philosophy in Avicenna is an original and important work that breaks new ground by applying the techniques of modern literary criticism to the study of Medieval Islamic philosophy. It will be of interest to scholars and students of medieval Islamic and Western literature and philosophy.

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