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1?6ARTHURIANA after the French Revolution, when the lady found herselfshort of cash after losing the revenue from her whale-oil monopoly. (Merlin, it seems, was in Paris studying electrical conductivity with Don [Benjamin] Franklin.) Elsewhere, Felipe describes an innkeeper at Pacios as an ugly man 'with a Kaiser Bill mustache.' The Moor Alsir tells of how he sold a magical mirror to Lady Ophelia at Elsinore, and Merlin advises a messenger to seek a one-eyed archer who happens to be the grandson of Oedipus; yet the magician also refers to The Merry Widow, and we learn ofa prince who has been tracing his beloved via Scotland Yard. The cumulative effect ofsuch time-shifts is to make history seem more of a web than a line. Like the dreams of Cunqueiro's old boatman, or even the compilation that makes up Merlin and Company, the social memory that we commonly call culture is a conflation of lies, truths, and half-truths that are difficult, if not impossible, to separate. At this stage ofbelatedness, the novel demands, who is more 'real,' Ben Franklin or Shakespeare's Ophelia? Merlin and Company will be ofgreat interest to students ofArthurian literature, and one can easily imagine it becoming a favorite on undergraduate syllabi. But Cunqueiro's at once regional and cosmopolitan fiction is also particularly timely in a Europe where national identities seem to be weakening even as local ones grow stronger. Can there be such a thing as European literature? What might it look like? Ihrough the memory ofhis old boatman, Cunqueiro presents one possibility, and Colin Smith is to be commended for giving English-speaking readers a chance at last to travel to this fascinating world. KEVIN GUSTAfSON University ofTexas at Arlington christopher DANiELL, Death and Burial in Medieval England 1066-1550. London and New York: Routledge, 1997. isbn: 0-415-11629-5. $49.95. jean-Claude Schmitt, Ghosts in the MiddleAges. The Livingandthe Deadin Medieval Society, trans. Teresa Lavender Fagan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1998. isbn: 0-225-73887-6. $33. Ever since Philippe Aries put the subject on the map, death has been a fashionable area ofhistorical enquiry. But it is one that presents the medievalist with particular problems. All historians in studying 'death' are in reality studying what the living think and do about it. For the medievalist, without much in the way of intimate private papers, that tends to mean studying what the living were told to think about death and what the elite did about it. Reconstructing popular belief, let alone glimpsing individualexperience, involves the cautious teasing out ofevidence from sources that often have another agenda. Aries, indeed, came close to denying the validity ofdeath as an individual experience for medieval people, preferring to stress its communality. More recent writers, rightly, have rejected this denial of the individual, but are then left confronting far more intractable problems of interpretation than Aries recognised. REVIEWS107 The two books reviewed here take very different approaches to the problem. Christopher Daniell's interdisciplinary survey tackles the subject on a broad front. He is himself an archaeologist, and sees archaeology as offering a view of the experiences of ordinary people which literary and artistic sources by themselves cannot provide. The integration and synthesis ofthe archaeological evidence, usually hidden away in technical excavation reports, is one of the strengths of the book. But Danieli has cast his net widely across other sources as well. Indeed, the book works best as a useful compendium of facts, leavened with some rather unexpected digressions, such as the detailed discussion of contemporary perceptions of good and bad ways ofdying. It is, it must be said, less successful in providing a theoretical framework for the detail. One problem is that the arrangement of the book is thematic rather than chronological, and many ofthe examples of'medieval' practice are more accurately late-medieval (fifteenth and early sixteenth century). Given the growing volume of evidence, this is understandable enough, but it does beg the question ofchange. A reader who did not already know that lay ownership ofBooks of Hours, or the development of the Ars Moriendi (37), or the first appearance of the Dance ofDeath (69) were essentially...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1539
Print ISSN
1078-6279
Pages
pp. 106-108
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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