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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER challenge on its home grounds. His remarks about Geoffrey's intent to be "modern" and how medieval modernity differs from the present phe­ nomenon raise challenging questions for postmodern theorists, as do Rachel Jacoff's on the nature of Dante's relationship to his sources and subtexts. A success ofanother sort is Louis Mackey's essay on Anselm, which puts the Derridean concept of"differance" to excellent use in order to bring out the passion and prayerful leap offaith that underlie Anselm's Proslogion, too often treated entirely as an effort, successful or not, in pure logic. Marshall Leicester provides a clear and engaging translation ofthe funda­ mental Deconstructionist concepts of "differance," "presence" and "ab­ sence" into terms familiar to the philosophic and literary issues in Chaucer; his notes contain a good introductory bibliography, and Chaucerians who still do not know what all the fuss is about would do well to start here. Indeed, the whole volume contains valuable practical essays; I only wish it more thoroughly engaged postmodernist theory, as promised. MARY CARRUTHERS University ofIllinois at Chicago ARON lAKOVLEVICH GUREVICH. Problems ofMedieval Popular Culture. Trans. Janos M. Bak and Paul Hollingsworth. Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture, vol. 14. Cambridge, London, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Pp. 312. $44.50. The last few years have seen a marked interest in the popular culture ofthe Middle Ages. The founding and nurturing spirit behind this enterprise is the Anna/es school ofhistorians. Although primarily French and centered at the Ecole d'Hautes Etudes, emphasizing economic and social history as the true repository of histoire des mentalites, the Annaliste have found adherents in virtually all Western countries, and have produced a notable body ofscholarship. Although until recently this approach to the study of the Middle Ages has been the sole provenance ofthe West, it appears to have had little methodological impact on Anglo-American medieval liter­ ary scholarship. Aron Gurevich, the distinguished Soviet historian, is the leading exponent ofan Annaliste-1ike approach to the study ofthe Middle Ages, working outside the mainstream ofEuropean historiography. During 224 REVIEWS the past twenty years Gurevich has produced an impressive body of work. It is now almost ten years since C. E. Halpern regretted the unavailability of Gurevich's work in English. Fortunately, his scholarship is now being translated into English. The work being reviewed here is his second major study to be translated following Categories ofMedieval Culture (1985). The scope of the present volume is encyclopedic. It is nothing less than an assessment of the histoire des mentalites of the medieval peasantry through a close reading of sermons, saints' lives, miracle stories, histories and ftorilegia of popular exempla. On any page one can find Gurevich discussing such unrelated texts as the Hiberno-Latin voyage ofBrendan, the Middle Irish Vision ofTnugdal, Alberich of Monte Casino's rhetorical theories, and Dante. Such an array of texts-discussed not as individuals but as representatives-whileindicative of the range of Gurevich's reading, reminds this reader ofhis indebtedness to his great mentorBakhtin and the Russian structuralists' refutation ofthe limits of Anglo-American historical positivism, or what the Annaliste have referred to as histoire evene­ mentielle. And indeed it is on this latter score that one has the greatest difficulty with this wonderful book: Gurevich unabashedly uses concepts like themedieval consciousness, medieval Weltanschauung, medieval man, the medieval church as meaningful descriptors. His belief in these grand concepts' ability to tell us an historical truth is rooted in his view of the medieval church-the single, most obvious representative of the longue duree. His understanding of the consistency with which the church was able to marshal dogma through time and, in so doing, create at least the semblance of a civilization of shared values is both the strength ofhis book and its weakness. His stimulating study of the cultural artifacts ofmedieval life, in its dogged analysis of the "dialogue-conflict" between elites and illiterates which gave birth to that life, and his indebtedness to structuralist categories of thought, puts at risk the recovery of the individual lives of medieval men and women. Gurevich has focused on medieval Latin sources because he believes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 224-228
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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