Classical authors used both prose and poetry to explore and explain the natural world. In Aetna and the Moon, Liba Taub examines the variety of ways in which ancient Greeks and Romans conveyed scientific information. Oregon State University Press is proud to present this inaugural volume in the Horning Visiting Scholars Series. In ancient Greece and Rome, most of the technical literature on scientific, mathematical, technological, and medical subjects was written in prose, as it is today. However, Greek and Roman poets produced a significant number of widely read poems that dealt with scientific topics. Why would an author choose poetry to explain the natural world? This question is complicated by claims made, since antiquity, that the growth of rational explanation involved the abandonment of poetry and the rejection of myth in favor of science. Taub uses two texts to explore how scientific ideas were disseminated in the ancient world. The anonymous author of the Latin Aetna poem explained the science behind the volcano Etna with poetry. The Greek author Plutarch juxtaposed scientific and mythic explanations in his dialogue On the Face on the Moon. Both texts provide a lens through which Taub considers the nature of scientific communication in ancient Greece and Rome. General readers will appreciate Taub�s thoughtful discussion concerning the choices available to ancient authors to convey their ideas about science�as important today as it was in antiquity�while Taub�s careful research and lively writing will engage classicists as well as historians of science.
The Alchemical Body excavates and centers within its Indian context the lost tradition of the medieval Siddhas. Working from previously unexplored alchemical sources, David Gordon White demonstrates for the first time that the medieval disciplines of Hindu alchemy and hatha yoga were practiced by one and the same people, and that they can be understood only when viewed together. White opens the way to a new and more comprehensive understanding of medieval Indian mysticism, within the broader context of south Asian Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Islam.
"White proves a skillful guide in disentangling historical and theoretical complexities that have thus far bedeviled the study of these influential aspects of medieval Indian culture."—Yoga World
"Anyone seriously interested in finding out more about authentic tantra, original hatha yoga, embodied liberation . . . sacred sexuality, paranormal abilities, healing, and of course alchemy will find White's extraordinary book as fascinating as any Tom Clancy thriller."—Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Journal
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.
Runner-up, PROSE Award, Classics and Ancient History, 2013
From antiquity until now, most writers who have chronicled the events following the death of Alexander the Great have viewed this history through the careers, ambitions, and perspectives of Alexander’s elite successors. Few historians have probed the experiences and attitudes of the ordinary soldiers who followed Alexander on his campaigns and who were divided among his successors as they fought for control of his empire after his death. Yet the veterans played an important role in helping to shape the character and contours of the Hellenistic world.
This pathfinding book offers the first in-depth investigation of the Macedonian veterans’ experience during a crucial turning point in Greek history (323–316 BCE). Joseph Roisman discusses the military, social, and political circumstances that shaped the history of Alexander’s veterans, giving special attention to issues such as the soldiers’ conduct on and off the battlefield, the army assemblies, the volatile relationship between the troops and their generals, and other related themes, all from the perspective of the rank-and-file. Roisman also reexamines the biases of the ancient sources and how they affected ancient and modern depictions of Alexander’s veterans, as well as Alexander’s conflicts with his army, the veterans’ motives and goals, and their political contributions to Hellenistic history. He pays special attention to the Silver Shields, a group of Macedonian veterans famous for their invincibility and martial prowess, and assesses whether or not they deserved their formidable reputation.
An innovative reading of John Gower's work and an exciting new approach to medieval vernacular texts.
"Moral Gower" he was called by friend and sometime rival Geoffrey Chaucer, and his Confessio Amantis has been viewed as an uncomplicated analysis of the universe, combining erotic narratives with ethical guidance and political commentary. Diane Watt offers the first sustained reading of John Gower's Confessio to argue that this early vernacular text offers no real solutions to the ethical problems it raises--and in fact actively encourages "perverse" readings.
Drawing on a combination of queer and feminist theory, ethical criticism, and psychoanalytic, historicist, and textual criticism, Watt focuses on the language, sex, and politics in Gower's writing. How, she asks, is Gower's Confessio related to contemporary controversies over vernacular translation and debates about language politics? How is Gower's treatment of rhetoric and language gendered and sexualized, and what bearing does this have on the ethical and political structure of the text? What is the relationship between the erotic, ethical, and political sections of Confessio Amantis? Watt demonstrates that Gower engaged in the sort of critical thinking more commonly associated with Chaucer and William Langland at the same time that she contributes to modern debates about the ethics of criticism.
Diane Watt is senior lecturer in English at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Ancestors, Kings, and the Dao outlines the evolution of musical performance in early China, first within and then ultimately away from the socio-religious context of ancestor worship. Examining newly discovered bamboo texts from the Warring States period, Constance A. Cook compares the rhetoric of Western Zhou (1046–771 BCE) and Spring and Autumn (770–481 BCE) bronze inscriptions with later occurrences of similar terms in which ritual music began to be used as a form of self-cultivation and education. Cook’s analysis links the creation of such classics as the Book of Odes with the ascendance of the individual practitioner, further connecting the social actors in three types of ritual: boys coming of age, heirs promoted into ancestral government positions, and the philosophical stages of transcendence experienced in self-cultivation.
The focus of this study is on excavated texts; it is the first to use both bronze and bamboo narratives to show the evolution of a single ritual practice. By viewing the ancient inscribed materials and the transmitted classics from this new perspective, Cook uncovers new linkages in terms of how the materials were shaped and reshaped over time and illuminates the development of eulogy and song in changing ritual contexts.
Ancestral ritual in early China was an orchestrated dance between what was present (the offerings and the living) and what was absent (the ancestors). The interconnections among the tangible elements of the sacrifice were overt and almost mechanical, but extending those connections to the invisible guests required a medium that was itself invisible. Thus in early China, ancestral sacrifice was associated with focused thinking about the ancestors, with a structured mental effort by the living to reach out to the absent forebears and to give them shape and existence. Thinking about the ancestors-about those who had become distant-required active deliberation and meditation, qualities that had to be nurtured and learned.
This study is a history of the early Chinese ancestral cult, particularly its cognitive aspects. Its goals are to excavate the cult's color and vitality and to quell assumptions that it was no more than a simplistic and uninspired exchange of food for longevity, of prayers for prosperity. Ancestor worship was not, the author contends, merely mechanical and thoughtless. Rather, it was an idea system that aroused serious debates about the nature of postmortem existence, served as the religious backbone to Confucianism, and may even have been the forerunner of Daoist and Buddhist meditation practices.
In the growing field of early medieval texts in translation, this book presents the first full English translations of the Lives of Liutbirga of Wendhausen, the first anchoress in Saxony, and Hathumoda, the first abbess of Gandersheim.
This book is a study of the variable perceptions of Greek collective identity, discussing ancient categories such as blood- and mythically-related primordiality, language, religion, and culture. With less emphasis on dichotomies between Greeks and others, the book considers complex middle grounds of intra-Hellenic perceptions, oppositional identities, and outsiders’ views. Although the authors do not seek to provide a litmus test of Greek identity, they do pay close attention to modern theories of ethnicity, its construction, function, and representation, and assess their applicability to views of Greekness in antiquity.
From the Archaic period through the Roman Empire, archaeological, anthropological, historical, historiographical, rhetorical, artistic, and literary aspects are studied. Regardless of the invented aspects of ethnicity, the book illustrates its force and validity in history.
Mangroves and rice, six-row brittle barley and einkorn wheat. Ancient crops for prehistoric people. What do they have in common? All tell us about the lives and cultures of long ago, as humans cultivated or collected these plants for food. Exploring these and other important plants used for millennia by humans, Ancient Plants and People presents a wide-angle view of the current state of archaeobotanical research, methods, and theories.
Food has both a public and a private role, and it permeates the life of all people in a society. Food choice, production, and distribution probably represent the most complex indicators of social life, and thus a study of foods consumed by ancient peoples reveals many clues about their lifestyles. But in addition to yielding information about food production, distribution, preparation, and consumption, plant remains recovered from archaeological sites offer precious insights on past landscapes, human adaptation to climate change, and the relationship between human groups and their environment. Revealing important aspects of past human societies, these plant-driven insights widen the spectrum of information available to archaeologists as we seek to understand our history as a biological and cultural species.
Often answers raise more questions. As a result, archaeobotanists are constantly pushed to reflect on the methodological and theoretical aspects of their discipline. The contributors discuss timely methodological issues and engage in debates on a wide range of topics from plant utilization by hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists, to uses of ancient DNA. Ancient Plants and People provides a global perspective on archaeobotanical research, particularly on the sophisticated interplay between the use of plants and their social or environmental context.
Just like we do today, people in medieval times struggled with the concept of human exceptionalism and the significance of other creatures. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the medieval bestiary. Sarah Kay’s exploration of French and Latin bestiaries offers fresh insight into how this prominent genre challenged the boundary between its human readers and other animals.
Bestiaries present accounts of animals whose fantastic behaviors should be imitated or avoided, depending on the given trait. In a highly original argument, Kay suggests that the association of beasts with books is here both literal and material, as nearly all surviving bestiaries are copied on parchment made of animal skin, which also resembles human skin. Using a rich array of examples, she shows how the content and materiality of bestiaries are linked due to the continual references in the texts to the skins of other animals, as well as the ways in which the pages themselves repeatedly—and at times, it would seem, deliberately—intervene in the reading process. A vital contribution to animal studies and medieval manuscript studies, this book sheds new light on the European bestiary and its profound power to shape readers’ own identities.
Animals and Inequality in the Ancient World explores the current trends in the social archaeology of human-animal relationships, focusing on the ways in which animals are used to structure, create, support, and even deconstruct social inequalities.
The authors provide a global range of case studies from both New and Old World archaeology—a royal Aztec dog burial, the monumental horse tombs of Central Asia, and the ceremonial macaw cages of ancient Mexico among them. They explore the complex relationships between people and animals in social, economic, political, and ritual contexts, incorporating animal remains from archaeological sites with artifacts, texts, and iconography to develop their interpretations.
Animals and Inequality in the Ancient World presents new data and interpretations that reveal the role of animals, their products, and their symbolism in structuring social inequalities in the ancient world. The volume will be of interest to archaeologists, especially zooarchaeologists, and classical scholars of pre-modern civilizations and societies.
Anthropomorphizing the Cosmos explores the sociocultural significance of more than three hundred Middle Preclassic Maya figurines uncovered at the site of Nixtun-Ch'ich' on Lake Petén Itzá in northern Guatemala. In this careful, holistic, and detailed analysis of the Petén lakes figurines—hand-modeled, terracotta anthropomorphic fragments, animal figures, and musical instruments such as whistles and ocarinas—Prudence M. Rice engages with a broad swath of theory and comparative data on Maya ritual practice.
Presenting original data, Anthropomorphizing the Cosmos offers insight into the synchronous appearance of fired-clay figurines with the emergence of societal complexity in and beyond Mesoamerica. Rice situates these Preclassic Maya figurines in the broader context of Mesoamerican human figural representation, identifies possible connections between anthropomorphic figurine heads and the origins of calendrics and other writing in Mesoamerica, and examines the role of anthropomorphic figurines and zoomorphic musical instruments in Preclassic Maya ritual. The volume shows how community rituals involving the figurines helped to mitigate the uncertainties of societal transitions, including the beginnings of settled agricultural life, the emergence of social differentiation and inequalities, and the centralization of political power and decision-making in the Petén lowlands.
Literature on Maya ritual, cosmology, and specialized artifacts has traditionally focused on the Classic period, with little research centering on the very beginnings of Maya sociopolitical organization and ideological beliefs in the Middle Preclassic. Anthropomorphizing the Cosmos is a welcome contribution to the understanding of the earliest Maya and will be significant to Mayanists and Mesoamericanists as well as nonspecialists with interest in these early figurines
Composed between the sixth and ninth centuries, penitentials were little books of penance that address a wide range of human fallibility. But they are far more than mere registers of sin and penance: rather, by revealing the multiple contexts in which their authors anticipated various sins, they reveal much about the ways those authors and, presumably, their audiences understood a variety of social phenomena. Offering new, more accurate translations of the penitentials than what has previously been available, this book delves into the potentialities addressed in these manuals for clues about less tangible aspects of early medieval history, including the innocence and vulnerability of young children and the relationship between speech and culpability; the links between puberty, autonomy, and moral accountability; early medieval efforts to regulate sexual relationships; and much more.
Girolamo Savonarola Harvard University Press, 2015 Library of Congress DG737.97.A25 2015 | Dewey Decimal 282.092
First brought to Florence by Lorenzo de’ Medici as a celebrity preacher, Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498), a Dominican friar, would ultimately play a major role in the events that convulsed the city in the 1490s and led to the overthrow of the Medici themselves. After a period when he held close to absolute power in the great Renaissance republic, Savonarola was excommunicated by the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, in 1497 and, after a further year of struggle, was hanged and burned in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria in 1498.
The Latin writings brought together in this volume consist of various letters, a formal apologia, and his Dialogue on the Truth of Prophecy, all written in the last year of his life. They defend his prophetic mission and work of reform in Florence while providing a fascinating window onto the mind of a religious fanatic. All these works are here translated into English for the first time.
Comparison is an indispensable intellectual operation that plays a crucial role in the formation of knowledge. Yet comparison often leads us to forego attention to nuance, detail, and context, perhaps leaving us bereft of an ethical obligation to take things correspondingly as they are. Examining the practice of comparison across the study of history, language, religion, and culture, distinguished scholar of religion Bruce Lincoln argues in Apples and Oranges for a comparatism of a more modest sort.
Lincoln presents critiques of recent attempts at grand comparison, and enlists numerous theoretical examples of how a more modest, cautious, and discriminating form of comparison might work and what it can accomplish. He does this through studies of shamans, werewolves, human sacrifices, apocalyptic prophecies, sacred kings, and surveys of materials as diverse and wide-ranging as Beowulf, Herodotus’s account of the Scythians, the Native American Ghost Dance, and the Spanish Civil War.
Ultimately, Lincoln argues that concentrating one's focus on a relatively small number of items that the researcher can compare closely, offering equal attention to relations of similarity and difference, not only grants dignity to all parties considered, it yields more reliable and more interesting—if less grandiose—results. Giving equal attention to the social, historical, and political contexts and subtexts of religious and literary texts also allows scholars not just to assess their content, but also to understand the forces, problems, and circumstances that motivated and shaped them.
The Pacific coast and southern highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala is a region significant to debates about the origins of social complexity, interaction, and colonialism. The area, however, has received uneven attention and much of what we know is largely restricted to the Preclassic period. This theoretically eclectic volume presents greater temporal coverage, is geographically unified, and engages some of the most important questions of each period through a discussion of the archaeology of identity.
Chapters range from traditional assessments of identity to discussion of practice and relational personhood; all share a concern for how archaeology and ethnohistory provide opportunities and challenges in the reconstruction of identities. The region is one with a multifaceted history of interactions between local populations and those from other parts of Mesoamerica. Linguistic diversity, landscape, and artistic representations have added to the complexities of understanding identity formation here. Rather than providing a unified voice on the issues, Archaeology and Identity on the Pacific Coast and Southern Highlands of Mesoamerica is a dialogue presented through case studies, one that will hopefully encourage future research in this complex and little understood region of Mesoamerica.
Archaeology at El Perú-Waka’ is the first book to summarize long-term research at this major Maya site. The results of fieldwork and subsequent analyses conducted by members of the El Perú-Waka’ Regional Archaeological Project are coupled with theoretical approaches treating the topics of ritual, memory, and power as deciphered through material remains discovered at Waka’. The book is site-centered, yet the fifteen wide-ranging contributions offer readers greater insight to the richness and complexity of Classic-period Maya culture, as well as to the ways in which archaeologists believe ancient peoples negotiated their ritual lives and comprehended their own pasts.
El Perú-Waka’ is an ancient Maya city located in present-day northwestern Petén, Guatemala. Rediscovered by petroleum exploration workers in the mid-1960s, it is the largest known archaeological site in the Laguna del Tigre National Park in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. The El Perú-Waka’ Regional Archaeological Project initiated scientific investigations in 2003, and through excavation and survey, researchers established that Waka’ was a key political and economic center well integrated into Classic-period lowland Maya civilization, and reconstructed many aspects of Maya life and ritual activity in this ancient community. The research detailed in this volume provides a wealth of new, substantive, and scientifically excavated data, which contributors approach with fresh theoretical insights. In the process, they lay out sound strategies for understanding the ritual manipulation of monuments, landscapes, buildings, objects, and memories, as well as related topics encompassing the performance and negotiation of power throughout the city’s extensive sociopolitical history.
The first work to apply an events-based approach to the analysis of pivotal developments in the pre-Columbian Southeast
Across the social sciences, gradualist evolutionary models of historical dynamics are giving way to explanations focused on the punctuated and contingent “events” through which history is actually experienced. The Archaeology of Events is the first book-length work that systematically applies this new eventful approach to major developments in the pre-Columbian Southeast.
Traditional accounts of pre-Columbian societies often portray them as “cold” and unchanging for centuries or millennia. Events-based analyses have opened up archaeological discourse to the more nuanced and flexible idea of context-specific, rapidly transpiring, and broadly consequential historical “events” as catalysts of cultural change.
The Archaeology of Events, edited by Zackary I. Gilmore and Jason M. O’Donoughue, considers a variety of perspectives on the nature and scale of events and their role in historical change. These perspectives are applied to a broad range of archeological contexts stretching across the Southeast and spanning more than 7,000 years of the region’s pre-Columbian history. New data suggest that several of this region’s most pivotal historical developments, such as the founding of Cahokia, the transformation of Moundville from urban center to vacated necropolis, and the construction of Poverty Point’s Mound A, were not protracted incremental processes, but rather watershed moments that significantly altered the long-term trajectories of indigenous Southeastern societies.
In addition to exceptional occurrences that impacted entire communities or peoples, southeastern archaeologists are increasingly recognizing the historical importance of localized, everyday events, such as building a house, crafting a pot, or depositing shell. The essays collected by Gilmore and O’Donoughue show that small-scale events can make significant contributions to the unfolding of broad, regional-scale historical processes and to the reproduction or transformation of social structures.
The Archaeology of Events is the first volume to explore the archaeological record of events in the Southeastern United States, the methodologies that archaeologists bring to bear on this kind of research, and considerations of the event as an important theoretical concept.
Presenting the latest in archaeometallurgical research in a Mesoamerican context, Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica brings together up-to-date research from the most notable scholars in the field. These contributors analyze data from a variety of sites, examining current approaches to the study of archaeometallurgy in the region as well as new perspectives on the significance metallurgy and metal objects had in the lives of its ancient peoples.
The chapters are organized following the cyclical nature of metals--beginning with extracting and mining ore, moving to smelting and casting of finished objects, and ending with recycling and deterioration back to the original state once the object is no longer in use. Data obtained from archaeological investigations, ethnohistoric sources, ethnographic studies, along with materials science analyses, are brought to bear on questions related to the integration of metallurgy into local and regional economies, the sacred connotations of copper objects, metallurgy as specialized crafting, and the nature of mining, alloy technology, and metal fabrication.
Stephen Halliwell University of Chicago Press, 1998 Library of Congress PN1040.A53H35 1998 | Dewey Decimal 808.2
In this, the fullest, sustained interpretation of Aristotle's Poetics available in English, Stephen Halliwell demonstrates that the Poetics, despite its laconic brevity, is a coherent statement of a challenging theory of poetic art, and it hints towards a theory of mimetic art in general. Assessing this theory against the background of earlier Greek views on poetry and art, particularly Plato's, Halliwell goes further than any previous author in setting Aristotle's ideas in the wider context of his philosophical system.
The core of the book is a fresh appraisal of Aristotle's view of tragic drama, in which Halliwell contends that at the heart of the Poetics lies a philosophical urge to instill a secularized understanding of Greek tragedy.
"Essential reading not only for all serious students of the Poetics . . . but also for those—the great majority—who have prudently fought shy of it altogether."—B. R. Rees, Classical Review
"A splendid work of scholarship and analysis . . . a brilliant interpretation."—Alexander Nehamas, Times Literary Supplement
One of the most common ways of setting the arts in parallel, at least from the literary side, is through the popular rhetorical device of ekphrasis. The original meaning of this term is simply an extended and detailed, lively description, but it has been used most commonly in reference to painting or sculpture. In this lively collection of essays, Andrew James Johnston, Ethan Knapp, and Margitta Rouse offer a major contribution to the study of text–image relationships in medieval Europe. Resisting any rigid definition of ekphrasis, The Art of Vision is committed to reclaiming medieval ekphrasis, which has not only been criticized for its supposed aesthetic narcissism but has also frequently been depicted as belonging to an epoch when the distinctions between word and image were far less rigidly drawn. Examples studied range from the eleventh through the seventeenth centuries and include texts written in Medieval Latin, Medieval French, Middle English, Middle Scots, Middle High German, and Early Modern English.
The essays in this volume highlight precisely the entanglements that ekphrasis suggests and/or rejects: not merely of word and image, but also of sign and thing, stasis and mobility, medieval and (early) modern, absence and presence, the rhetorical and the visual, thinking and feeling, knowledge and desire, and many more. The Art of Vision furthers our understanding of the complexities of medieval ekphrasis while also complicating later understandings of this device. As such, it offers a more diverse account of medieval ekphrasis than previous studies of medieval text–image relationships, which have normally focused on a single country, language, or even manuscript.
During the late twelfth to fourteenth centuries, several precursors of what is now commonly known as Shinto came together for the first time. By focusing on Mt. Miwa in present-day Nara Prefecture and examining the worship of indigenous deities (kami) that emerged in its proximity, this book serves as a case study of the key stages of “assemblage” through which this formative process took shape. Previously unknown rituals, texts, and icons featuring kami, all of which were invented in medieval Japan under the strong influence of esoteric Buddhism, are evaluated using evidence from local and translocal ritual and pilgrimage networks, changing land ownership patterns, and a range of religious ideas and practices. These stages illuminate the medieval pedigree of Ryōbu Shintō (kami ritual worship based loosely on esoteric Buddhism’s Two Mandalas), a major precursor to modern Shinto.
In analyzing the key mechanisms for “assembling” medieval forms of kami worship, Andreeva challenges the twentieth-century master narrative of Shinto as an unbroken, monolithic tradition. By studying how and why groups of religious practitioners affiliated with different cultic sites and religious institutions responded to esoteric Buddhism’s teachings, this book demonstrates that kami worship in medieval Japan was a result of complex negotiations.
At Play in the Tavern is a lively study of the tavern, inn, and brothel in the literature of medieval France. Cowell's original treatment of the medieval tavern as a counterpoint to orthodox institutions considers such delicious transgressions as drinking, gambling, prostitution, theft, usury, and "foile" (a peculiar combination of madness and sinfulness). This innovative study of both market-place values and literary culture unveils a raucous culture opposed to the dominant models of society coming out of the Augustinian tradition. Cowell contrasts the literary domains of the carnal and the orthodox and innovatively assigns physical space to each. The literature of the tavern is shown to represent the possibility of escape from ecclesiastical models of economic and literary exchange that insisted on equality, utility, and charity by offering a vision of exuberant excess. Cowell concludes that drama, poetry, and other secular texts, when considered as a whole, are ultimately complicit in a revolution favoring an ethic of profit.
Drawing on recent work in medieval literature, history, popular culture, gender studies, and sign theory, Andrew Cowell employs a wide range of traditional and, until now, little known sources to show the unity and importance of a countercultural literary mode.
Andrew Cowell is Assistant Professor, Department of French and Italian, University of Colorado at Boulder.
Slaves, foundlings, prostitutes, nuns, homosexuals, exiles, the elderly, and mountain communities - such groups stood at the margins of society in premodern Italy. But where precisely the margins were was not so easily determined. Examining these minorities as the buffer zones between more readily recognizable centers, At the Margins explores identity as a process rather than a fixed entity, stressing the multiplicity of groups to which individuals belonged. By tracing the shifting relations of social margins to centers in Italy between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries - and showing how these shifts in turn relate to social order and identity formation - the authors challenge entrenched ideas about the nature of the Renaissance and its role in shaping modernity. Behind much cultural theory lies a critique of the centrality of modernity and its foundations in the discourse of Renaissance humanism. And yet, as this volume reveals, the insights of contemporary cultural theory serve to expose the flaws in this picture of cultural hegemony and, in decentering the Renaissance, return it to the heart of cultural debate.
Authoring the Past surveys medieval Catalan historiography, shedding light on the emergence and evolution of historical writing and autobiography in the Middle Ages, on questions of authority and authorship, and on the links between history and politics during the period. Jaume Aurell examines texts from the late twelfth to the late fourteenth century—including the Latin Gesta comitum Barcinonensium and four texts in medieval Catalan: James I’s Llibre dels fets, the Crònica of Bernat Desclot, the Crònica of Ramon Muntaner, and the Crònica of Peter the Ceremonious—and outlines the different motivations for the writing of each.
For Aurell, these chronicles are not mere archaeological artifacts but rather documents that speak to their writers’ specific contemporary social and political purposes. He argues that these Catalonian counts and Aragonese kings were attempting to use their role as authors to legitimize their monarchical status, their growing political and economic power, and their aggressive expansionist policies in the Mediterranean. By analyzing these texts alongside one another, Aurell demonstrates the shifting contexts in which chronicles were conceived, written, and read throughout the Middle Ages.
The first study of its kind to make medieval Catalonian writings available to English-speaking audiences, Authoring the Past will be of interest to scholars of history and comparative literature, students of Hispanic and Romance medieval studies, and medievalists who study the chronicle tradition in other languages.
The Avignon papacy (1309–1377) represented the zenith of papal power in Europe. The Roman curia’s move to southern France enlarged its bureaucracy, centralized its authority, and initiated closer contact with secular institutions. The pope’s presence also attracted leading minds to Avignon, transforming a modest city into a cosmopolitan center of learning. But a crisis of legitimacy was brewing among leading thinkers of the day. The Avignon Papacy Contested considers the work of six fourteenth-century writers who waged literary war against the Catholic Church’s increasing claims of supremacy over secular rulers—a conflict that engaged contemporary critics from every corner of Europe.
Unn Falkeid uncovers the dispute’s origins in Dante’s Paradiso and Monarchia, where she identifies a sophisticated argument for the separation of church and state. In Petrarch’s writings she traces growing concern about papal authority, precipitated by the curia’s exile from Rome. Marsilius of Padua’s theory of citizen agency indicates a resistance to the pope’s encroaching power, which finds richer expression in William of Ockham’s philosophy of individual liberty. Both men were branded as heretics. The mystical writings of Birgitta of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, in Falkeid’s reading, contain cloaked confrontations over papal ethics and church governance even though these women were later canonized.
While each of the six writers responded creatively to the implications of the Avignon papacy, they shared a concern for the breakdown of secular order implied by the expansion of papal power and a willingness to speak their minds.