The Medieval World View: An Introduction

The Medieval World View: An Introduction

The Medieval World View: An Introduction

The Medieval World View: An Introduction

Synopsis

The Medieval World View, 2/e, is an engaging introduction to the people, places, and ideas that shaped the intellectual world of the Middle Ages. The book presents the presuppositions of medieval society in a systematic fashion by integrating brief, self-contained selections from primary texts and carefully captioned photographs into a narrative of the medieval world and its foundations.
The text is divided into three parts. Treating both the classical and biblical antecedents of the Middle Ages and ending in Late Antiquity, Part 1 includes a thorough discussion of the monumental figure of St. Augustine. Part 2 deals with the early Middle Ages, beginning with the disintegration of the Roman Empire and continuing through the German invasions, the sixth- and seventh-century founders, and the renaissance associated with the reign of Charlemagne. Part 3 examines the High Middle Ages and beyond, following developments in the Church, in politics, and in arts and culture from the twelfth century through the end of the fourteenth century. This second edition has been thoroughly updated to reflect recent scholarship in the field. It adds a new chapter covering the fourteenth century and pays greater attention to women and gender-related issues. The bibliography has been updated and revised and now provides a useful guide to electronic resources.
The Medieval World View, 2/e, handles sophisticated issues with great clarity and ease, making this an ideal text for courses in Medieval history, literature, or art history.

Excerpt

This book began as our response to the difficulties encountered by undergraduate students trying to understand the Middle Ages. As any teacher who must deal with a time and place remote from our own knows, the Middle Ages presents special problems to students, who for the most part are unaware of its quite different intellectual, aesthetic, institutional, and spiritual presuppositions. The twelfth-century epic Song of Roland is a literary work of a very high order; it is also an extremely useful document with which to teach the ideals of feudal society and the spirit of the Crusades. Readers opening the Song of Roland for the first time, however, discover early on the disconcerting fact that Charlemagne is more than two hundred years old. Even if their immediate response is not to close the book, so long as their only standards of judgment are modern ones, they probably will not take the work seriously, refusing to believe that a culture that has no respect for “reality” has much to say to them. To understand and appreciate the work, they first need to understand how exaggeration is a technique used to give prominence to what is most important in medieval documents, whether they be works of literature or art.

Any teacher of the Middle Ages could provide a hundred similar examples, and it is for this reason that we have attempted to present the presuppositions of medieval society in a systematic fashion, by integrating primary texts and photographs into a narrative of the medieval world and its foundations. Thus, the book can be used to help understand and appreciate the Middle Ages from the inside, that is, as the people of the Middle Ages saw themselves. Perhaps more important, after reading the book one will have a better sense of how to approach any medieval literary text, artistic monument, historical document, or musical work in a more meaningful way. Although this is a relatively modest undertaking insofar as we are not offering a comprehensive interpretation of the Middle Ages—though we do cover a lot of territory—it is at least in one sense original: we are not aware of any other book that attempts the same thing. In this introduction, therefore, it is appropriate to spell out the implications of our approach.

The most fundamental of these is that we are attempting to reconstruct important elements of the Middle Ages, in the phrase we have already used . . .

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