Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam: A Book of Essays

By Powell, James M. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 1997 | Go to article overview

Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam: A Book of Essays


Powell, James M., The Catholic Historical Review


Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam:A Book of Essays. Edited by John Victor Tolan. [Garland's Medieval Casebooks, Vol. 10; Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 1768.] (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1996. Pp. xi, 414. $60.00.)

In his introduction,John V Tolan tells us that the authors of these essays provide a series of vignettes, of discrete examples of medieval perceptions of Islam. His characterization is well put, since the volume is largely composed of descriptive essays, most dealing with lesser-known sources. The result is quite useful and will find a place in many libraries. Since some of the texts are of eastern origin and all deal with theological, historical, and literary materials, the range of the fifteen essays is broad both in geographical and chronological terms. In the first essay, John Lamoreaux discusses early eastern responses to the expansion of Islam.This is followed by David Bundy on Syriac and Armenian sources concerning the conversion of the Mongols to Islam and Craig Hanson's discussion of Manuel I Comnenus's theological intervention regarding the Muslim view of the deity. Kenneth B.Wolf updates his earlier work on the Cordoban martyrs, and Thomas Burman provides an interesting discussion of Trinitarian theological issues aimed at Islamic views on Divine unity, as found in the Tathlith al-wdhdaniyah. In the section on theological responses in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, David Burr and Philip Krey contribute interesting discussions of Franciscan writings on Islam that reveal the nuances in their works. Rather surprisingly, John Lomax's essay on Frederick II and the Saracens is included here.The section on Islam in Western vernacular literature leads off with a very interesting article on Jacob van Maerland by Geert Claassens, followed by essays on Andrea da Barberino's Guerrino il Meschino by Gloria Allaire and on Sire John Mandeville by Frank Grady.The concluding part, dealing with the sixteenth century, is also varied. John Geary writes about Arredondo's Castillo inexpugnabile de la fee; Rhona Zaid discusses Gines Perez de Hita's Guerras Civiles de Granada, and Palmira Brummett treats of western-largely Venetian-efforts to understand Shah Ismail Safavi.

Given the variety in these works, detailed discussion is difficult, but some points need to be made. …

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