This week’s look at five new books on the Middle Ages
By Bernard S. Bachrach and David S. Bachrach
Excerpt: This volume is intended as a synthesis of scholarship dealing with medieval warfare that will serve as an introduction to the subject for general readers with an interest in the history of the Middle Ages and for use in the classroom, in both medieval history and military history courses. We also believe that this synthesis will be of use to those who already work in one or another field of medieval studies and are seeking an entree into the field of military history to understand its central and critical place in the history of the Middle Ages.
By Will Hasty
Ohio State University Press
Excerpt: The beginning point of this study was an observation about the disposition of ladies and knights in courtly romance poetry of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, composed by such authors as Marie de France, Chretien de Troyes, Wolfram von Eschenbach, and Gottfried von Strassburg. Imaginary courtiesrs are able and willing in adventure and love – the principal concerns of this poetry – to dedicate themselves to transitory things entirely. This disposition of self is very much in the foreground of the poetry, eludes not even the most casual reader, and thus perhaps seems self-evident. Yet there is something extraordinary about it that seems to call for elucidation on its own absolute terms.
By E.L Risden
Excerpt: Subversion makes a story. Unlacing and re-lacing the threads make the reading experience meaningful and bring the pleasure. As Walt Whitman wrote, don’t we just feel so good when we understand a difficult poem? Many of us love mystery novels; mysteries hinge on subversions, each twist and clue subverting the narrative from one likely solution to another. Each possible solution dictates a subversion of the real story until the clues build to a true conclusion. Subversion creates the pleasure of finding a solution. In a joke, a subversion creates the incongruity that allows for a punch line. Solving a mystery creates a pleasure akin to discovering a punch-line: it ties the incongruities into well-knitted and acceptable whole, raising the actual solution to public view while letting the sub-versions sink away – except perhaps in a really good mystery, where their implications remain to haunt the apparently true solution.
By Hollie L.S. Morgan
York Medieval Press
Excerpt: This book takes a firmly interdisciplinary approach to the wider cultural meanings of beds and chambers in late medieval England. Its central focus is not on the physical bed and chamber, not is it on imagined beds and chambers in literature, though it does encompass both areas. Instead, the focus of this book is on the idea of the bed and chamber in the late medieval imagination: the semiotics and cultural associations of object and space. It explores how the presence and use of the bed and chamber affected and were affected by late medieval society’s collective ideas and social patterns, from prayer to politics, gender roles to marriage vows, socialising to sex. It is based on the assumption that both space and objects are meaningful, and that their meanings both impact and are impacted by people who encounter them.
By Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough
Oxford University Press
Excerpt: But what of the Norse themselves? What did they think of the world and the people and the civilizations they encountered? What stories did they bring back home when they returned from their adventures? What happened to these stories over the years, as they were retold in front of winter fires and passed down from generation to generation? Who was forgotten, and who was remembered? Which details fell out of the tales, which were added, and where did they come from?
To try and answer these questions, we need to zoom in on a little island of ice and fire, battered by waves out in the middle of the North Atlantic and hanging just below the Arctic Circle – Iceland.