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New Medieval Books: From Dante to Eleanor

Five of the latest books about the Middle Ages that you might want on your bookshelf.

A Beginner’s Guide to Dante’s Divine Comedy

By Jason M. Baxter

Baker Academic
ISBN: 9780801098734

Excerpt: The Comedy (Divine Comedy is a title create by Dante’s Renaissance admirers) is the greatest work by the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) – some would say the greatest work of the Western imagination. Whether or not this is true, Dante indubitably keeps company with Homer, Virgil, Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Dostoyevsky. And yet, although the Comedy is an undisputed masterpiece, it has a peculiar medieval flavour to it, with which makes it taste quite different from a Homeric epic, a tragedy for the stage, or a realistic novel.

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The Eleanor Crosses: The Story of King Edward I’s Lost Queen and her Architectural Legacy

By Decca Warrington

Signal Books
ISBN: 978-1-909930-65-0

Excerpt: For the people who were part of the cortege – royalty, nobility and servants alike – this was a journey of momentous importance. The route of that journey had no intrinsic significance before 1290. But Eleanor’s grief-stricken husband was to mark it out, he hoped forever, with a building project of unparalleled scale and imagination. King Edward’s vision was to construct an elaborate stone memorial cross at the journey’s start and at each of its overnight stopping places, twelve in total: love letters cast in stone to his devoted wife of thirty-six years. Each one over fifty feet tall, these crosses were intended not only to be visible reminders of the queen’s departed soul, but focal points for the prayers of all who saw them.

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Giacomo da Lentini: The Complete Poetry

Translated by Richard Lansing

University of Toronto Press
ISBN: 978-1-4875-2286-5

Excerpt: Sonetto 26

On clear days I have seen it rain,
And I’ve seen the darkness flash with light,
And likewise lightning turn to hail,
And frozen snow engender heat;

And sweet things taste of bitterness,
And what is bitter taste most sweet;
Two enemies make peace at last,
And discord grow between two friends.

Yet stranger things I’ve seen of Love,
Who healed my wounds by wounding me;
The fire in me he quenched with fire.

The life he gave me was my death;
The fire that slew me burns once more,
Once saved from love, I’m seized anew.

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Guide to Byzantine Historical Writing

By Leonora Neville

Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 978-1-107-69116-2

Excerpt: This guide aims to make the riches of medieval histories written in Greek easily accessible to anyone who may be interested. It is a gesture of welcome to classicists, to western medievalists, as well as to students beginning their intellectual exploration of the world. While it contains no information into one place may help them as well. The purpose is to provide a reliable starting point for research by explaining the basics of what we know about a text and how we know it, while avoiding the repetition of scholarly speculation. Calculated guesswork is part of doing medieval history, and I am all in favor of a good supposition from time to time. Yet often one scholar’s reasonable guess is soon cited as fact, so that later readers do not know the relative stability of the ground they are building on. The goal here is to set a firm foundation and let you do the speculating.

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Military Communities in Late Medieval England: Essays in Honour of Andrew Ayton

Edited by Gary P. Baker, Craig L. Lambert and David Simpkin

The Boydell Press
ISBN: 978-1-78327-298-3

Excerpt: Given the contribution Andrew Ayton has made to the study of late medieval military history we hope he is not surprised by the production of a Festschrift in his honour. All the editors of this volume were supervised by Andrew for their doctoral studies, and all no doubt thrashed out the general outlines to their theses in one of the infamous ‘Ayton’ meetings that regularly ran into the late evening. Andrew’s enthusiasm for his subject was infectious and it is to his credit that many of his former students have gone on to publish contributions on late medieval military and naval history. The papers featured in the present volume highlight the important international impact Andrew’s work has had on his students and academic colleagues.

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