Books Features

New Medieval Books: From China to Valhalla

From kings to witches, and from Vikings to poets, here are five new books about the Middle Ages.

Tales of Valhalla: Norse Myths and Legends

By Martyn Whittock and Hannah Whittock

Pegasus Books
ISBN: 978-1-68177-846-4

Excerpt: The question is: what re the ancient stories that lie behind these later recreations and reinterpretations? This book aims to both provide a retelling of these dramatic stories and also set them in context  so that their place within the ‘Viking world-view’ can be understood. These are not new translations of the myths and legends. This is because there already exists a number of academic translations from Old Norse language; and also because the accounts – even when expertly translated – can still be difficult to follow. Instead, these are freely worded retellings that are based on the original accounts but which present them in an accessible way as stories that can simply be read as such.

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European Magic and Witchcraft: A Reader

Edited by Martha Rampton

University of Toronto Press
ISBN: 978-1-4426-3420-6

Publisher’s Overview: Magic, witches, and demons have drawn interest and fear throughout human history. In this comprehensive primary source reader, Martha Rampton traces the history of our fascination with magic and witchcraft from the first through to the seventeenth century. In over 80 readings presented chronologically, Rampton demonstrates how understandings of and reactions toward magic changed and developed over time, and how these ideas were influenced by various factors such as religion, science, and law. The wide-ranging texts emphasize social history and include early Merovingian law codes, the Picatrix, Lombard’s SentencesThe Golden Legend, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

See also: How to Become Invisible

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Louis VII and His World

Edited by Michael L. Bardot and Laurence W. Marvin

ISBN: 978-90-04-31516-7

Excerpt: The articles gathered in this collection offer a more nuanced portrait of Louis and the vibrant world in which he lived. Thus the historical image of Louis gets clearer focus though examining aspects of his life, his reign, an the larger context of Capetian France during the twelfth century. By analyzing aspects of Louis’ actions and reign the articles contained in this collection highlight key topics that not only help illustrate the nature of Louis’s reign, his successes and failures, but also provide insight into the dynamic evolution of twelfth-century France.

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The Thirteenth Century: A World History

By Richard Bressler

McFarland and Company
ISBN: 978-1-4766-7185-7

Excerpt: The first things one learns when studying the world in the 13th century is the overwhelming importance of one long event, the Mongol conquest. As will be detailed, in 1200 the Mongol realm was confined to a remote part of the vast grasslands in East Asia. By 1300, Mongol rule was in place from Moscow to Korea, Turkey to the Pacific coast fo China, southern Siberia to northern parts of Indo-China. This was the largest empire yet seen in world history.

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How to Read Chinese Poetry in Context: Poetic Culture from Antiquity Through the Tang

Edited by Zong-Qi Cai

Columbia University Press
ISBN: 9780231185370

Excerpt: Instead of a brief summary repeating the grand narrative of Chinese history behind its poetry, it seems much more useful to present a number of anecdotes or stories relevant to individual poems. A form of historical snapshots – candid photos taken at the moment a poem was written, or a moment described in the poem – they frequently offer very telling commentaries on what the poem is actually about. In various ways, these seemingly innocent or naive stories sometimes pose serious challenges to the grand narrative, providing alternative and radically different ways of understanding what might have happened.

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