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Macaronic Sermons
Bilingualism and Preaching in Late-Medieval England
Siegfried Wenzel
University of Michigan Press, 2010
Siegfried Wenzel's groundbreaking study seeks to describe and analyze the linguistically mixed, or macaronic, sermons in late fourteenth-century England.  Not only are these works of considerable religious interest, they provide extensive information on their literary, linguistic, and cultural milieux.
Macaronic Sermons begins by offering a typology of such works: those in which English words offer glosses, or offer structural functions, or offer neither of the two but yet are syntactically integrated.  This last group is then examined in detail: reasons are given for this usage and for its origins, based on the realities of fourteenth-century England.
Siefriend Wenzel draws valuable conclusions about the linguistic status quo of the era, together with the extent of education, the audiences' expectations, and the ways in which the authors' minds worked.
Obviously of interest to scholars and students of early English literature, Macaronic Sermons also contains much valuable information for specialists in language development or oral theory, and for those interested in multicultural societies.

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Magic and the Dignity of Man
Pico della Mirandola and His Oration in Modern Memory
Brian P. Copenhaver
Harvard University Press, 2019

“This book is nothing less than the definitive study of a text long considered central to understanding the Renaissance and its place in Western culture.”
—James Hankins, Harvard University

Pico della Mirandola died in 1494 at the age of thirty-one. During his brief and extraordinary life, he invented Christian Kabbalah in a book that was banned by the Catholic Church after he offered to debate his ideas on religion and philosophy with anyone who challenged him. Today he is best known for a short speech, the Oration on the Dignity of Man, written in 1486 but never delivered. Sometimes called a “Manifesto of the Renaissance,” this text has been regarded as the foundation of humanism and a triumph of secular rationality over medieval mysticism.

Brian Copenhaver upends our understanding of Pico’s masterwork by re-examining this key document of modernity. An eminent historian of philosophy, Copenhaver shows that the Oration is not about human dignity. In fact, Pico never wrote an Oration on the Dignity of Man and never heard of that title. Instead he promoted ascetic mysticism, insisting that Christians need help from Jews to find the path to heaven—a journey whose final stages are magic and Kabbalah. Through a rigorous philological reading of this much-studied text, Copenhaver transforms the history of the idea of dignity and reveals how Pico came to be misunderstood over the course of five centuries. Magic and the Dignity of Man is a seismic shift in the study of one of the most remarkable thinkers of the Renaissance.


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Marks of Distinctions
Christian Perceptions of Jews in the High Middle Ages
Irven M. Resnick
Catholic University of America Press, 2012
Through the use of several illustrations from illuminated manuscripts and other media, Resnick engages readers in a discussion of the later medieval notion of Jewish difference.

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Master of Penance
Arrai A. Larson
Catholic University of America Press, 2014
This book presents the first full-scale study of the Tractatus de penitentia (C.33 q.3) in Gratian's Decretum, which became the textbook for canon law and served as the basis of the church's developing jurisprudence, in theory and in practice

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Ministry to the Sick and Dying in the Late Medieval Church
Thomas M. Izbicki
Catholic University of America Press, 2023
The focus of this volume is on ministry to the sick and dying in the later Middle Ages, especially providing them with the sacraments. Medieval writers linked illness to sin and its forgiveness. The priest, as physician of souls, was expected to heal the soul, preparing it for the hereafter. His ministry might also effect healing of bodies, when that healing did not endanger the soul. This book treats how a priest prepared to visit sick persons and went to them in procession with the Eucharist and oil of the sick. The priest was to comfort the patient and, if death was imminent, prepare the soul for the hereafter. Canon law, theology, and ritual sources are employed. Three sacraments, penance, viaticum, (final communion) and extreme unction (anointing of the sick) are treated in detail. Sickbed confession was designed to forgive the ailing person's mortal sins. A priest could absolve a dying person of all sins, even those reserved to a bishop or the pope. Viaticum was to strengthen a suffering Christian for life's last conflict, that between angels and demons for the soul of the dying person. The deathbed thus was a spiritual battlefield. Extreme unction was reserved for those in danger of death, relieving the soul of venial sins or "the remains of sin," even after confession and absolution. The commendatio animae (commendation of the soul) used with the dying was to usher the soul into the afterlife. Many works have been written about attitudes toward death, dying, and the afterlife in the Middle Ages. Likewise, there is a good deal of literature about individual sacraments. This study aims at bridging between these literatures, with a focus on the priest and parishioner in both theory and practice at the sickbed.

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Monte Cassino in the Middle Ages
Herbert Bloch
Harvard University Press, 1986

The monastery of Monte Cassino, founded by St. Benedict in the sixth century, was the cradle of Western monasticism. It became one of the vital centers of culture and learning in Europe. At the height of its influence, in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries, two of its abbots (including Desiderius) and one of its monks became popes, and it controlled a vast network of dependencies—churches, monasteries, villages, and farms—especially in central and southern Italy.

Herbert Bloch's study, the product of forty years of research, takes as its starting point the twelfth-century bronze doors of the basilica of the abbey, the most significant relic of the medieval structure. The panels of these doors are inscribed with a list of more than 180 of the abbey's possessions. Mr. Bloch has supplemented this roster with lists found in papal and imperial privileges and other documents. The heart of the book is a detailed investigation of the nearly 700 dependencies of Monte Cassino from the sixth to the twelfth century and beyond. No comparable study of this or any other great medieval institution has ever before been undertaken.

Ironically, it was the bombing of 1944, which destroyed the monastery, that led to an unexpected revelation: the discovery, on the reverse side of some panels of the doors, of magnificent engraved figures of patriarchs and apostles. These proved to be remnants of the church portal ordered from Constantinople by Desiderius in the eleventh century, which marked the beginning of the grandiose reconstruction of the abbey and its church, the latter to become a model for many other churches. In order to solve the riddle of the doors of Monte Cassino, Bloch has investigated other bronze doors of Byzantine origin in Italy and the doors of the great Italian master Oderisius of Benevento, as well as those of S. Clemente a Casauria and of the cathedral of Benevento. Also included is a study of the political and cultural impact of Byzantium on Monte Cassino and a chapter on Constantinus Africanus, Saracen turned monk, one of the most interesting figures in the history of medieval medicine.

The text is sumptuously illustrated with 193 plates; most of the more than 300 illustrations have never before been published. This three-volume work, with its nine detailed indexes, offers a wealth of information for scholars in many different fields.


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Mystical Languages of Unsaying
Michael A. Sells
University of Chicago Press, 1994
The subject of Mystical Languages of Unsaying is an important but neglected mode of mystical discourse, apophasis. which literally means "speaking away." Sometimes translated as "negative theology," apophatic discourse embraces the impossibility of naming something that is ineffable by continually turning back upon its own propositions and names. In this close study of apophasis in Greek, Christian, and Islamic texts, Michael Sells offers a sustained, critical account of how apophatic language works, the conventions, logic, and paradoxes it employs, and the dilemmas encountered in any attempt to analyze it.

This book includes readings of the most rigorously apophatic texts of Plotinus, John the Scot Eriugena, Ibn Arabi, Marguerite Porete, and Meister Eckhart, with comparative reference to important apophatic writers in the Jewish tradition, such as Abraham Abulafia and Moses de Leon. Sells reveals essential common features in the writings of these authors, despite their
wide-ranging differences in era, tradition, and theology.

By showing how apophasis works as a mode of discourse rather than as a negative theology, this work opens a rich heritage to reevaluation. Sells demonstrates that the more radical claims of apophatic writers—claims that critics have often dismissed as hyperbolic or condemned as pantheistic or nihilistic—are vital to an adequate account of the mystical languages of unsaying. This work also has important implications for the relationship of classical apophasis to contemporary languages of the unsayable. Sells challenges many widely circulated characterizations of apophasis among deconstructionists as well as a number of common notions about medieval thought and gender relations in medieval mysticism.

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Mysticism and Space
Space and Spatiality in the Works of Richard Rolle, The Cloud of Unknowing Author, and Julian of Norwich
Carmel Bendon Davis
Catholic University of America Press, 2008
Mysticism and Space examines the influence and representation of space in the texts of three medieval mystics, Richard Rolle, Julian of Norwich, and The Cloud of Unknowing author

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The Myth of Pope Joan
Alain Boureau
University of Chicago Press, 2001
In the ninth century, a brilliant young woman named Joan disguised herself as a man so that she could follow her lover into the then-exclusively male world of scholarship. She proved so successful that she ascended the Catholic hierarchy in Rome and was eventually elected pope. Her pontificate lasted two years, until she became pregnant and died after giving birth during a public procession from the Vatican.

Or so the legend goes—a legend that was fabricated sometime in the thirteenth century, according to Alain Boureau, and which has persisted in one form or another down to the present day. In this fascinating saga of belief and rhetoric, politics and religion, Boureau investigates the historical and ecclesiastical circumstances under which the myth of Pope Joan was constructed and the different uses to which it was put over the centuries. He shows, for instance, how Catholic clerics justified the exclusion of women from the papacy and the priesthood by employing the myth in misogynist moral tales, only to find the popess they had created turned against them in anti-Catholic propaganda during the Reformation.

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