The 2012 class of Guggenheim Fellows was announced this week by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, inciting some exuberant responses on the part of several winners (check out Terry Teachout’s Twitter feed). The Guggenheim has long been hailed as the “mid-career award,” honoring scholars, scientists, poets, artists, and writers, who have likely published a book or three, professed a fair amount of research, and are actively engaged in projects of significant scope. The fellowship possesses some tortured origins—(John) Simon Guggenheim, who served as president of the American Smelting and Refining Company and Republican senator from Colorado, seeded the award (1925) following the death of this son John (1922) from mastoiditis (Guggenheim’s second son George later committed suicide, and more infamously his older brother Benjamin went down with the Titanic).
Among this year’s crop (we dare say more forward-leaning than previous years?) is a roster of standout “professionals who have demonstrated exceptional ability by publishing a significant body of work in the fields of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the creative arts,” affiliated with the University of Chicago Press:
Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine and author of three poetry collections, coeditor of . . .
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For decades now, in volume after volume, the celebrated French thinker Rémi Brague has delved deep into the past and emerged, again and again, with fresh insights that sharply illuminate the present. In his acclaimed The Wisdom of the World, for example, Brague showed how modernity stripped the universe of its ethical and sacred wisdom. The Law of God, his last work, added depth and context to current debates about God’s role in worldly affairs. And now, The Legend of the Middle Ages proceeds in Brague’s characteristically brilliant style to unknot the long-tangled strands of our ideas about this misunderstood age.
Recently, the Middle Ages have emerged as the model for a harmonious future—a time when different religions and cultures peacefully coexisted and exchanged ideas. This legend, Brague argues, comes no closer to telling the full story than the Enlightenment-era portrayal of the Middle Ages as a benighted past from which the West had to evolve.
Here, in a penetrating interview and sixteen essays, he marshals nuanced readings of medieval religion and philosophy to reconstruct the true character of this complicated and intellectually rich period. Brague’s vibrant portrait—of an age neither dark nor devoid of conflict—not only makes for . . .
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With Danteworlds: A Reader’s Guide to the Inferno, Guy P. Raffa decoded Dante’s epic poem for a new generation of readers. And with the forthcoming The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader’s Guide to the Divine Comedy Raffa has expanded his project to encompass the entire text, through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise—and into cyberspace. As the New Yorker‘s Vicky Raab notes in a recent article, Raffa’s online version of Danteworlds offers “an integrated multimedia journey” through Dante’s Divine Comedy, perfectly marrying medium with message to launch the reader “right into the allegorical action, heightening rather than dulling appreciation and comprehension.” Raab continues:
Canto by canto, as Virgil and then Beatrice lead the benighted Dante through “circles of Hell, terraces of Purgatory, spheres of Paradise,” so the clear-eyed Guy P. Raffa, a classics professor at the University of Texas at Austin who conceived and developed the site, leads students in Dante’s steps, urging them to click on regions within each realm. I go straight to Circle Nine, of course, the lowest depths of the Inferno, peopled by the grisliest creatures: the giants Nimrod, Ephialtes, and Antaeus, the cannibalistic Ugolino, who eats the back of Ruggiero’s head, “so that one head to the . . .
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Replete with shady merchants, scoundrels, hungry mercenaries, scheming nobles, and maneuvering cardinals, The Man Who Believed He Was King of France proves the adage that truth is often stranger than fiction—or at least as entertaining. Cast against the divisive backdrop of the Hundred Years’ War, this book retraces the steps of Giannino di Guccio, the alleged lost heir to Louis X, who was reportedly switched at birth with the son of a Tuscan merchant. Once convinced of his birthright, Giannino claims for himself the name Jean I, king of France, and sets out on a brave—if ultimately ruinous—quest that leads him across Europe to prove his identity.
From Italy to Hungry, then through Germany and France, the would-be king’s unique combination of guile and earnestness seems to command the aid of lords and soldiers, the indulgence of inn-keepers and merchants, and the collusion of priests and rogues along the way. With the skill of a crime scene detective, Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri digs up evidence in the historical record to follow the story of a life so incredible that it was long considered a literary invention of the Italian Renaissance.
Read the press release.
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Today’s New York Times carries an article by John Noble Wilford on the revival of academic interest in alchemy. The article was occasioned by a conference late last month, hosted by the Chemical Heritage Foundation and organized by Lawrence M. Principe.
The Times article discusses the research presented at the alchemy conference including a paper by William R. Newman. Newman spoke about Issac Newton’s fascination with alchemy: “his notebooks contain thousands of pages on alchemic thoughts and experiments over 30 years,” reports the Times.
Chicago has published a number of books that reflect the new interest in alchemy. Principe and Newman collaborated on Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry, which argues that many of the principles and practices characteristic of modern chemistry derive from alchemy. They also edited a key alchemical text, the Alchemical Laboratory Notebooks and Correspondence of George Starkey.
Newman is the author of the recently published Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution, in which he challenges the view that alchemy impeded the development of rational chemistry. Newman also wrote Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature, an investigation of the how alchemists . . .
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Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries recently reviewed Chiara Frugoni’s A Day in a Medieval City: "With its color illustrations of rare paintings and artifacts, this thoughtful and informative, elegantly fashioned excursion into the life of a medieval city is a veritable feast of information and visual delights. Frugoni is a marvelously experienced historical travel guide.… The translation is clear and unobtrusive, every page reflecting the author’s verve and intellectual curiosity.… Highly recommended."
An opportunity to experience the daily hustle and bustle of life in the late Middle Ages, A Day in a Medieval City provides a captivating dawn-to-dark account of medieval life. A visual trek through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries—with seasoned historian and expert on medieval iconography Chiara Frugoni as guide—this book offers a vast array of images and vignettes that depicts the everyday hardships and commonplace pleasures for people living in the Middle Ages.
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Since ancient times, the heart has been associated with love and passion, but the familiar heart shape (♥) dates from the Middle Ages. Heart-shaped valentines are actually a special instance of the entwining of books and hearts that Eric Jager examined in The Book of the Heart.
When we published his book, Jager wrote a special feature for our website in which he traces the heart-as-book metaphor through history. Read his essay, “Reading the Book of the Heart from the Middle Ages to the Twenty-First Century.”
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