After a survey on the genre of allegory and an overview of medieval optical theories, Akbari delves into more detailed studies of several medieval literary works, including the Roman de la Rose, Dante's Vita Nuova, Convivio, and Commedia, and Chaucer's dream visions and Canterbury Tales. The final chapter, 'Division and Darkness,' centres on the legacy of allegory in the fifteenth century. Offering a new interdisciplinary, synthetic approach to late medieval intellectual history and to major works within the medieval literary canon, Seeing through the Veil will be an essential resource to the study of medieval literature and culture, as well as philosophy, history of art, and history of science.
Suzanne Conklin Akbari is a professor in the Department of English and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.
Swinford develops a key claim about the form of the Somnium as it relates to early science: Kepler relies on a genre that is closely connected to a Ptolemaic, or earth-centered, model of the cosmos as a way of explaining and justifying a model of the cosmos that does not posit the same connections between the individual and the divine that are so important for the Ptolemaic model. In effect, Kepler uses the cosmic dream to describe a universe that cannot lay claim to the same correspondences between an individual’s dream and the order of the cosmos understood within the rules of the genre itself. To that end, Kepler’s Somnium is the first example of science fiction, but the last example of Neoplatonic allegory.
Idols in the East contributes to the recent surge of interest in European encounters with Islam and the Orient in the premodern world. Focusing on the medieval period, Akbari examines a broad range of texts including encyclopedias, maps, medical and astronomical treatises, chansons de geste, romances, and allegories to paint an unusually diverse portrait of medieval culture. Among the texts she considers are The Book of John Mandeville, The Song of Roland, Parzival, and Dante's Divine Comedy. From them she reveals how medieval writers and readers understood and explained the differences they saw between themselves and the Muslim other. Looking forward, Akbari also comes to terms with how these medieval conceptions fit with modern discussions of Orientalism, thus providing an important theoretical link to postcolonial and postimperial scholarship on later periods. Far reaching in its implications and balanced in its judgments, Idols in the East will be of great interest to not only scholars and students of the Middle Ages but also anyone interested in the roots of Orientalism and its tangled relationship to modern racism and anti-Semitism.
With their depiction of captives in North Africa and at the Ottoman court, two of these, "The Bagnios of Algiers" and "The Great Sultana," draw heavily on Cervantes's own experiences as a captive, and echo important episodes in Don Quixote. They are set in a Mediterranean world where Spain and its Muslim neighbors clashed repeatedly while still remaining in close contact, with merchants, exiles, captives, soldiers, and renegades frequently crossing between the two sides. The plays provide revealing insights into Spain's complex perception of the world of Mediterranean Islam.
Despite their considerable literary and historical interest, these two plays have never before been translated into English. This edition presents them along with an introductory essay that places them in the context of Cervantes's drama, the early modern stage, and the political and cultural relations between Christianity and Islam in the early modern period.
The volume begins with detailed studies of Marco Polo's narrative in its many medieval forms (including French, Italian, and Latin versions). They place the text in its material and generic contexts, and situate Marco Polo's account within the conventions of travel literature and manuscript illumination. Other essays consider the appropriation of Marco Polo's narrative in adaptations, translation, and cinematic art. The concluding section presents historiographic and poetic accounts of the place of Marco Polo in the context of a global world literature.
By considering the production and reception of The Travels, this collection lays the groundwork for new histories of world literature written from the perspective of cultural, economic, and linguistic exchange, rather than conquest and conflict.