The Dark Ages and the Age of Gold

Princeton University Press
Free sample

In this original and provocative book Russell Fraser has set himself no less a task than the description and interpretation of one of the signal "facts" of Western history—the breaking away of the present from the medieval past. He locates this break in England in the sixteenth century, and on the continent two hundred years earlier. Unafraid to synthesize, he weaves a rich fabric of quotations, allusions, and examples from art, music, philosophy, theology, and physical science to explain the cultural transition to the modern world.

Although the author ranges from Plato to the present, his focus is concentrated on the major figures of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, especially Shakespeare, "the last and greatest of medieval artists." His intention is always to draw together and compare medieval. Renaissance, and contemporary attitudes so that the reader can see the past becoming the present, how and when this transformation occurred, and for what reasons.

Originally published in 1973.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 8, 2015
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Pages
440
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ISBN
9781400869046
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / General
History / Europe / Medieval
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Written in 1456 and purporting to be the biography of the actual fourteenth-century knight of its title, Jean de Saintré has been called the first modern novel in French and one of the first historical novels in any language. Taken in hand at the age of thirteen by an older and much more experienced lady, Madame des Belles Cousines, the youth grows into an accomplished knight, winning numerous tournaments and even leading a crusade against the infidels for the love of Madame. When he reaches maturity, Jean starts to rebel against Madame's domination by seeking out chivalric adventures on his own. She storms off to her country estates and takes up with the burly abbot of a nearby monastery. The text moves into darker and uncourtly territory when Jean discovers their liaison and lashes out to avenge his lost love and honor, ruining Madame's reputation in the process.

Composed in the waning years of chivalry and at the threshold of the print revolution, Jean de Saintré incorporates disquisitions on sin and virtue, advice on hygiene and fashion, as well as lengthy set pieces of chivalric combat. Antoine de La Sale, who was, by turns, a page, a royal tutor, a soldier, and a judge at tournaments, embellished his text with wide-ranging insights into chivalric ideology, combat techniques, heraldry and warfare, and the moral training of a young knight. This superb translation—the first in nearly a hundred years—contextualizes the story with a rich introduction and a glossary and is suitable for scholars, students, and general readers alike. An encyclopedic compilation of medieval culture and a window into the lost world of chivalry, Jean de Saintré is a touchstone for both the late Middle Ages and the emergence of the modern novel.

In this new volume, Russell Fraser assembles fourteen twentieth-century writers he judges "worth keeping." All were famous in their time, but many outlived it, enduring an eclipse that Fraser intends this book to dispel. Each of the authors differs in background and in the kinds of writing practiced, and while together they do not constitute a modern canon, Fraser persuasively presents them as a group distinguished by a more than ordinary affiliation for language. Leading off are Oscar Wilde and J. M. Synge, both of whom were Irish and principally known as playwrights. The Scottish poets Edwin Muir and G.M. Brown are complemented by three great Europeans: Paul Valery, Eugenio Montale, and Osip Mandelstam, "mandarins" who wrote for an elite of their time, not a social elite, but readers who could read. The New Critics, who gave language first place in their writing, loom large in this account. R.P. Blackmur and Allen Tate are followed by Delmore Schwartz, Austin Warren, and Francis Fergusson, lesser stars orbiting those greater than themselves. Kingsley Amis the novelist and James Dickey the poet, with whom the book concludes, had a great run at fame and fortune, but ended bleakly. The world was livelier for these writers' presence, and what they left us still gives satisfaction. This heterogeneous group may be said to be our saving remnant. In a time of coarsened feeling, its members possess in high degree the ability to discriminate, seeing acutely, and inspiring feeling where it was dead. Their function is therapeutic, even restorative for the life of letters. To give them a hearing is the principal purpose of the book. Russell Fraser is Austin Warren Professor Emeritus of English Literature and Language, University of Michigan. Among his books are "Singing Masters: Poets in English, 1500 to the Present," "Shakespeare: The Later Years," "Young Shakespeare, A Mingled Yarn: The Life of R. P. Blackmur, The Dark Ages and the Age of Gold," as well as "Shakespeare's Poetics."
Barbara W. Tuchman—the acclaimed author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning classic The Guns of August—once again marshals her gift for character, history, and sparkling prose to compose an astonishing portrait of medieval Europe.
 
The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering age of crusades, cathedrals, and chivalry; on the other, a world plunged into chaos and spiritual agony. In this revelatory work, Barbara W. Tuchman examines not only the great rhythms of history but the grain and texture of domestic life: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes, and war dominated the lives of serf, noble, and clergy alike. Granting her subjects their loyalties, treacheries, and guilty passions, Tuchman re-creates the lives of proud cardinals, university scholars, grocers and clerks, saints and mystics, lawyers and mercenaries, and, dominating all, the knight—in all his valor and “furious follies,” a “terrible worm in an iron cocoon.”
 
Praise for A Distant Mirror
 
“Beautifully written, careful and thorough in its scholarship . . . What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was. . . . No one has ever done this better.”—The New York Review of Books
 
“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary

NOTE: This edition does not include color images.
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