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The Avignon Papacy Contested: An Intellectual History from Dante to Catherine of Siena
Falkeid, Unn. 2017. The Avignon Papacy Contested: An Intellectual History from Dante to Catherine of Siena. Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The Avignon papacy (1309–1377) represented the zenith of papal power in Europe. The Roman curia’s move to southern France enlarged its bureaucracy, centralized its authority, and initiated closer contact with secular institutions. The pope’s presence also attracted leading minds to Avignon, transforming a modest city into a cosmopolitan center of learning. But a crisis of legitimacy was brewing among leading thinkers of the day. The Avignon Papacy Contested considers the work of six fourteenth-century writers who waged literary war against the Catholic Church’s increasing claims of supremacy over secular rulers—a conflict that engaged contemporary critics from every corner of Europe.
San Lorenzo: A Florentine Church
Gaston, Robert W., and Louis A. Waldman, ed. 2017. San Lorenzo: A Florentine Church. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This comprehensive, interdisciplinary collection illuminates many previously unexplored aspects of the Basilica of San Lorenzo’s history, extending from its Early Christian foundation to the modern era. Brunelleschi’s rebuilt Basilica, the center of liturgical patronage of the Medici and their grand-ducal successors until the nineteenth century, is today one of the most frequently studied churches in Florence. Modern research has tended, however, to focus on the remarkable art and architecture from ca. 1400–1600. In this wide-ranging collection, scholars investigate: the urban setting of the church and its parish; San Lorenzo’s relations with other ecclesiastical institutions; the genesis of individual major buildings of the complex and their decorations; the clergy, chapels and altars; the chapter’s administration and financial structure; lay and clerical patronage; devotional furnishings, music, illuminated liturgical manuscripts, and preaching; as well as the annual or ephemeral festal practices on the site. Each contribution offers a profound exploration of its topic, wide-ranging in its chronological scope. One encounters here fresh archival research, the publication of relevant documents, and critical assessments of the historiography. San Lorenzo is represented in this volume as a living Florentine institution, continually reshaped by complex historical forces.

Success and Suppression: Arabic Sciences and Philosophy in the Renaissance
Hasse, Dag Nikolaus. 2016. Success and Suppression: Arabic Sciences and Philosophy in the Renaissance. Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Renaissance marked a turning point in Europe’s relationship to Arabic thought. On the one hand, Dag Nikolaus Hasse argues, it was the period in which important Arabic traditions reached the peak of their influence in Europe. On the other hand, it is the time when the West began to forget, and even actively suppress, its debt to Arabic culture. Success and Suppressiontraces the complex story of Arabic influence on Renaissance thought.

It is often assumed that the Renaissance had little interest in Arabic sciences and philosophy, because humanist polemics from the period attacked Arabic learning and championed Greek civilization. Yet Hasse shows that Renaissance denials of Arabic influence emerged not because scholars of the time rejected that intellectual tradition altogether but because a small group of anti-Arab hard-liners strove to suppress its powerful and persuasive influence. The period witnessed a boom in new translations and multivolume editions of Arabic authors, and European philosophers and scientists incorporated—and often celebrated—Arabic thought in their work, especially in medicine, philosophy, and astrology. But the famous Arabic authorities were a prominent obstacle to the Renaissance project of renewing European academic culture through Greece and Rome, and radical reformers accused Arabic science of linguistic corruption, plagiarism, or irreligion. Hasse shows how a mixture of ideological and scientific motives led to the decline of some Arabic traditions in important areas of European culture, while others continued to flourish.

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