Books to Look out for in April 2023

We welcome a new month by listing some of our new releases this April. Don’t forget that you can order any of these titles using our special blog discount, found at the bottom of this post. Happy reading!

Minstrels and Minstrelsy in Late Medieval England

Richard Rastall with Andrew Taylor

Minstrels were a common sight and sound in the late Middle Ages. But who were they, and what did they do? How did they live, and how easily did they make a living? Under what conditions did they perform? The evidence is fragmentary, including literary and iconographic sources and, most importantly, the financial records of royal and aristocratic households and of towns. These offer many insights, but they are often hard to fit into any coherent picture of the minstrels’ lives and their place in society. Minstrels might be seen as entertainers on the periphery of the medieval world. Yet they were full members of that society, interacting with the ordinary people around them, as well as with the ruling classes: carrying letters and important verbal messages, some lending huge sums of money to the king, some regular civic servants, some committing crimes or suffering the crimes of others. In this book Rastall and Taylor bring to bear the available evidence to enlarge and enrich our view of the minstrel in late medieval society.

Women’s Literary Cultures in the Global Middle Ages

Speaking Internationally
Edited by Kathryn Loveridge, Liz Herbert McAvoy, Sue Niebrzydowski and Vicki Kay Price

Since the closing decades of the twentieth century, medieval women’s writing has been the subject of energetic conversation and debate. This interest, however, has focused predominantly on western European writers working within the Christian tradition: the Saxon visionaries, Mechthild of Hackeborn, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Gertrude the Great, for example, and, in England, Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe are cases in point. While this present book acknowledges the huge importance of such writers to women’s literary history, it also argues that they should no longer be read solely within a local context. Instead, by putting them into conversation with other literary women and their cultures from wider geographical regions and global cultures – women from eastern Europe and their books, dramas and music; the Welsh gwraig llwyn a pherth (woman of bush and brake); the Indian mystic, Mirabai; Japanese women writers from the Heian period; women saints from across Christian Europe and those of eleventh-century Islam or late medieval Ethiopia; for instance – much more is to be gained in terms of our understanding of the drivers behind and expressions of medieval women’s literary activities in far broader contexts.

Spiritual Contestations – The Violence of Peace in South Sudan

Naomi Ruth Pendle

This book is an exploration of the way that Nuer- and Dinka-speaking communities living around the Bilnyang and connected river systems in Warrap and Unity States in South Sudan have experienced peace-making and conflict in an increasingly militarized South Sudan. Focusing on the period since the 1980s, Pendle shows how state authorities, particularly religious authorities, have drawn on divinely inspired notions of authority and norms of conduct to contest the legitimacy of violence and peace.

This book is available as Open Access under the Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC.

A Boston Schooner in the Royal Navy, 1768-1772

Commerce and Conflict in Maritime British America
Phillip Reid

As a typical workaday British American merchant ship taken into naval service, Sultana offers a rare opportunity to understand the day-to-day business of operating a small sailing ship. This book explores the technology of the ship and her sailing qualities as revealed by both the ship’s logs and by the performance of a modern replica. Reid further considers Sultana’s role within the period leading up to the American Declaration of Independence when British taxation of American trade was a hugely contentious issue. It is thereby both a naval microhistory and an Atlantic history for all scholars interested in the formation and development of the British Atlantic world.

Documenting Violence in Calderón’s Mexico

Visual Culture, Resistance and Memorialisation
Jessica Wax-Edwards

The texts studied here provide a critical visual archive of this first phase in the drug war and show how artists including Pedro Pardo, Fernando Brito, Mónica González and Natalia Almada attempted to challenge official narratives, foster emerging nodes of resistance and seek justice for citizens. Bringing together works of photography, photojournalism, documentary and short fiction cinema, the book argues for the vital role of cultural production in documenting institutional corruption, human rights abuses and narco-related violence in Mexican society and providing a space to grieve and remember the victims. As Mexico’s socio-political landscape continues to deteriorate, the book shows how its visual cultural legacy provides a means of understanding and responding to the violence.

The Medieval Changeling

Health, Childcare, and the Family Unit
Rose A Sawyer

The changeling – a monstrous creature swapped for a human child by malevolent powers – is an enduring image in the popular imagination; dubbing a child a changeling is traditionally understood as a way to justify the often-violent rejection of a disabled or ailing infant. This interdisciplinary study considers the idea of the changeling as a cultural construct through an examination of a broad range of medical, miracle, and imaginative texts, as well as the lives of Saints Stephen, Bartholomew and Lawrence, who, in their infancy, were said to have been replaced by demonic changelings. The author highlights how people from all walks of life were invested in both creating and experiencing the images, texts and artefacts depicting these changelings, and examines societal tensions regarding infants and children: their health, their care, and their position within the familial unit.

Music in Twentieth-Century Oxford: New Directions

Edited by Robin Darwall-Smith and Susan Wollenberg

Music has always played a central role in the life of Oxford, both in the city and the university; therefore presents a distinctive and multi-layered picture of the role of music in urban culture and university life.

Chapters tackle varied subjects such the Oxford Bach Choir, music in the city churches and the major choral foundations. The volume also tells the story of the development of the University’s Music Faculty, music in the women’s colleges, and the University Opera Club. Special attention is given to prominent Oxford composers, including Edmund Rubbra, Kenneth Leighton and Robert Saxton. The University College Musical Society and the Oxford and Cambridge Musical Club, which served as a kind of laboratory for such significant figures as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Walford Davies, also feature prominently. The volume will be indispensable reading for scholars and students of music in twentieth-century Britain, as well as those interested more generally in the history of Oxford’s thriving cultural life.

The New Reynard

Three Satires: Renart le Bestourné, Le Couronnement de Renart, Renart le Nouvel
Translated by Nigel Bryant

Rarely can a medieval work have resonated with the mood of the present as uncannily as do these three satires. Wickedly comic but impassioned, they express a vision of the world’s descent into corruption and disaster which mirrors our own state of rampant alarm.
The animal tales of the Roman de Renart – the Romance of Reynard the Fox – were immensely popular, and the characters in them, fox and wolf and ass and the rest, were an open invitation to savage satire. The poet Rutebeuf, in his startling Reynard Transformed, deploys the beasts to make a venomous attack on the mendicant orders and ‘Saint’ Louis IX of France. Reynard Crowned then has the Fox crowned king, establishing a reign of every vice. And most ambitiously of all, Jacquemart Gielée in The New Reynard, gripped by an increasingly pervasive sense of apocalypse, ends his poem with the Fox, the epitome of deceit and lies, seated in permanent control of the world atop a chocked, unturning Fortune’s Wheel.
The New Reynard is of special interest to musicologists. Songs play an important part in Renart le Nouvel‘s satirical and apocalyptic message, and the poem is renowned as the most abundant source of late medieval refrains.

Germany’s Other Modernism

The Jena Paradigm, 1900-1914
Meike G. Werner

European modernism is generally seen as having originated only in the great cities, but in the years before World War I, the small city of Jena incubated its own modernist movement. This “Jena Paradigm” coalesced around the visionary publisher Eugen Diederichs and included writers such as Helene Voigt-Diederichs and young intellectuals like Rudolf Carnap, Wilhelm Flitner, Hans Freyer, Karl Korsch, and Elisabeth Busse-Wilson. Now in English translation, Meike G. Werner’s deeply contextual, methodologically innovative study opens up a world of innovation, showing a wider spectrum of modernist culture than the exclusive focus on metropolitan centers has allowed.

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