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Bread and Circuses
Theories of Mass Culture As Social Decay
Patrick Brantlinger
Lively and well written, Bread and Circuses analyzes theories that have treated mass culture as either a symptom or a cause of social decadence. Discussing many of the most influential and representative theories of mass culture, it ranges widely from Greek and Roman origins, through Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Ortega y Gasset, T. S. Eliot, and the...

Virgin Whore
Emma Maggie Solberg
In Virgin Whore, Emma Maggie Solberg uncovers a surprisingly prevalent theme in late English medieval literature and culture: the celebration of the Virgin Mary’s sexuality. Although history is narrated as a progressive loss of innocence, the Madonna has grown purer with each passing century. Looking to a period before the idea of her purity...

Photographic Literacy
Cameras in the Hands of Russian Authors
Katherine M. H. Reischl
Photography, introduced to Russia in 1839, was nothing short of a sensation. Its rapid proliferation challenged the other arts, including painting and literature, as well as the very integrity of the self. If Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky greeted the camera with skepticism in the nineteenth century, numerous twentieth-century authors...

Obscene Pedagogies
Transgressive Talk and Sexual Education in Late Medieval Britain
Carissa M. Harris
As anyone who has read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales knows, Middle English literature is rife with sexually explicit language and situations. Less canonical works can be even more brazen in describing illicit acts of sexual activity and sexual violence. Such scenes and language were not, however, included exclusively for titillation. In Obscene...

Imagining World Order
Literature and International Law in Early Modern Europe, 1500–1800
Chenxi Tang
In early modern Europe, international law emerged as a means of governing relations between rapidly consolidating sovereign states, purporting to establish a normative order for the perilous international world. However, it was intrinsically fragile and uncertain, for sovereign states had no acknowledged common authority that would create...

The City Lament
Jerusalem across the Medieval Mediterranean
Tamar M. Boyadjian
Poetic elegies for lost or fallen cities are seemingly as old as cities themselves. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, this genre finds its purest expression in the Book of Lamentations, which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem; in Arabic, this genre is known as the ritha’ al-mudun. The City Lament, Tamar M. Boyadjian traces the trajectory of...

Persistence of Folly
The Origin of German Dramatic Literature
Joel B. Lande
Joel B. Lande’s Persistence of Folly challenges the accepted account of the origins of German theater by focusing on the misunderstood figure of the fool, whose spontaneous and impish jest captivated audiences, critics, and playwrights from the late sixteenth through the early nineteenth century. Lande radically expands the scope of literary...

The Perraults
A Family of Letters in Early Modern France
Oded Rabinovitch
In The Perraults, Oded Rabinovitch takes the fascinating eponymous literary and scientific family as an entry point into the complex and rapidly changing world of early modern France. Today, the Perraults are best remembered for their canonical fairy tales, such as "Cinderella" and "Puss in Boots," most often attributed to Charles Perrault, one...

Phantasmatic Shakespeare
Imagination in the Age of Early Modern Science
Suparna Roychoudhury
Representations of the mind have a central place in Shakespeare’s artistic imagination, as we see in Bottom struggling to articulate his dream, Macbeth reaching for a dagger that is not there, and Prospero humbling his enemies with spectacular illusions. Phantasmatic Shakespeare examines the intersection between early modern literature and...

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