With Ancestor of the West, three distinguished French historians reveal the story of the birth of writing and reason, demonstrating how the logical religious structures of Near Eastern and Mesopotamian cultures served as precursors to those of the West.
"Full of matter for anyone interested in language, religion, and politics in the ancient world."—R. T. Ridley, Journal of Religious History
"In this accessible introduction to the ancient world, three leading French scholars explore the emergence of rationality and writing in the West, tracing its development and its survival in our own traditions. . . . Jean Bottero focuses on writing and religion in ancient Mesopotamia, Clarisse Herrenschmidt considers a broader history of ancient writing, and Jean-Pierre Vernant examines classical Greek civilization in the context of Near Eastern history."—Translation Review
Laura Wilmote is a television journalist living in Paris. Her life couldn’t be better—a stimulating job, a loving boyfriend, interesting friends—until her phone rings in the middle of one night. It is C., an old school friend whom Laura recently helped find a job at the same television station: “My phone rang. I knew right away it was you.”
Thus begins the story of C.’s unrelenting, obsessive, incurable love/hatred of Laura. She is convinced that Laura shares her love, but cannot—or will not—admit it. C. begins to dress as Laura, to make her friends and family her own, and even succeeds in working alongside Laura on the unique program that is Laura’s signature achievement. The obsession escalates, yet is artfully hidden. It is Laura who is perceived as the aggressor at work, Laura who appears unwell, Laura who is losing it. Even Laura’s adoring boyfriend begins to question her. Laura seeks the counsel of a psychiatrist who diagnoses C. with De Clérambault syndrome—she is convinced that Laura is in love with her. And worse, the syndrome can only end in one of two ways: the death of the patient, or that of the object of the obsession.
A Cage in Search of a Bird is the gripping story of two women caught in the vise of a terrible delusion. Florence Noiville brilliantly narrates this story of obsession and one woman’s attempts to escape the irrational love of another—an inescapable, never-ending love, a love that can only end badly.
An Ecology of Happiness
Eric Lambin University of Chicago Press, 2012 Library of Congress GF51.L3513 2012 | Dewey Decimal 304.2
We know that our gas-guzzling cars are warming the planet, the pesticides and fertilizers from farms are turning rivers toxic, and the earth has run out of space for the mountains of unrecycled waste our daily consumption has left in its wake. We’ve heard copious accounts of our impact—as humans, as a society—on the natural world. But this is not a one-sided relationship. Lost in these dire and scolding accounts has been the impact on us and our well-being. You sense it while walking on a sandy beach, or in a wild, woody forest, or when you catch sight of wildlife, or even while gardening in your backyard. Could it be that the natural environment is an essential part of our happiness? Yes, says Eric Lambin emphatically in An Ecology of Happiness. Using a very different strategy in addressing environmental concerns, he asks us to consider that there may be no better reason to value and protect the health of the planet than for our own personal well-being.
In this clever and wide-ranging work, Lambin draws on new scientific evidence in the fields of geography, political ecology, environmental psychology, urban studies, and disease ecology, among others, to answer such questions as: To what extent do we need nature for our well-being? How does environmental degradation affect our happiness? What can be done to protect the environment and increase our well-being at the same time? Drawing on case studies from Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, Lambin makes a persuasive case for the strong link between healthy ecosystems and happy humans.
Unique in its scope and evenhanded synthesis of research from many fields, An Ecology of Happiness offers a compelling human-centered argument that is impossible to overlook when we marvel at murmurations of starlings or seek out the most brilliant fall foliage: nature makes our steps a little lighter and our eyes a little brighter. What better reason to protect an ecosystem or save a species than for our own pleasure?
From the outset of Napoleon’s career, the charismatic Corsican was compared to mythic heroes of antiquity like Achilles, and even today he remains the apotheosis of French glory, a value deeply embedded in the country’s history. From this angle, the Napoleonic era can be viewed as the final chapter in the battle of the Ancients and Moderns. In this book, Robert Morrissey presents a literary and cultural history of glory and its development in France and explores the “economy of glory” Napoleon sought to implement in an attempt to heal the divide between the Old Regime and the Revolution.
Examining how Napoleon saw glory as a means of escaping the impasse of Revolutionary ideas of radical egalitarianism, Morrissey illustrates the challenge the leader faced in reconciling the antagonistic values of virtue and self-interest, heroism and equality. He reveals that the economy of glory was both egalitarian, creating the possibility of an aristocracy based on merit rather than wealth, and traditional, being deeply embedded in the history of aristocratic chivalry and the monarchy—making it the heart of Napoleon’s politics of fusion. Going beyond Napoleon, Morrissey considers how figures of French romanticism such as Chateaubriand, Balzac, and Hugo constantly reevaluated this legacy of glory and its consequences for modernity. Available for the first time in English, The Economy of Glory is a sophisticated and beautifully written addition to French history.
Through this vivid study, Jean-Claude Schmitt examines medieval religious culture and the significance of the widespread belief in ghosts, revealing the ways in which the dead and the living related to each other during the middle ages. Schmitt also discusses Augustine's influence on medieval authors; the link between dreams and autobiographical narratives; and monastic visions and folklore. Including numerous color reproductions of ghosts and ghostly trappings, this book presents a unique and intriguing look at medieval culture.
"Valuable and highly readable. . . . [Ghosts in the Middle Ages] will be of interest to many students of medieval thought and culture, but especially to those seeking a general overview of this particularly conspicuous aspect of the medieval remembrance of the dead."—Hans Peter Broedel, Medieval Review
"A fascinating study of the growing prevalence of ghost imagery in ecclesiastical and popular writing from the fifth to the fifteenth century."—Choice
The recent announcement that Google will digitize the holdings of several major libraries sent shock waves through the book industry and academe. Google presented this digital repository as a first step towards a long-dreamed-of universal library, but skeptics were quick to raise a number of concerns about the potential for copyright infringement and unanticipated effects on the business of research and publishing.
Jean-Noël Jeanneney, president of France’s Bibliothèque Nationale, here takes aim at what he sees as a far more troubling aspect of Google’s Library Project: its potential to misrepresent—and even damage—the world’s cultural heritage. In this impassioned work, Jeanneney argues that Google’s unsystematic digitization of books from a few partner libraries and its reliance on works written mostly in English constitute acts of selection that can only extend the dominance of American culture abroad. This danger is made evident by a Google book search the author discusses here—one run on Hugo, Cervantes, Dante, and Goethe that resulted in just one non-English edition, and a German translation of Hugo at that. An archive that can so easily slight the masters of European literature—and whose development is driven by commercial interests—cannot provide the foundation for a universal library.
As a leading librarian, Jeanneney remains enthusiastic about the archival potential of the Web. But he argues that the short-term thinking characterized by Google’s digital repository must be countered by long-term planning on the part of cultural and governmental institutions worldwide—a serious effort to create a truly comprehensive library, one based on the politics of inclusion and multiculturalism.
Edited by Jean-Pierre Vernant University of Chicago Press, 1995 Library of Congress DF78.U5913 1995 | Dewey Decimal 949.5
What do we mean when we speak of ancient Greeks? A person from the Archaic period? The war hero celebrated by Homer? Or the fourth century "political animal" described by Aristotle? In this book, leading scholars show what it meant to be Greek during the classical period of Greek civilization.
The Greeks offers the most complete portraits available of typical Greek personages from Athens to Sparta, Arcadia, Thessaly and Epirus to the city-states of Asia Minor, to the colonies of the Black Sea, southern Italy, and Sicily. Looking at the citizen, the religious believer, the soldier, the servant, the peasant, and others, they show what—in the Greek relationships with the divine, with nature, with others, and with the self—made him "different" in his ways of acting, thinking, and feeling.
The contributors to this volume are Jean-Pierre Vernant, Claude Mosse, Yvon Garlan, Giuseppe Cambiano, Luciano Canfora, James Redfield, Charles Segal, Oswyn Murray, Mario Vegetti, and Philippe Borgeaud.
Heroes and Marvels of the Middle Ages is a history like no other: it is a history of the imagination, presented between two celebrated groups of the period. One group consists of heroes: Charlemagne, El Cid, King Arthur, Orlando, Pope Joan, Melusine, Merlin the Wizard, and also the fox and the unicorn. The other is the miraculous, represented here by three forms of power that dominated medieval society: the cathedral, the castle, and the cloister. Roaming between the boundaries of the natural and the supernatural, between earth and the heavens, the medieval universe is illustrated by a shared iconography, covering a vast geographical span. This imaginative history is also a continuing story, which presents the heroes and marvels of the Middle Ages as the times defined them: venerated, then bequeathed to future centuries where they have continued to live and transform through remembrance of the past, adaptation to the present, and openness to the future.
We are well aware of the rise of the 1% as the rapid growth of economic inequality has put the majority of the world’s wealth in the pockets of fewer and fewer. One much-discussed solution to this imbalance is to significantly increase the rate at which we tax the wealthy. But with an enormous amount of the world’s wealth hidden in tax havens—in countries like Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands—this wealth cannot be fully accounted for and taxed fairly. No one, from economists to bankers to politicians, has been able to quantify exactly how much of the world’s assets are currently hidden—until now. Gabriel Zucman is the first economist to offer reliable insight into the actual extent of the world’s money held in tax havens. And it’s staggering.
In The Hidden Wealth of Nations, Zucman offers an inventive and sophisticated approach to quantifying how big the problem is, how tax havens work and are organized, and how we can begin to approach a solution. His research reveals that tax havens are a quickly growing danger to the world economy. In the past five years, the amount of wealth in tax havens has increased over 25%—there has never been as much money held offshore as there is today. This hidden wealth accounts for at least $7.6 trillion, equivalent to 8% of the global financial assets of households. Fighting the notion that any attempts to vanquish tax havens are futile, since some countries will always offer more advantageous tax rates than others, as well the counter-argument that since the financial crisis tax havens have disappeared, Zucman shows how both sides are actually very wrong. In The Hidden Wealth of Nations he offers an ambitious agenda for reform, focused on ways in which countries can change the incentives of tax havens. Only by first understanding the enormity of the secret wealth can we begin to estimate the kind of actions that would force tax havens to give up their practices.
Zucman’s work has quickly become the gold standard for quantifying the amount of the world’s assets held in havens. In this concise book, he lays out in approachable language how the international banking system works and the dangerous extent to which the large-scale evasion of taxes is undermining the global market as a whole. If we are to find a way to solve the problem of increasing inequality, The Hidden Wealth of Nations is essential reading.
Witness the French anthropologist as we have never seen him before. Marc Augé coined the term “non-place” to describe the ubiquitous airports, hotels, and motorways filled with anonymous individuals. In this new book, he casts his anthropologist’s eye on a subject close to his heart: cycling. With In Praise of the Bicycle, Augé takes us on a two-wheeled ride around our cities and on a personal journey into ourselves. We all remember the thrill of riding a bike for the first time and the joys of cycling. Here he reminds us that these memories are not just personal, but rooted in a time and a place, in a history that is shared with millions of others.
Part memoir, part manifesto, Augé’s book celebrates cycling as a way of reconnecting with the places in which we live, and, ultimately, as a necessary alternative to our disconnected world.
In the spring of 2003, Jacques Derrida sat down for a public debate in Paris with Algerian intellectual Mustapha Chérif. The eminent philosopher arrived at the event directly from the hospital where he had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the illness that would take his life just over a year later. That he still participated in the exchange testifies to the magnitude of the subject at hand: the increasingly distressed relationship between Islam and the West, and the questions of freedom, justice, and democracy that surround it.
As Chérif relates in this account of their dialogue, the topic of Islam held special resonance for Derrida—perhaps it is to be expected that near the end of his life his thoughts would return to Algeria, the country where he was born in 1930. Indeed, these roots served as the impetus for their conversation, which first centers on the ways in which Derrida’s Algerian-Jewish identity has shaped his thinking. From there, the two men move to broader questions of secularism and democracy; to politics and religion and how the former manipulates the latter; and to the parallels between xenophobia in the West and fanaticism among Islamists.
Ultimately, the discussion is an attempt to tear down the notion that Islam and the West are two civilizations locked in a bitter struggle for supremacy and to reconsider them as the two shores of the Mediterranean—two halves of the same geographical, religious, and cultural sphere. Islam and the West is a crucial opportunity to further our understanding of Derrida’s views on the key political and religious divisions of our time and an often moving testament to the power of friendship and solidarity to surmount them.
Journal III, 1970-1978
Mircea Eliade University of Chicago Press, 1989 Library of Congress BL43.E4A3 1989b | Dewey Decimal 291.0924
More an eloquent chronicle of the mind's life than a recital of daily routine, this volume of Mircea Eliade's journal offers a remarkably candid portrait of a renowned scholar and his work. The entries—full of marvelous ideas, outlines for works never written, responses to the works of others, and much more—reveal many rarely glimpsed sides of the private, as well as public, man. What did he really think of the students who came to him for instruction in black magic? What were his private reflections on feminism, student drug use, the sexual revolution, the nature of American scholars and scholarship? Who were his best friends, why did he enjoy their company, and why did he shun the company of others?
Quite apart from the personal, biographical interest the journal holds, it is a document of cultural and intellectual significance. Eliade remarks on such colleagues and friends as Jung, Dumézil, Ricoeur, Bellow, and Ionesco. Moreover, the period covered encompasses Eliade's most active years as a teacher, and the journal beautifully reflects his developing views on religion, history, and the nature of academic culture. Bits and pieces of Eliade's past life are juxtaposed with thoughts about ongoing projects and work yet to be undertaken as well as with anecdotes of his travels and comments on world events.
A genuine treat for Eliade readers and those interested in history of religions, Journal III provides new perspectives on many of Eliade's other works—the History of Religious Ideas, Ordeal by Labyrinth, the Autobiography. At the same time the journal is a mature scholar's record of the aftermath of the 1960s, a turbulent period that profoundly affected American university life. As such, these writings hold valuable insights into not only the life and work of one man but also the cultural history of an entire era.
The year is 1938. The great Russian poet and essayist Osip Mandelstam is forty-seven years old and is dying in a transit camp near Vladivostok after having been arrested by Stalin’s government during the repression of the 1930s and sent into exile with his wife. Stalin, “the Kremlin mountaineer, murderer, and peasant-slayer,” is undoubtedly responsible for his fatal decline. From the depths of his prison cell, lost in a world full of ghosts, Mandelstam sees scenes from his life pass before him: constant hunger, living hand to mouth, relying on the assistance of sympathetic friends, shunned by others, four decades of creation and struggle, alongside his beloved wife Nadezhda, and his contemporaries Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Boris Pasternak, and many others.
With her sensitive prose and innate sense of drama, French-Lebanese writer Vénus Khoury-Ghata brings Mandelstam back to life and allows him to have the last word—proving that literature is one of the surest means to fight against barbarism.
A Long Saturday: Conversations
George Steiner with Laure Adler University of Chicago Press, 2017 Library of Congress P85.S74A3 2017 | Dewey Decimal 410.92
George Steiner is one of the preeminent intellectuals of our time. The Washington Post has declared that no one else “writing on literature can match him as polymath and polyglot, and few can equal the verve and eloquence of his writing,” while the New York Times says of his works that “the erudition is almost as extraordinary as the prose: dense, knowing, allusive.” Reading in many languages, celebrating the survival of high culture in the face of modern barbarisms, Steiner probes the ethics of language and literature with unparalleled grace and authority. A Long Saturday offers intimate insight into the questions that have absorbed him throughout his career.
In a stimulating series of conversations, Steiner and journalist Laure Adler discuss a range of topics, including Steiner’s boyhood in Vienna and Paris, his education at the University of Chicago and Harvard, and his early years in academia. Books are a touchstone throughout, but Steiner and Adler’s conversations also range over music, chess, psychoanalysis, the place of Israel in Jewish life, and beyond. Blending thoughts on subjects of broad interest in the humanities—the issue of honoring Richard Wagner and Martin Heidegger in spite of their politics, or Virginia Woolf’s awareness of the novel as a multivocal form, for example—with personal reflections on life and family, Steiner demonstrates why he is considered one of today’s greatest minds. Revealing and exhilarating, A Long Saturday invites readers to pull up a chair and listen in on a conversation with a master.
Moving beyond merely biographical or textual interpretation, Claude Tannery traces the philosophy of life and art developed by André Malraux. With both sensitivity and expert interpretation he defines the issues—personal and artistic as well as political—that underlie Malraux's writings—including early as well as late works, novels, speeches, and essays. The result is a new and subtle portrait of Malraux.
Winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature, J. M. G. Le Clézio here conjures the consciousness of Mexico, powerfully evoking the dreams that made and unmade an ancient culture. Le Clézio’s haunting book takes us into the dream that was the religion of the Aztecs, a religion whose own apocalyptic visions anticipated the coming of the Spanish conquerors. Here the dream of the conquistadores rises before us, too, the glimmering idea of gold drawing Europe into the Mexican dream. Against the religion and thought of the Aztecs and the Tarascans and the Europeans in Mexico, Le Clézio also shows us those of the “barbarians” of the north, the nomadic Indians beyond the pale of the Aztec frontier.
Finally, Le Clézio’s book is a dream of the present, a meditation on what in Amerindian civilizations—in their language, in their way of telling tales, of wanting to survive their own destruction—moved the poet, playwright, and actor Antonin Artaud and motivates Le Clézio in this book. His own deep identification with pre-Columbian cultures, whose faith told them the wheel of time would bring their gods and their beliefs back to them, finds fitting expression in this extraordinary book, which brings the dream around.
“We are lucky to have in Le Clézio a writer of great quality who brings his particular sensibility and talent here to remind us of the very nature of the rituals and myths of the civilizations of ancient Mexico; he provides us with descriptions as precise as they are mysterious.”—Le Figaro
Microbes from Hell
Patrick Forterre University of Chicago Press, 2016 Library of Congress QR84.8.F6713 2016 | Dewey Decimal 579.317
At the close of the 1970s, the two-domain classification scheme long used by most biologists—prokaryotes versus eukaryotes—was upended by the discovery of an entirely new group of organisms: archaea. Initially thought to be bacteria, these single-celled microbes—many of which were first found in seemingly unlivable habitats like the volcanic hot springs of Yellowstone National Park—were in fact so different at molecular and genetic levels as to constitute a separate, third domain beside bacteria and eukaryotes. Their discovery sparked a conceptual revolution in our understanding of the evolution of life, and Patrick Forterre was—and still is—at the vanguard of this revolution.
In Microbes from Hell, one of the world’s leading experts on archaea and hyperthermophiles, or organisms that have evolved to flourish in extreme temperatures, offers a colorful, engaging account of this taxonomic upheaval. Blending tales of his own search for thermophiles with discussions of both the physiological challenges thermophiles face and the unique adaptations they have evolved to live in high-temperature environments, Forterre illuminates our developing understanding of the relationship between archaea and the rest of Earth’s organisms. From biotech applications to the latest discoveries in thermophile research, from microbiomes to the communities of organisms that dwell on deep-sea vents, Forterre’s exploration of life-forms that seem to thrive at the mouth of hell provides a glimpse into the early days of Earth, offering deep insight into what life may have looked like in the extreme environments of our planet’s dawn.
While presenting the Nobel Prize in Literature to J. M. G. Le Clézio in 2008, the Nobel Committee called him the “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.” In Mydriasis, the author proves himself to be precisely that as he takes us on a phantasmagoric journey into parallel worlds and whirling visions. Dwelling on darkness, light, and human vision, Le Clézio’s richly poetic prose composes a mesmerizing song and a dizzying exploration of the universe—a universe not unlike the abysses explored by the highly idiosyncratic Belgian poet Henri Michaux.
Michaux is, in fact, at the heart of To the Icebergs. Fascinated by his writing, Le Clézio includes Michaux’s "poem of the poem," "Iniji," thereby allowing the poet’s voice to emerge by itself. What follows is much more than a simple analysis of the poem; rather, it is an act of complete insight and understanding, a personal appropriation and elevation of the work. Written originally in the 1970s and now translated into English for the first time, these two brief, incisive and haunting texts will further strengthen the reputation of one of the world’s greatest and most visionary living writers.
In this intriguing blend of the commonplace and the ancient, Jean Bottéro presents the first extensive look at the delectable secrets of Mesopotamia. Bottéro’s broad perspective takes us inside the religious rites, everyday rituals, attitudes and taboos, and even the detailed preparation techniques involving food and drink in Mesopotamian high culture during the second and third millennia BCE, as the Mesopotamians recorded them.
Offering everything from translated recipes for pigeon and gazelle stews, the contents of medicinal teas and broths, and the origins of ingredients native to the region, this book reveals the cuisine of one of history’s most fascinating societies. Links to the modern world, along with incredible recreations of a rich, ancient culture through its cuisine, make Bottéro’s guide an entertaining and mesmerizing read.
Located northeast of Damascus, in an oasis surrounded by palms and two mountain ranges, the ancient city of Palmyra has the aura of myth. According to the Bible, the city was built by Solomon. Regardless of its actual origins, it was an influential city, serving for centuries as a caravan stop for those crossing the Syrian Desert. It became a Roman province under Tiberius and served as the most powerful commercial center in the Middle East between the first and the third centuries CE. But when the citizens of Palmyra tried to break away from Rome, they were defeated, marking the end of the city’s prosperity. The magnificent monuments from that earlier era of wealth, a resplendent blend of Greco-Roman architecture and local influences, stretched over miles and were among the most significant buildings of the ancient world—until the arrival of ISIS. In 2015, ISIS fought to gain control of the area because it was home to a prison where many members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood had been held, and ISIS went on to systematically destroy the city and murder many of its inhabitants, including the archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad, the antiquities director of Palymra.
In this concise and elegiac book, Paul Veyne, one of Palymra’s most important experts, offers a beautiful and moving look at the history of this significant lost city and why it was—and still is—important. Today, we can appreciate the majesty of Palmyra only through its pictures and stories, and this book offers a beautifully illustrated memorial that also serves as a lasting guide to a cultural treasure.
The Rabinal Achi, one of the most remarkable works of Mayan literature, dates back to the 1400s. In 2005, UNESCO declared Rabinal Achi to be a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This drama is still performed with a ritual dance in the village of Rabinal (Baja Verapaz).
The drama is set in the Guatemalan highlands in the second half of the fifteenth century. In an exemplary trial that takes place in Kajyub, the capital of the Rabinaleb at that time, a captured enemy warrior (Quiché Achi) appears before the royal court. A series of combative dialogues pits the offending warrior against the local warrior (Rabinal Achi) and the king (Job Toj), reconstructing the deeds of those involved and retracing the antagonistic history of these two Mayan groups, the Quiché and the Rabinaleb.
Alain Breton approaches the text from an anthropological and ethnographical perspective, demonstrating that this indigenous text reenacts pre-Columbian historic paradigms. Breton's work is based on the Pérez Manuscript (1913), a facsimile of which is included in its entirety. Breton translated into French an entirely new transcription of the original text, and Teresa Lavender Fagan and Robert Schneider translated the text into English. Both the transcription and the translation are accompanied by detailed commentary and a glossary.
One of the world's foremost experts on Assyriology, Jean Bottéro has studied the religion of ancient Mesopotamia for more than fifty years. Building on these many years of research, Bottéro here presents the definitive account of one of the world's oldest known religions. He shows how ancient Mesopotamian religion was practiced both in the public and private spheres, how it developed over the three millennia of its active existence, and how it profoundly influenced Western civilization, including the Hebrew Bible.
Bernard Lortat-Jacob University of Chicago Press, 1995 Library of Congress DG975.S33L6713 1995 | Dewey Decimal 945.9
In Sardinian Chronicles Bernard Lortat-Jacob poetically evokes Sardinian music through a series of encounters with individual musicians and their families. Refusing to separate the music from the world in which it arises, Lortat-Jacob offers twelve vignettes focused on individuals such as Cocco, a chicken farmer who deciphers the shapes of his fowl and the layout of his henhouses in the constellations of a summer sky, and Pietro, a sleep-walking postman who divides his time between mail deliveries and impromptu serenades. These vignettes bring to life an art still very much alive: the music of villages with an oral tradition, sung or played in the company of others.
Through his sensitive portraits of music makers and their families, Lortat-Jacob overcomes some of the epistemological and methodological dilemmas facing his field today, while also giving the general reader a sense of the multiple and idiosyncratic ways that music is involved in everyday life. With a foreword by Michel Leiris and a compact disc containing samples of the music being discussed, this book constitutes a breakthrough in ethnomusicology that will also interest many in Mediterranean studies and European anthropology.
Before the end of the thirteenth century, theologians had little interest in demons, but with Thomas Aquinas and his formidable “Treatise on Evil” in 1272, everything changed. In Satan the Heretic, Alain Boureau trains his skeptical eye not on Satan or Satanism, but on the birth of demonology and the sudden belief in the power of demons who inhabited Satan’s Court, setting out to understand not why people believed in demons, but why theologians—especially Pope John XXII—became so interested in the subject.
Depicting this new demonology, Satan the Heretic considers the period between the mid-thirteenth and mid-fourteenth centuries when demons, in the eyes of Church authorities, suddenly burst forth, more real and more terrifying than ever before in the history of Christianity. Boureau argues that the rise in this obsession with demons occurs at the crossroads of the rise of sovereignties and of the individual, a rise that, tellingly, also coincides with the emergence of the modern legal system in the European West.
Teeming with original insights and lively anecdotes, Satan the Heretic is a significant contribution to the history of Christian demonology from one of the most original minds in the field of medieval studies today.
In 1991, French public television held an amateur screenwriting contest. When Sabine Chalvon-Demersay, a French sociologist, examined the roughly 1,000 entries, she had hoped to analyze their differences. What she found, however, surprised her. Although the entrants covered nearly every social demographic, their screenplays presented similar characters in similar situations confronting similar problems.
The time of crisis presented by the amateur writers was not one of war, famine, or disease—it was the millennial dilemma of representation. In a world plagued by alienation, individualization, and a lack of mobility, how can members of a society combat their declining senses of self?
Although the contestants wrote about life in France, their concerns and struggles have a distinctly universal ring. A lucid, witty writer, Chalvon-Demersay offers a clear, if still developing, photograph of the contemporary imagination.
Now available in English, Thunder Doesn't Live Here Anymore explores the highly unusual worldview of the Teenek people of Tantoyuca, Veracruz, whose self-deprecating cosmology diverges quite radically from patterns of positive cultural identity among other indigenous groups in Mexico. The Teeneks speak of themselves as dirty, dumb, ignorant, and fearful, a vocabulary that serves to justify the Teeneks' condition of social and spatial marginality in relation to their mestizo neighbors.
However, as Anath Ariel de Vidas argues in this masterful ethnography, this self-denigration - added to the absence among the Teeneks of emblematic Indian features such as traditional costumes, agricultural rituals, specific ceremonies, or systems of religious cargos or offices - are not synonymous with collective anomie. Rather, as Ariel de Vidas demonstrates, their seeming ontological acceptance of a marginal social and economic condition is - in its own peculiar way - a language of indigenous resistance.
The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as many other communist totalitarian regimes around the world. But it would be naive to assume that this historic, symbolic event and its aftermath have completely rid the world of totalitarianism. Instead, we should ask, what is the totalitarian experience and how does it survive today?
This is the imposing question raised by acclaimed philosopher and writer Tzvetan Todorov in this compact, highly personal essay. Here, he recounts his own experiences with totalitarianism in his native Bulgaria and discusses the books he has written in the last twenty years that were devoted to examining such regimes, such as Voices from the Gulag, his influential analysis of Stalinist concentration camps. Through this retrospective investigation, Todorov offers a historical look at communism. He brings together and distills his extensive oeuvre to reveal the essence of totalitarian ideology, the characteristics of daily life under communism, and the irony of democratic messianism.
Bringing his thoughts and insights up to the present, Todorov explores how economic ultraliberalism may be considered just another form of totalitarianism. And his conclusion leads us to ask ourselves another challenging question: Are liberal democratic societies actually totalitarian experiences in disguise?
“In this honed, finely calibrated essay, Todorov refutes the notion that good can be imposed by force. More efficient is to embody one’s values and demonstrate their worth. . . . This is a concise and eloquent defence of what makes us truly human.”—Age, on Torture and the War on Terror
Vegetables: A Biography
Evelyne Bloch-Dano University of Chicago Press, 2012 Library of Congress SB320.5.B6613 2011 | Dewey Decimal 635
From Michael Pollan to locavores, Whole Foods to farmers' markets, today cooks and foodies alike are paying more attention than ever before to the history of the food they bring into their kitchens—and especially to vegetables. Whether it’s an heirloom tomato, curled cabbage, or succulent squash, from a farmers' market or a backyard plot, the humble vegetable offers more than just nutrition—it also represents a link with long tradition of farming and gardening, nurturing and breeding.
In this charming new book, those veggies finally get their due. In capsule biographies of eleven different vegetables—artichokes, beans, chard, cabbage, cardoons, carrots, chili peppers, Jerusalem artichokes, peas, pumpkins, and tomatoes—Evelyne Bloch-Dano explores the world of vegetables in all its facets, from science and agriculture to history, culture, and, of course, cooking. From the importance of peppers in early international trade to the most recent findings in genetics, from the cultural cachet of cabbage to Proust’s devotion to beef-and-carrot stew, to the surprising array of vegetables that preceded the pumpkin as the avatar of All Hallow’s Eve, Bloch-Dano takes readers on a dazzling tour of the fascinating stories behind our daily repasts.
Spicing her cornucopia with an eye for anecdote and a ready wit, Bloch-Dano has created a feast that’s sure to satisfy gardeners, chefs, and eaters alike.
When the ancient Greeks looked up into the heavens, they saw not just sun and moon, stars and planets, but a complete, coherent universe, a model of the Good that could serve as a guide to a better life. How this view of the world came to be, and how we lost it (or turned away from it) on the way to becoming modern, make for a fascinating story, told in a highly accessible manner by Rémi Brague in this wide-ranging cultural history.
Before the Greeks, people thought human action was required to maintain the order of the universe and so conducted rituals and sacrifices to renew and restore it. But beginning with the Hellenic Age, the universe came to be seen as existing quite apart from human action and possessing, therefore, a kind of wisdom that humanity did not. Wearing his remarkable erudition lightly, Brague traces the many ways this universal wisdom has been interpreted over the centuries, from the time of ancient Egypt to the modern era. Socratic and Muslim philosophers, Christian theologians and Jewish Kabbalists all believed that questions about the workings of the world and the meaning of life were closely intertwined and that an understanding of cosmology was crucial to making sense of human ethics. Exploring the fate of this concept in the modern day, Brague shows how modernity stripped the universe of its sacred and philosophical wisdom, transforming it into an ethically indifferent entity that no longer serves as a model for human morality.
Encyclopedic and yet intimate, The Wisdom of the World offers the best sort of history: broad, learned, and completely compelling. Brague opens a window onto systems of thought radically different from our own.