This is an extremely ambitious, thought-provoking, challenging and inspiring book.
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue and Tale, the phrase ‘ignotum per ignocius’ is used in connection with the so-called ‘sliding science’ at which the would-be alchemists of the tale labour so diligently.(1) The phrase means to explain the unknown by the more unknown.
Feeling Things: Objects and Emotions through History / eds. Sally Holloway, Stephanie Downes, Sarah Randles
Historians are good at putting objects in their place. Details about context, manufacture, use, abuse, meaning, significance, decay, and so on are layered so that an object itself becomes a carrier of its moment in history. Putting material back into the fabric of history itself enriches that history.
It is impossible to understand any human society without exploring its emotional rhythms, from the most dramatic to the most subtle. For too long, historians have ignored this simple truth… Yet in the Middle Ages, emotions were everywhere.
The Birth of Modern Belief: Faith and Judgment from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment / Ethan H. Shagan
The Birth of Modern Belief is seriously good. It is erudite, insightful, and cogent; but, above all, it enables us to think hard about the relationship between our past and our present.
This short book deals with urban panegyric in the 12th and 13th centuries. It takes ‘urban panegyric’ to mean the ‘praise of cities’, whether expressed in (quite often poetical) texts written with the express purpose of praising cities, or as parts of texts whose titles do not necessarily suggest that praise of a city might be found there.
That Most Precious Merchandise: The Mediterranean Trade in Black Sea Slaves, 1260-1500 / Hannah Barker
Hannah Barker’s book is a thorough and engaging evaluation of late medieval slave trading practices in the Mediterranean. The tile is taken from the 15th-century recollection and denunciation of an Alexandrian slave market by Felix Fabri, a German friar (p. 209).
A lack of institutional documentation has rendered it difficult for scholars of early modernity to reconstruct the significance of apostasy from Judaism before the Council of Trent (1545-1563). As such, the reasons behind the conversion of Jews to Catholicism, especially in Renaissance Italy, remain understudied to this day.
Silent Music—Medieval Song and the Construction of History in Eighteenth-Century Spain / Susan Boynton
In his early 20th-century anti-clerical novel La Catedral, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez follows his protagonist into Toledo Cathedral’s Mozarabic Chapel for the daily celebration of what Richard Ford, in the 19th century, called ‘this peculiar ritual’: ‘As Gabriel listened to the monotonous singing of the Mozarabic priests he remembered the quarrels during the time of Alfonso VI between the
AI Narratives: A History of Imaginative Thinking about Intelligent Machines / Stephen Cave, Kanta Dihal, Sarah Dillon
‘Artificial intelligence (AI)’ is a loaded term, rife with connotative contradiction that inspires debate, disagreement, and disillusion. But what is AI, really? How have our expectations of computational capability, and even a robot Armageddon, come to be? Why does it matter how we talk about increasingly sophisticated technology, not just in expository prose, but also in fiction?