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Medieval Literacy: A Compendium Of Medieval Knowledge With The Guidance Of C. S. Lewis

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Medieval Literacy
A Compendium Of Medieval Knowledge  
With The Guidance Of C. S. Lewis 
 
James Grote
 
978-1-891785-82-5


Elegantly informative! I discovered things in Grote’s text that I have often simply presumed, yet had no way to verify. The introductory chapter is a gem while the remainder of the book executes a Herculean task with grace and deftness. Medieval Literacy is a useful tool for students and professors alike.
— David Burrell, Ph.D., Hesburgh Professor Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

Grote’s Medieval Literacy is the book I’ve been waiting years for. It fills a void that has long existed in medieval studies. The major literature courses I teach (Chaucer, the Early British survey, C. S. Lewis and the Inklings) have needed exactly this text, and the handful of handouts I’ve created to fill the gap have provided only a fraction of what Grote offers. Like Prothero’s Religious Literacy, Grote understands the importance of articulating a common language for his subject matter; and this is its real value—providing the nuts and bolts one must start with to enter the medieval world, and, by default, the world of Lewis.
— Stephen Yandell, Ph.D., Department of English, Xavier University

I’ve noticed first-hand how undergraduate students, while they tend to enjoy Dante’s Inferno, become frustrated by its many allusions. If they read Dante with Medieval Literacy alongside Dante’s text, it alleviates much of this frustration, because they have a quick and easy reference. It is also a perfect accompaniment to such commonly assigned texts as Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Jean de Meun’s Romance of the Rose, any of the Arthurian works, anything by Chaucer, and even Renaissance texts such as Castiglione’s The Courtier and much of Shakespeare. This book can be helpful as well in history, art, philosophy, theology, and even music classes that have a medieval focus or component.
— James Lynch, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor, Indiana University, Bloomington

Grote has done a real service to aspiring and practicing Medievalists everywhere. The ease with which this book gives access to the complicated intellectual world of Medieval Europe in its literary, philosophical, and theological aspects gives this book an essential place on the shelf of any student of the Middle Ages.
— Junius Johnson, Ph.D., Lecturer in Medieval Latin, Yale Divinity School

The author of this volume has provided students and scholars of the Middle Ages with an indispensible vade mecum, a guide for those new to the study of medieval thought as well as a resource for specialists. One would do well to keep this volume near-to-hand when reading or researching any medieval subject. Grote brings into sharp focus the elements of the “discarded image,” as his source of inspiration, C. S. Lewis, termed the lost harmony of the medieval mind. Reading Medieval Literacy is nothing less than undertaking a journey with an expert tour guide through the concepts, patterns, and systems of thought and of belief that define the central millennium of the Common Era. Not to mention that this beautifully written intellectual history is a terrific read straight through.
— William F. Pollard, Ph.D., Vice President and Dean of the College, Transylvania University

The author of this volume has provided students and scholars of the Middle Ages with an indispensible vade mecum, a guide for those new to the study of medieval thought as well as a resource for specialists.  One would do well to keep this volume near-to-hand when reading or researching medieval literature, philosophy, theology, science, or art. 
 
James Grote brings into sharp focus the elements of the “discarded image,” as his source of inspiration, C. S. Lewis, termed the lost harmony of the medieval mind.  Reading Medieval Literacy is nothing less than undertaking a journey with an expert tour guide through the concepts, patterns, and systems of thought and of belief that define the central millennium of the Common Era. 
 
A quick glace at the author’s “Analytic Table of Contents” is a signpost itself to the richness ahead in a volume at once a sustained and beautifully written intellectual history and a reference work that will take its readers to new insights and on their own scholarly journeys.

This book follows the tradition of literacy books that extol every form of content based education including Cultural Literacy by E. D. Hirsch, Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero, Spiritual Literacy by Frederic Brussat, and Historical Literacy by Paul Gagnon.

However, while Medieval Literacy is like E. D. Hirsch, Jr.’s The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, it is not in dictionary format like Hirsch, but in a unique “list” format that parallels the encyclopedic approach of the medievals themselves.  Medieval Literacy could be described as “what every modern needs to know” about the medieval mind -- for the modern reader’s own benefit, even when such a reader has no immediate interest in the medieval world.

The structure of Medieval Literacy is much different from all these works.  While these works are designed to be works of scholarship, Medieval Literacy will have a more pedagogic appeal – taking scholarship to the public in a scholarly, respectable manner.  The approach is medieval in content (a landscape of the medieval mind) as well as in form – a compilation of lists.

 
Paul James (Jim) Grote’s career has included work as a development officer for three Catholic institutions (including the Archdiocese of Louisville), a financial journalist for numerous national trade publications, and an adjunct professor of philosophy for several universities in the Louisville, Kentucky area as well as for the Abbey of Gethsemani. He spent two years in the Catholic Worker movement and four years at the Families of St. Benedict, a lay monastic community near Gethsemani.

He has published over 150 articles in the areas of business, philosophy, religion, and spirituality. His prior two books include Theology and Technology: Essays in Christian Analysis and Exegesis (with Carl Mitcham) and Clever as Serpents: Business Ethics and Office Politics (with John McGeeney). The business ethics text has recently been translated into German, Indonesian, and Portuguese. He is currently working on a Ph.D. in Humanities at the University of Louisville.


The cover illustration is taken from the Bible Moralisée (Paris, ca. 1220-1230), one of the
most sumptuous Gothic manuscripts of the 13th century and the most important of the
medieval picture bibles. On 136 illustrated pages, no less than 1032 picture medallions are
to be found, as well as one full-page miniature which earned great interest for its depiction of “God as the Architect of the Universe

 

Myths About the Middle Ages

Jim Grote

Myth: In the Middle Ages people believed the world was flat. 

Fact: Circles dominated all cosmological thought. 

Myth: Society has progressed significantly since the Middle Ages.

Fact: The Wheel of Fortune makes at least as much sense as the Myth of Progress (cf. C. S. Lewis's notion of "chronological snobbery").

Myth: The Middle Ages was a time of superstition and ignorance. 

Fact: The 12th Century Renaissance (seven liberal arts, rise of the university, medieval exegesis) was at least as significat as the Italian Renaissance.

Myth: There was no technological innovation during the Middle Ages. 

Fact: The Middle Ages was a time of significant inventions. 

Myth: The Middle Ages were a time of extreme sexism and violence (Pulp Fiction).

Fact: The phenomena of troubadour poetry, courtly love, and chivalry gave an unprecedented status to women and tempered the violence of the warrior class - the knights. The Middle Ages had more respect for the natural world than modernity does. 

Myth: Modern Islam is trying to return Western civilization to the Middle Ages. 

Fact: Islam saved Western civilization.