Student Review: The Later Middle Ages: A Sourcebook

February 24, 2011

Editors: Carolyn P. Collette and Harold Garrett-Goodyear

Edition: First

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Pages: 368

Price: £60.00 and £19.99

ISBN 9780230551350 and 1367

In presenting a collection of primary documents from the later Middle Ages, this textbook aims to familiarise the reader with a variety of social, historical and literary issues from the period. The topics explored are wide ranging and include spirituality, philosophy, politics and book production.

The book offers a detailed introduction to the subject. Although documents of this kind can often seem dense and challenging to the newcomer, the editors ensure that their selections are made more approachable and understandable in a number of ways.

First, the sources are rigorously organised. The chapter on late medieval spirituality, for example, is organised into component groups, including "spiritual economies" and "attaining salvation".

Presenting the sources in this way leads readers to see not only what each individual source contributes to the wider issue, but also how these sources collectively represent the multifaceted nature of the issue. This in turn promotes a fuller appreciation of the diversity in response from medieval writers.

Second, the context in which these documents were produced is rightly regarded as being all-important. Introductions at the beginning of each chapter and before presenting smaller groups of sources offer plenty of background information.

As a result, readers can engage with these texts armed with a clear understanding of how they were supposed to function and their intended impact. This is enormously helpful in allowing students to see not just the relationship between text and subject, but also the relationships between different kinds of texts.

Although the textbook is aimed at undergraduates, it would be just as useful to an expert on the later Middle Ages, because the sources included are impressively broad in scope. The editors' inclusion of lesser-known documents as well as major works has the positive effect of encouraging undergraduates to consider texts that are less frequently featured on university syllabuses.

The book's introduction covers some important contemporary critical trends. This facilitates further study as the sources can then be read and profitably analysed alongside arguments dealing with the ideas expounded in the sources.

In this way, the book stands alone as a formidable compilation of sig-nificant texts, and acts as a point of departure for readers to interrogate those texts with the aid of critical scholarship. The reading lists at the end of each chapter are particularly beneficial to such an endeavour.

Who is it for? Enthusiastic students of the later Middle Ages working in a variety of disciplines.

Presentation: Carefully assembled and easily navigated.

Would you recommend it? Yes, especially to those seeking a deeper contextual knowledge of the period.

Recommended

Medieval Literature: Texts, Contexts, Connections (York Notes Companions)

Author: Carole Maddern

Edition: First

Publisher: Pearson Education

Pages: 360

Price: £10.99

ISBN 9781408204757

Maddern's textbook offers a clear overview of the major literary concerns of the medieval period.

Poetry: The Ultimate Guide

Author: Richard Bradford

Edition: First

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Pages: 288

Price: £50.00 and £19.99

ISBN 9781403994608 and 4615

An interesting and lucid account of poetry's development.

Reading the Bronte Body: Disease, Desire and the Constraints of Culture

Author: Beth Torgerson

Edition: First

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Pages: 208

Price: £16.99

ISBN 9780230103283

Torgerson refocuses the reader's attention on to one of the most important elements of the Bronte novel, namely illness and disease.

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