Medieval-related books I’ve been reading lately

Lately when talking with folks I’ve been saying “I’m currently reading 15 books.” I’m not sure this number is exactly right, but this is a life-long habit: at any given time, I am usually working through about a dozen books. Currently in various stages of completion are the following:

Christopher Brooke, Medieval Church and Society. I reviewed Brooke’s Age of the Cloister a while back–a really enjoyable and illuminating read. So I was delighted to find a copy of this one at half price (still expensive) in Powells Books’ room at the Kalamazoo Medieval Congress. In particular I enjoyed the first two chapters: “”The Dullness of the Past,” and “Problems of the Church Historian.” I should post on these here soon.

R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (The Penguin History of the Church 2). Perhaps the “dean of medieval studies”–or at least, in England. Illuminating stuff throughout. Spends a lot of time, however, obsessing over the power structures of medieval church and state–for me, this becomes a cure for insomnia at points.

Eileen Power, Medieval Women. Another Powells-at-Kalamazoo find. This one is dated, but a wonderful, vivid, and brief tour through medieval attitudes toward women, and women’s roles in court, town, schools, and nunneries. I’ve put a few clips here.

Jeffrey Burton Russell & Douglas W. Lumsden, A History of Medieval Christianity: Prophecy & Order. The sweeping thesis of this brief survey is an interesting one: the contrasting concerns of prophetic change and orderly conservatism clashed and combined throughout the medieval church, shaping its key institutions, events, and ideas.

C. S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (part of the Oxford History of English Literature). Since sixteenth-century literature, according to Lewis, derived most of its character from its medieval heritage, this is a tremendous source of Lewisian insight on the Middle Ages.

Kenneth Hylson-Smith, Christianity in England from Roman Times to the Reformation, Vol II: From 1066 to 1384. Part of a series, this is a textured chronological reading of England’s faith throughout the medieval period. I haven’t read enough of it yet to form an opinion.

Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales (translated into in modern English by J. U. Nicolson, with illustrations by Rockwell Kent)

2 responses to “Medieval-related books I’ve been reading lately

  1. Sounds like good books, Chris. I’ve read Southern’s book and enjoyed it. Out of curiosity, have you read Henry Mayr-Harting’s book, The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England? If so, what are your thoughts on it? This is one of few books that I’ve kept in my moving around.


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