Tuesday, June 17, 2008

1000 Books

Over at Yet I'll Hammer It Out that I discovered through this months' Carnivalesque, see post below, there's a discussion and listing of medieval and early modern works that one should read, since in those typical "Great Books" lists our periods generally get overlooked. While many of the respondents have listed some good reads, some important ones too, I think there's been a more or less missed opportunity there. There are some key "medieval" texts that have influenced a great deal of modern thought that have been overlooked, and others that I think are vitally important to read in a lifetime, more important than others on the typical "Great Books" list I could name. My list covers from circa 400-1500. So here's my list, I invite others to add their own:

Augustine: Confessions and City of God, On Christian Doctrine
Jerome: Latin Vulgate including prefaces, Commentary on Matthew
Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy
Gregory the Great Moralia in Job and Dialogues
Jonas' Life of Columbanus
Gregory of Tours History of the Franks
Venantius Fortunatus
Procopius The Secret History
Bede--most would put the Historia here, but for influence and importance I'd put On the Temple and On the Tabernacle and Lives of Cuthbert
Dream of the Rood
Vercelli Homilies
Song of Roland
Marie de France, Fables
Genesis A and B
Isidore's Etymologies (esp now that they are in translation)
Anselm's Cur Deus Homo
Einhard's Life of Charlemagne
Volsunga Saga
the Eddas
Sic et Non
Dante, Comedia
Aquinas (if you can!)
Piers Ploughman
Distichs of Cato
Letters of Abelard and Heloise
Njal's Saga
El Cid
Proslogion and Cur Deus Homo by Anselm
Queste des Saint Graal
Voyage of St. Brendan
Selected portions of the Talmud (Aboth is a good tractate)
Not exactly medieval, but medieval enough: 1001 Arabian Nights
Saadia Gaon's Book of Opinions
Maimonides Eight Chapters
Chretien de Troyes (I might suggest Yvain and Lancelot)
Richard Rolle
Michael Psellus
Julian of Norwich
Theresa of Avila
St. Francis of Assisi
Rule of Benedict

Well, that's my list. It favors England and Old English I suppose, and certainly the early period rather than the late. Nonetheless I think these important works.

What think you? Add or edit!


Anonymous said...

"Einhard"? "El Cid"? I'm guessing you mean Einhard's Vita Karoli, which might disappoint Einhard as I think he'd have preferred the Translation sanctorum Marcellini et Petri to make the immortality cut, but, fair enough. "El Cid", though: I'm guessing you mean the Cantar del Mio Cid? Or do you mean the Historia Roderici? Different authors, century apart, very different pictures of the man...

The proof of your list, though, is that I can't think of anything to add to it, except various origin-myth texts like the ASC or Isidore's Historia Gothorum. So, okay, I suggest Ibn Khaldun's Kitab al-I'bar, and some day I must learn enough Arabic to read it...

kishnevi said...

Instead of the Talmud, I'd suggest Saadia Gaon's Book of Opinions and Maimonides Eight Chapters--much more in the period you are aiming at. The Talmud really represents an era that began about 100CE and ended in the fifth century CE. And Aboth itself is really an anthology of traditions that date from before 100CE.

Moving further on, I'd suggest Gower, Petrarch, Boccacio, and some representation of the trouveres, troubadors, and minnesingers, plus Chretien de Troyes, Joinville and Villehardouin, some of the English mystics such as Rolle and Julian of Norwich, some of the Rhineland mystics like Eckhart, Glanvill, Michael Psellus.

(You can blame this incursion on Unlocked Wordhoard.)

Derek the ├ćnglican said...

In terms of influence, I'd have to add Paul the Deacon. Sure you could argue that it's technically patristic and some authors would fall short of the 400 mark, but it's *the* definitive medieval anthology--and the only access to the Fathers that many would ever have.

theswain said...

Thanks for stopping by all!

Jonathan: Yes, quite so, I meant specifically Einhard's Vita, well aware that he had written more than just that one work, but figured my short hand was understandable. For El Cid, I meant the Cantar....

I thought honestly about including all the "orgin-myth" texts: Gregory, Bede, the ASC, Jordanes, etc, and still may amend the list.

I should have said too, that I restricted myself to works that have been translated. I don't know the Kitab al i'bar, but would like to know more....(thought about including ibn Batuta as well).

Kishnevi: the BT fits the bill, the length of the process and the oral background doesn't bother me any...just look at the train of transmission to get us to the Vulgate, which I also included, some of which goes back to 1000 BCE in oral traditions, perhaps further.

You'd expand the list with all those though? Hmmmm...I did leave off any romances really, and the Goliards, perhaps should include at least the Archpoet, no lyrics in any language....thanks for the incursion, feel free anytime to "incurse".

Derek: I did think about including Paul's homiliary in there, but since there's no decent edition (the Migne as I recall is based on late, 14th century and later manuscripts) and no translation available, I decided to leave it off.

I'll edit in some of the suggestions, thanks!