- Series: Medieval Texts in Translation
- Paperback: 163 pages
- Publisher: The Catholic University of America Press; New edition edition (January 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0813209382
- ISBN-13: 978-0813209388
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Handbook for William: A Carolingian Woman's Counsel for Her Son, trans. by Carol Neel (Medieval Texts in Translation) New edition Edition
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"Makes Dhuoda's work accessible to students of all levels. Undergraduates in history, women's studies, and theology--as well as educated and interested persons generally--can now enter fully into the mind and world of a Carolingian woman who lived in dramatic times and struggled with painful challenges. . . . As they see Dhuoda plumb the resources of religious and wordly wisdom available to her, they will better understand the worldview that pervaded Carolingian society and, with various permutations, endured for subsequent centuries. Her reflections on worldly status, ruminated against the horizon of eternal realities; her understanding of the moral conflicts inherent in the layers of feudal authority; her concern for justice, mercy, and generosity within a military society--all of this will challenge the facile generalizations about the Middle Ages still too widely held by the general public, and even among scholars."--Speculum
"A handy translation of a work which has come into prominence only recently, not least as a result of feminist approaches. . . . The translation is clearly set out and the notes include biblical references and brief explanations with reference to P. Riche's standard edition."--The Year's Work in Modern Language Studies
"Among the vast body of literature thrown up by the Carolingian Renaissance, few texts have the charm of this book of advice written by a mother to her son in the confused political situation which followed the death of Louis the Pious in 840. . . . Texts written by women are uncommon in this period, as are those by members of the laity; having been written by a laywoman, Dhuoda's Handbook is of outstanding interest in various ways. . . . Neel has done a fine job. . . . The book effectively presents a text which is interesting in many ways, and deserves a wide readership."--Parergon, Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies
"A remarkable, if not absolutely unique example of an early medieval woman's efforts in literary creativity. . . . Neel's first English translation of Dhuoda's Latin has already been confirmed to be concise and adequate. She presents a straightforward text which proves to be clear and understandable and beautifully illustrates the author's original stylistic, rhetorical, and organizational skills in writing her text. . . ."--Mediaevistik
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin
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Handbook for William is a delightful, fascinating, and (yes, I'll say it) touching text. It has an almost fantastic (as in the genre) quality to it. Dhuoda is of interest to anyone with a taste for Carolingian Studies (a Radisson ballroom-sized group of people, I imagine), or in any number of medieval disciplines (women's studies, family life, religion, etc.)
The book it most closely reminds me of-- in overall flavor, rather than content-- is The Book of Margery Kempe. It has that same intimacy, that same semi-confessional, semi-conversational flavor. Considering it is basically a very long letter written from a mother to her teenage son, one can expect that. Over a thousand years later, Dhuoda comes across as an actual human being (not merely an Historical Personage of Some Note) and, because of the "handbook" aspect of her work, you're not constantly evaluating her motives (e.g., Caesar's "Conquest of Gaul")
Her concern for her husband (a traitor to the King!) and children (held hostage!), her own declining health, her isolation and loneliness, her desire to both aide her children and leave something of worth behind... it is very provacative. Her notions of what a boy should know are also fascinating, touching on everything from "how to suck up to the king even though he's probably going to kill you," her weird Christian Mysticism and numerological obsessions, and even her pride in her learning and the quality of her work reveal things about the late Empire that are not covered anywhere else (e.g., what a woman of high social status would know and what she'd teach her children). There is even a faint whiff of "hey this is pretty good, other people should check this out." That sense not only makes you "like" her, it makes it a little amusing when she's wrong about things, too. Thoroughly great stuff, easy to read, and food for thought on intellectual and emotional levels, historical and philosophical levels, all sorts of levels.
This translation is excellent, and the book is good quality. Buy it, read it, tell your friends. Dhuoda deserves a more widespread fame.
For students of history, the book has a great deal to show us, from Dhuoda's evident high level of education to the occasional fascinating details of her life story. Incidentally, this book also puts the lie to those historians who have claimed from time to time that medieval people did not grow attached to their children, or even that they did not love them! Although we know from other sources that Dhuoda's son's life did not end happily, we know little about Dhuoda herself beyond this book. In short, Dhuoda's viewpoint is a powerful and important one, and is easily accessible to the modern reader.