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Epitaph for an Era
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Book description

Wala, abbot of Corbie, played a major role in the rebellions against Emperor Louis the Pious, especially in 830, for which he was exiled. Radbert defended his beloved abbot, known to his monks as Arsenius, against accusations of infidelity in an 'epitaph' (funeral oration), composed as a two-book conversation between himself and other monks of Corbie. Whereas the restrained first book of Radbert's Epitaphium Arsenii was written not long after Wala's death in 836, the polemical second book was added some twenty years later. This outspoken sequel covers the early 830s, yet it mostly addresses the political issues of the 850s, as well as Radbert's personal predicament. In Epitaph for an Era, an absorbing study of this fascinating text, Mayke de Jong examines the context of the Epitaphium's two books, the use of hindsight as a rhetorical strategy, and the articulation of notions of the public good in the mid-ninth century.

Reviews

‘A lively and compelling interpretation of the tumultuous central decades of the ninth century from the vantage point of a single text, the Epitaphium Arsenii, and through the eyes of its fascinating but neglected author, Paschasius Radbertus.’

Thomas F. X. Noble - University of Notre Dame, Indiana

‘Paschasius Radbertus, one of the most learned figures of the ninth century, applied all of his skills as biblical exegete, rhetorician and political insider to rehabilitate not only the shifting political career of Charlemagne's cousin and his own abbot patron Wala, but his own as well. The resulting text, his Epitaphium Arsenii, was so carefully crafted and directed towards such a small and elite audience at the centre of the Carolingian world that only a scholar as gifted as Mayke de Jong could possibly penetrate the multiple layers of this extraordinary text. Her Epitaph for an Era brilliantly illuminates not only Radbertus's dialogue, but the turbulent reign of Louis the Pious and the dissolution of the Carolingian empire.’

Patrick J. Geary - Institute for Advanced Study, New Jersey

'Mayke de Jong’s book combines readability with profound learning. She proffers an insider’s feel for what until recently were understudied fields. Ranging 'between the cloister and court', she probes deep into the cultures of both. As classical rhetoric jostles with dialogues, the past arcane becomes today’s relevant.'

Janet L. Nelson - King’s College London

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