From Eden to Eternity
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From Eden to Eternity
Creations of Paradise in the Later Middle Ages

Alastair Minnis

384 pages | 6 x 9 | 32 color illus.
Cloth 2015 | ISBN 9780812247237 | $59.95s | Add to cart || Outside N. America | £52.00
Ebook 2015 | ISBN 9780812291476 | $59.95s | £39.00 | Add to cart || About
A volume in the Middle Ages Series
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"In exploring a vast repertoire of medieval speculation about Eden and heaven Alastair Minnis has almost single-handedly opened up a new and unfamiliar world of scholarship."—Denys Turner, Yale University

"From Eden to Eternity is a wonderful book, intensely engaged and engaging, propelled by a real urgency, and full of learning lightly worn. This book will become the 'go-to' study of the topic."—Nicholas Watson, Harvard University

"Medieval theologians described the glorified body as possessing integrity, agility, and clarity. Those same remarkable gifts characterize Alastair Minnis's fascinating study of medieval and early modern representations of Eden and paradise. From Adam to Aristotle, newts to Noah, and Genesis to genitalia, Minnis's virtuoso study combines scholarly utilitas with his characteristic intellectual curiositas to produce a compelling overview, beautifully illuminated by his discussions of medieval art and manuscript illumination."—Vincent Gillespie, University of Oxford

"Minnis presents medieval attitudes to sex, power, death, resurrection, and even animals, through the prism of conjectures about human nature as it would have been without original sin."—D. L. d'Avray, University College London

"Utterly absorbing: From Eden to Eternity takes us through the turns and counter-turns of medieval scholastic debates over what must have been present in the first Eden and what we might find in the final paradise. Minnis effortlessly demonstrates that scholarly thought did not exist in its own sphere, but rather was reflected and reflected upon in secular literature and popular commentary."—Gillian Rudd, University of Liverpool

Did Adam and Eve need to eat in Eden in order to live? If so, did human beings urinate and defecate in paradise? And since people had no need for clothing, transportation, or food, what purpose did animals serve? Would carnivorous animals have preyed on other creatures? These were but a few of the questions that plagued medieval scholars for whom the idea of Eden proved an endless source of contemplation. As theologians attempted to reconcile their own experiences with the realities of the prelapsarian paradise, they crafted complex answers that included explanations of God's interaction with creation, the existence of death, and man's dominion over nature.

In From Eden to Eternity, Alastair Minnis examines accounts of the origins of the human body and soul to illustrate the ways in which the schoolmen thought their way back to Eden to discover fundamental truths about humanity. He demonstrates how theologians sought certainty in matters of orthodox Christian thought and also engaged in speculation about matters that, they freely admitted, were not susceptible to firm proof. Moreover, From Eden to Eternity argues that the preoccupation with paradise belonged not only to the schools but to society as a whole, and it traces how lay writers and artists also attempted to interpret the origins of human society. Eden transcended human understanding, yet it afforded an extraordinary amount of creative space to late medieval theologians, painters, and poets as they tried to understand the place that God had deemed worthy of the creature made in His image.

Alastair Minnis is Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of English at Yale University and author of Fallible Authors: Chaucer's Pardoner and Wife of Bath and Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages, both available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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