Emperor of the World: Charlemagne and the Construction of Imperial Authority, 800-1229 (Hardback)Anne A. Latowsky (author)
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Charlemagne never traveled farther east than Italy, but by the mid-tenth century a story had begun to circulate about the friendly alliances that the emperor had forged while visiting Jerusalem and Constantinople. This story gained wide currency throughout the Middle Ages, appearing frequently in chronicles, histories, imperial decrees, and hagiographies-even in stained-glass windows and vernacular verse and prose. In Emperor of the World, Anne A. Latowsky traces the curious history of this medieval myth, revealing how the memory of the Frankish Emperor was manipulated to shape the institutions of kingship and empire in the High Middle Ages.
The legend incorporates apocalyptic themes such as the succession of world monarchies at the End of Days and the prophecy of the Last Roman Emperor. Charlemagne's apocryphal journey to the East increasingly resembled the eschatological final journey of the Last Emperor, who was expected to end his reign in Jerusalem after reuniting the Roman Empire prior to the Last Judgment. Instead of relinquishing his imperial dignity and handing the rule of a united Christendom over to God as predicted, this Charlemagne returns to the West to commence his reign. Latowsky finds that the writers who incorporated this legend did so to support, or in certain cases to criticize, the imperial pretentions of the regimes under which they wrote. New versions of the myth would resurface at times of transition and during periods marked by strong assertions of Roman-style imperial authority and conflict with the papacy, most notably during the reigns of Henry IV and Frederick Barbarossa. Latowsky removes Charlemagne's encounters with the East from their long-presumed Crusading context and shows how a story that began as a rhetorical commonplace of imperial praise evolved over the centuries as an expression of Christian Roman universalism.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 304
Weight: 595 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 25 mm
"Charlemagne holds a cardinal place in the collective imagination of medieval politics. The character has been reinterpereted throughout the centuries depending on the different causes his figure has been used to support. . . . Consequently, certain hypotheses are transformed too quickly into facts. Anne Latowsky questions the validity of one of the most ingrained certainties: that the figure of Charlemagne was used to promote the idea of crusade and feed the fervor of crusaders. . . . We can only hope that she will complete this provoking work by returning to the vernacular sources of her initial project."-Martin Gravel,Annales(January-March 2014)
"Latowsky untangles the complicated processes of projection and reception whereby legend was transformed into ideology to become a significant and contested theme in cultural history. The results are original and illuminating. They also raise timely questions about methodology and interdisciplinarity which will be of interest to all medievalists whatever their affiliations in university departments." -Janet L. Nelson, H-France Review (April 2014)
"In her superb new book . . . Latowsky contributes to a broader literature that has recently begun to reexamine and rethink the remembrance of Charlemagne and the Carolingians in the West. . . . Over the course of her study, Latowsky deftly reveals the ways that this apocalyptic discourse [surrounding the fabled "Last Emperor," prophesied by the ancient sibylline tradition to reunite East and West and herald the end of time itself] was merged with the foreign embassy motif, and how this striking hybrid enabled the expression, ranging from praise to polemic, of ideas about rulership and the nature of the political."-Courtney M. Booker, The American Historical Review (June 2014)
"Latowsky's efforts to enrich our understanding of what the motif of Charlemagne in the East meant to medieval writers, and to insist on the relevance of the empire to this story, are successful and constitute an important addition to the field. One of the particular virtues of her work is her ability to combine close readings of literary texts with sensitive appreciation of the historical contexts that produced them, without reducing the literary texts to a simple reflection of political policies. . . . She has. . . . provided a nuanced new perspective on a very old legend, one that encourages her readers to appreciate the multivalent responses that the figure of Charlemagne evoked in the medieval German empire."-Jennifer R. Davis, German Studies Review (October 2014)
"Latowsky's detailed analyses of the refashioning of Charlemagne's figure and the construction of his fictive journey to the East shows convincingly how ideological needs and changes in political contexts lead to an adaptation of a powerful narrative over the course of four centuries. Her careful untangling of the sources as well as the readjusting of the historiographically accepted image of Charlemagne as a crusader 'avant la lettre' shows how profitably her book fits into the contemporary scholarly questioning of historical narratives as cultural and political constructs in light of global history, for the image of Charlemagne continues to be adapted even today."-Vanina Madeleine Kopp, The Journal of Medieval Latin 24 (2014)
"Emperor of the World provides an imperial-centered interpretation of Christendom, as that idea developed in the High Middle Ages, using mainly literary texts whose true significance historians have missed. This is truly original, exciting, and groundbreaking scholarship."-Jay Rubenstein, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, author of Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse
"Emperor of the World is a terrific book. Anne A. Latowsky unravels three separate threads of argument that spin from the foreign embassy motif, the Last Emperor idea, and Roman universalism. Each of these has received attention in the past, but absolutely no one has taken them up simultaneously as complementary components of a single discourse that extended over more than four centuries."-Thomas F. X. Noble, University of Notre Dame, author of Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians
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