A Burnable Book

by Bruce Holsinger F’04, Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars, now available by Harper Collins.

In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder, and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle,  John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s artful mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s  young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings—and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.

Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen  into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews—and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail—on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels—to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.

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What Was Contemporary Art?


by Richard Meyer F’94, Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art awardee, now available by MIT Press.

Contemporary art in the early twenty-first century is often discussed as though it were a radically new phenomenon unmoored from history. Yet all works of art were once contemporary to the artist and culture that produced them. In What Was Contemporary Art? Richard Meyer reclaims the contemporary from historical amnesia, exploring episodes in the study, exhibition, and reception of early twentieth-century art and visual culture.

For more information about the Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art, click here.

Filmed by Stephen Pagano and Tom Salvaggio. Edited by Tom Salvaggi for MOCA.

ACLS Fellows in the News. S. Hollis Clayson F’90 has been appointed the 2013-14 Samuel H. Kress Professor at the National Gallery of Art. The professorship is among the highest honors in the field of art history.

"With the appointment, Clayson will become the senior resident scholar at the National Gallery’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA). In addition to pursuing her own research, she will counsel predoctoral fellows at the center.

A historian of modern art who specializes in 19th-century Europe and transatlantic exchanges between France and the United States, Clayson is author of “Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era” and “Paris in Despair: Art and Everyday Life Under Siege (1870-71).” She is co-editor of “Understanding Paintings: Themes in Art Explored and Explained,” which has been translated into six languages.

At CASVA, Clayson, Northwestern’s Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities, will complete “Electric Paris,” a book exploring the visual cultures of the City of Light in the era of Thomas Edison.

Clayson was honored for her work two years ago by the Art Institute of Chicago and has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Getty Research Institute, the Clark Art Institute and The Huntington Library.

The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts was founded by the National Gallery of Art to study the production, use and cultural meaning of art, artifacts, architecture, photography and film.”

ACLS Fellows in the News. Bruce Cole F’80 delivers a lecture on “Their Names Liveth Forevermore: Remembering the Fallen of the Great War” tomorrow at Mississippi State University as part of the Institute for the Humanities Distinguished Lecture Series.

Cole has spent much of his career teaching art history and comparative literature at Indiana University. The author of more than 14 books, he has been honored with fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies and American Philosophical Society. He also holds nine honorary degrees.

Cole helped establish the American Revolution Center in Philadelphia, Penn., which he directed from 2009-2011. From 2001-2009, he also chaired the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency and one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the U.S.

For information about this and other programs of MSU’s Institute for the Humanities, visit www.msstate.edu/dept/IH/Humanities.html .