Seeing Through the Veil: Optical Theory and Medieval Allegory

Seeing Through the Veil: Optical Theory and Medieval Allegory

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By Suzanne Conklin Akbari
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2004
World Rights
375 Pages
ISBN 9781442614826
Published Oct 2012
Online discount: 15%
 $36.95    $31.41
ISBN 9780802036056
Published Apr 2004
Online discount: 25%
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442667174
Published Jan 2015
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During the later Middle Ages, new optical theories were introduced that located the power of sight not in the seeing subject, but in the passive object of vision. This shift had a powerful impact not only on medieval science but also on theories of knowledge, and this changing relationship of vision and knowledge was a crucial element in late medieval religious devotion. In Seeing through the Veil, Suzanne Conklin Akbari examines several late medieval allegories in the context of contemporary paradigm shifts in scientific and philosophical theories of vision.

After a survey on the genre of allegory and an overview of medieval optical theories, Akbari delves into more detailed studies of several medieval literary works, including the Roman de la Rose, Dante's Vita Nuova, Convivio, and Commedia, and Chaucer's dream visions and Canterbury Tales. The final chapter, 'Division and Darkness,' centres on the legacy of allegory in the fifteenth century. Offering a new interdisciplinary, synthetic approach to late medieval intellectual history and to major works within the medieval literary canon, Seeing through the Veil will be an essential resource to the study of medieval literature and culture, as well as philosophy, history of art, and history of science.

Suzanne Conklin Akbari is a professor in the Department of English and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.

A model of technical writing at its best, Seeing through the Veil reveals the unsuspected richness of medieval scientific thought for the literary critic. Akbari’s complex, subtle readings should interest anyone who cares about allegory or visuality.

Barbara Newman, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 27.4 (2005)

Akbari writes in a taut, pleasant, and persuasive style, and while she may not convince all of her readers all of the time, her well written foray into intellectual history will be sure to please very many.

John North, Notes and Queries 52.4 (2005): 525-527

Seeing through the Veil…marks a huge step forward in our understanding of cultural implications of medieval optical theory.

Andrew Taylor, University of Toronto Quarterly 75.1 (2006): 233-34

An extensive and thought-provoking treatment on the part of Akbari of the connections between changing medieval understandings of the relationship between optics, allegory, and knowledge

Norman Klassen, Medium Aevum 74.2 (2005): 333-34