How the West Was Won

Essays on Literary Imagination, the Canon and the Christian Middle Ages for Burcht Pranger


How the West Was Won contains articles in three main areas of the humanities. It focuses on various aspects of literary imagination, with essays ranging from Petrarch to Voltaire; on the canon, with essays on western history as one of shifting cultural horizons and ideals, and including censorship; and on the Christian Middle Ages, when an interesting combination of religion and culture stimulated the monastic and intellectual experiments of Anselm of Canterbury and Peter Abelard. The volume is held together by the method of persistent questioning, in the tradition of the western church father and icon of the self Augustine, to discover what the values are that drive the culture of the West: where do they come from and what is their future? This volume is a Festschrift for Burcht Pranger of the University of Amsterdam.

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Biographical Note

Willemien Otten, Ph.D. (1989), University of Amsterdam, is Professor of the Theology and History of Christianity at the University of Chicago. She has published widely on western medieval and early Christian theology, including the continuity of (Neo) Platonic themes. Currently she is working on a comparison between Johannes Scottus Eriugena and Ralph Waldo Emerson about the role of nature and the self.

Arjo Vanderjagt, Ph.D. (1981), University of Groningen, is Professor emeritus of the History of Ideas of the University of Groningen. He has published on Anselm of Canterbury, the literary culture and political thought of the fifteenth-century Burgundian court, and on the Christian humanism of the northern Low Countries.

Hent de Vries, Ph.D. (1989), University of Leiden, holds the Russ Family Chair in the Humanities and is Professor of Philosophy at The Johns Hopkins University and the Director of The Humanities Center. Among his many books are Minimal Theologies: Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno and Levinas (2005) and Religion and Violence: Philosophical Perspectives from Kant to Derrida (2002). Most recently, he edited Religion Beyond a Concept (2008).

Review Quote

'This volume forms a fitting tribute to the work of Johannes van Oort and each essay is a carefully crafted celebration of a topic that resonates with the research of the scholar being honoured. The essays will appeal to a variety of different audiences, but all share a richness and depth of scholarship that makes this an outstanding collection.'

Paul Foster, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh
The Expository Times, volume 122, nr. 12 september 2011

Table of contents

Publications of Burcht Pranger

Part 1: Literary Imagination
1. “Movesi un vecchierel canuto et bianco…”: Notes on a Sonnet of Petrarch, Peter Cramer
2. Moments of Indecision, Sovereign Possibilities: Notes on the Tableau Vivant, Frans-Willem Korsten
3. History and the Vertical Canon: Calvin’s Institutes and Beckett, Ernst van den Hemel
4. Christ’s Case and John Donne, “Seeing through his wounds”: The Stigma of Martyrdom Transfigured, Anselm Haverkamp
5. Playing with History: The Satirical Portrayal of the Medieval Papacy on an Eighteenth-Century Deck of Playing Cards, Joke Spaans
6. From East to West: Jansenists, Orientalists, and the Eucharistic Controversy, Alastair Hamilton
7. Labouring in Reason’s Vineyard: Voltaire and the Allegory of Enlightenment, Madeleine Kasten

Part 2: The Canon
8. The Search for the Canon and the Problem of Body and Soul, Piet de Rooy
9. Music at the Limits: Edward Said’s Musical Elaborations, Rokus de Groot
10. The Canonisation of the Medieval Past: England and the Continent Compared, Peter Raedts
11. Scholarship of Literature and Life: Leopold Zunz and the Invention of Jewish Culture, Irene Zwiep
12. Censorship and Canon: A Note on Some Medieval Works and Authors, Leen Spruit
13. Does the Canon Need Converting? A Meditation on Augustine’s Soliloquies, Eriugena’s Periphyseon, and the Dialogue with the Religious Past, Willemien Otten
14. Between Pedagogy and Democracy: On Canons and Aversion to Conformity in Ordinary Language Philosophy, Asja Szafraniec
15. On the Significance of Disagreement: Stanley Cavell and Ordinary Language Philosophy, Paola Marrati
16. Fast Forward, or: The Theologico-Political Event in Quick Motion (Miracles, Media, and Multitudes in St. Augustine), Hent de Vries

Part 3: The Christian Middle Ages
17. Tangere autem corde, hoc est credere: Augustine on ‘Touching’ the Numinous, Giselle de Nie
18. The Fame of Fake, Dionysius the Areopagite: Fabrication, Falsification and the ‘Cloud of Unknowing’, Bram Kempers
19. Two Female Apostolic Mystics: Catherine of Siena and Madame Jeanne Guyon, Bernard McGinn
20. De obitu Valentiniani: Abelard, Bernard of Clairvaux, and the Canonization of Ambrose of Milan on Baptism by Desire, Marciaa L. Colish
21. The ‘Whole Abelard’ and the Availability of Language, Babette Hellemans
22. Tempus longum . . . locus asper . . . : Chiaroscuro in Hugh of Saint-Victor, Ineke van 't Spijker
23. Obedience Simple and True: Anselm of Canterbury on How to Defeat the Devil, Arjo vanderjagt
24. The Monastic Challenge: Remarks, Helmut Kohlenberger

Index of Personal Names


All those interested in intellectual history, the history of the Christian Middle Ages, and the cultural legacy of the West, as well as philosophers and cultural historians interested in normative questions of cultural authority, reading practices, and canonicity.


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