Momus (I Tatti Renaissance Library)

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Overview


Momus is the most ambitious literary creation of Leon Battista Alberti, the famous humanist-scientist-artist and "universal man" of the Italian Renaissance. In this dark comedy, written around 1450, Alberti charts the lively fortunes of his anti-hero Momus, the unscrupulous and vitriolic god of criticism. Alberti deploys his singular erudition and wit to satirize subjects from court life and politics to philosophy and intellectuals, from grand architectural designs to human and divine folly. The possible contemporary resonance of Alberti's satire—read variously as a humanist roman-à-clef and as a veiled mockery of the mid-Quattrocento papacy—is among its most intriguing aspects. While his more famous books on architecture, painting, and family life have long been regarded as indispensable to a study of Renaissance culture, Momus has recently attracted increasing attention from scholars as a work anticipating the realism of Machiavelli and the satiric wit of Erasmus. This edition provides a new Latin text, the first to be based on the two earliest manuscripts, both corrected by Alberti himself, and includes the first full translation into English.
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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement

The Loeb Classical Library...has been of incalculable benefit to generations of scholars...It seems certain that the I Tatti Renaissance Library will serve a similar purpose for Renaissance Latin texts, and that, in addition to its obvious academic value, it will facilitate a broadening base of participation in Renaissance Studies...These books are to be lauded not only for their principles of inclusivity and accessibility, and for their rigorous scholarship, but also for their look and feel. Everything about them is attractive: the blue of their dust jackets and cloth covers, the restrained and elegant design, the clarity of the typesetting, the quality of the paper, and not least the sensible price. This is a new set of texts well worth collecting.
— Kate Lowe

Il Sole 24 Ore

An aristocratic devotion to our culture continues to manifest itself even today in the most prestigious centers of study and thought. One has merely to look at the very recent (begun in 2001), rigorous and elegant humanistic series of Harvard University, with the original Latin text, English translation, introduction and notes.
— Vittore Branca

Bookforum

Momus is an important, if elusive, work, now made accessible as never before in this splendid rendition.
— Ingrid Rowland

New Republic

The sparkling translation, by Sarah Knight, frequently substitutes English colloquialisms for a more formal diction...The facing page's original text allows readers equipped with various levels of Latin—rusty or merely lightly oxidized—to follow the great success of the translator, who has produced a version at once faithful and spirited...There is a satirical violence of rhetoric here that goes beyond the familiar, and which makes Momus seem sometimes a premonitory text, looking forward not only to Rabelais and Erasmus, but to Swift and Beckett.
— James Wood

H-Net Reviews

An epic satire focused on the little-known classical god Momus, archetype of the critic and troublemaker, this work represents a notable contribution to neo-Latin satire in general and an eccentric addition to Alberti's corpus in particular...The appearance of an English version of Momus is a welcome complement to David Marsh's translations of two other Latin comic works by Alberti, the Intercenales (1987) and the
Aesopic Apologi(2004)...The Latin text by Brown and Knight and the English translation by Knight have been expertly rendered...The translation is fluid, graceful, and appropriately colloquial at times; Alberti would be pleased with the deft capturing of his sometimes bawdy tone...Momus as faultfinder, would find little to complain about in Knight and Brown's fine edition of Alberti's strange satire.
— George W. McClure

The New Republic - James Wood
The sparkling translation, by Sarah Knight, frequently substitutes English colloquialisms for a more formal diction...The facing page's original text allows readers equipped with various levels of Latin--rusty or merely lightly oxidized--to follow the great success of the translator, who has produced a version at once faithful and spirited...There is a satirical violence of rhetoric here that goes beyond the familiar, and which makes Momus seem sometimes a premonitory text, looking forward not only to Rabelais and Erasmus, but to Swift and Beckett.
Bookforum - Ingrid Rowland
Momus may reveal more about Alberti than any one of his other works, including his literary ambitions, his frustrations, and the labyrinthine courtly culture in which he made his versatile career. Best of all, this poisonously misogynistic text has been left to the ministrations of two women of formidable learning, Sarah Knight and Virginia Brown, whose competence systematically belies his withering pronouncements....Momus is an important, if elusive, work, now made accessible as never before in this splendid rendition.
H-Net Reviews - George W. McClure
An epic satire focused on the little-known classical god Momus, archetype of the critic and troublemaker, this work represents a notable contribution to neo-Latin satire in general and an eccentric addition to Alberti's corpus in particular...The appearance of an English version of Momus is a welcome complement to David Marsh's translations of two other Latin comic works by Alberti, the Intercenales (1987) and the Aesopic Apologi (2004)...The Latin text by Brown and Knight and the English translation by Knight have been expertly rendered...The translation is fluid, graceful, and appropriately colloquial at times; Alberti would be pleased with the deft capturing of his sometimes bawdy tone...Momus as faultfinder, would find little to complain about in Knight and Brown's fine edition of Alberti's strange satire.
Times Literary Supplement - Kate Lowe
The Loeb Classical Library...has been of incalculable benefit to generations of scholars...It seems certain that the I Tatti Renaissance Library will serve a similar purpose for Renaissance Latin texts, and that, in addition to its obvious academic value, it will facilitate a broadening base of participation in Renaissance Studies...These books are to be lauded not only for their principles of inclusivity and accessibility, and for their rigorous scholarship, but also for their look and feel. Everything about them is attractive: the blue of their dust jackets and cloth covers, the restrained and elegant design, the clarity of the typesetting, the quality of the paper, and not least the sensible price. This is a new set of texts well worth collecting.
Il Sole 24 Ore - Vittore Branca
An aristocratic devotion to our culture continues to manifest itself even today in the most prestigious centers of study and thought. One has merely to look at the very recent (begun in 2001), rigorous and elegant humanistic series of Harvard University, with the original Latin text, English translation, introduction and notes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674007543
  • Publisher: Harvard
  • Publication date: 4/18/2003
  • Language: Latin
  • Series: I Tatti Renaissance Library Series, #8
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Knight is in the Department of English, University of Leicester, England.

Virginia Brown is Senior Fellow, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto.

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Read an Excerpt

Leon Battista Alberti's Momus is one of the great comic masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance. A complex narrative that charts the tumultuous career of Momus, god of fault-finding and the personification of embittered mockery, it has been variously read as an allegorical attack on the fifteenth century papacy, as a satire on Florentine humanists and statesmen, and as disguised autobiography. It has been seen as foreshadowing the work of Machiavelli, Erasmus, Rabelais, Cervantes and Swift. Yet it never achieved wide popularity, whether because of its unorthodox Latin style, its evidently unpolished state, or its cynicism it is difficult to say. Alberti wrote Momus between 1443 and 1450, after returning to Rome with the papal curia following the Council of Florence. For more than seventy years it circulated only in a handful of manuscript copies before being published in 1520 by two different editors. In the later sixteenth century it was translated into Italian and Spanish and in the eighteenth century into German. Although most of the printed editions and translations bear the subtitle De Principe ("On the Prince"), there is no evidence that this title goes back to Alberti himself. Indeed, Momus defies the conventions of the speculum principis ("mirror for princes") tradition. Rather than writing within one identifiable genre, Alberti causes mythology, literary fiction, political theory, philosophical dialectic and broad farce to jostle for primacy within this highly unusual work.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

MOMUS

Preface

Book I

Book II

Book III

Book IV

Note on the Text

Notes to the Text

Notes to the Translation

Bibliography

Index

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Preface

Leon Battista Alberti's Momus is one of the great comic masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance. A complex narrative that charts the tumultuous career of Momus, god of fault-finding and the personification of embittered mockery, it has been variously read as an allegorical attack on the fifteenth century papacy, as a satire on Florentine humanists and statesmen, and as disguised autobiography. It has been seen as foreshadowing the work of Machiavelli, Erasmus, Rabelais, Cervantes and Swift. Yet it never achieved wide popularity, whether because of its unorthodox Latin style, its evidently unpolished state, or its cynicism it is difficult to say. Alberti wrote Momus between 1443 and 1450, after returning to Rome with the papal curia following the Council of Florence. For more than seventy years it circulated only in a handful of manuscript copies before being published in 1520 by two different editors. In the later sixteenth century it was translated into Italian and Spanish and in the eighteenth century into German. Although most of the printed editions and translations bear the subtitle De Principe ("On the Prince"), there is no evidence that this title goes back to Alberti himself. Indeed, Momus defies the conventions of the speculum principis ("mirror for princes") tradition. Rather than writing within one identifiable genre, Alberti causes mythology, literary fiction, political theory, philosophical dialectic and broad farce to jostle for primacy within this highly unusual work.

Read More Show Less

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