Dreaming of Cockaigne: Medieval Fantasies of the Perfect Life

Dreaming of Cockaigne: Medieval Fantasies of the Perfect Life

by Herman Pleij, Diane Webb

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Imagine a dreamland where roasted pigs wander about with knives in their backs to make carving easy, where grilled geese fly directly into one's mouth, where cooked fish jump out of the water and land at one's feet. The weather is always mild, the wine flows freely, sex is readily available, and all people enjoy eternal youth.

Such is Cockaigne. Portrayed in legend, oral history, and art, this imaginary land became the most pervasive collective dream of medieval times-an earthly paradise that served to counter the suffering and frustration of daily existence and to allay anxieties about an increasingly elusive heavenly paradise.

Illustrated with extraordinary artwork from the Middle Ages, Herman Pleij's Dreaming of Cockaigne is a spirited account of this lost paradise and the world that brought it to life. Pleij takes three important texts as his starting points for an inspired of the panorama of ideas, dreams, popular religion, and literary and artistic creation present in the late Middle Ages. What emerges is a well-defined picture of the era, furnished with a wealth of detail from all of Europe, as well as Asia and America.

Pleij draws upon his thorough knowledge of medieval European literature, art, history, and folklore to describe the fantasies that fed the tales of Cockaigne and their connections to the central obsessions of medieval life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231529211
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 07/02/2003
Series: NONE
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 544
File size: 50 MB
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About the Author

Herman Pleij lectures on Dutch historical literature at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of the Dutch best-seller Het Gilde van de Blauwe Schuit(The guild of the blue barge), an account of the rituals surrounding the celebration of Carnival in the Middle Ages, and the critically acclaimed book De sneeuwpoppen van 1511(The snowmen of 1511), a lively study of the rise of urban culture and middle-class morality in the southern Netherlands of the late Middle Ages.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Part 1. The Forfeiture of Happiness: The Beginning
1. Paradise Lost
2. Contours of a Book
3. The Power of Literature
Part 2. Texts as Maps
4. Rhyming Texts L and B, Prose Text G
5. The Two Rhyming Texts on the Land of Cockaigne
6. Recitation and Writing
7. Oral Structures in Writing
8. The Existing Potential
9. The Prose Text on Luilekkerland
Part 3. Eating to Forget
10. Eating Habits
11. Hunger and Scarcity
12. The Topos of Hunger
13. The Intoxicating Effect of Fasting
14. Gorging in Self-Defense
15. Food in Motion
16. Literary Refreshment
Part 4. Paradise Refurbished
17. The Land of Cockaigne as Paradise
18. Never Say Die
19. Heavenly Rewards
20. Other Paradises
21. Lovely Places, Golden Ages
22. Wonder Gardens and Pleasure Parks
23. Dreams of Immortality
Part 5. The Imagination Journeys Forth
24. Geographical Musings
25. Real Dreamworlds
26. Wonders of East and West
27. Fanciful Destinations
28. Virtual Dreamlands
Part 6. Heretical Excesses
29. The Thousand-Year Reign of Peace and Prosperity
30. Heresies of the Free Spirit
31. Sex Adam-and-Eve Style
32. Low-Country Heterodoxy
Part 7. Learning as a Matter of Survival
33. Didactic Differences
34. Topsy-Turvy Worlds
35. Hard Times
36. Moderation, Ambition, and Decorum
37. Lessons in Pragmatism
Part 8. Dreaming of Cockaigne: The End
38. The Name Cockaigne
39. A Depreciated Cultural Asset
40. From Countryside to Town
41. The Necessity of Fiction
1. Middle Dutch Rhyming Texts on Cockaigne
2. Dutch Prose Text of 1546 on Luilekkerland
3. Dutch Poems Appearing in English Translation

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