Monday, August 11, 2008

Guy Geltner

Guy Geltner is a postdoctoral fellow in medieval history at Lincoln College, University of Oxford, and the author of The Medieval Prison: A Social History.

Recently, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Killing time on a recent visit to Chicago I picked up Don DeLillo’s Underworld and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, two mammoth works I’ve been meaning to read for some time. I swallowed the transfixing Mailer, and am about to assault DeLillo with a due sense of trepidation, as I am a DeLillo virgin….

In between I’m finishing David Grossman’s recent novel, Until the End of the Land, and going systematically through a dozen or so Crusade chronicles from the Middle Ages for a course I’ll be teaching in the fall.

This often reminds me that my taste in modern literature doesn’t sit quite well with the available medieval works, but there are some interesting attempts to go back and forth in time, genre, and style. A unique example is Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, which I finished a couple of months ago (although I liked Snow much better).

Bedside lies José Saramago’s O Conto da Ilha Desconhecida, an allegorical-Marxist “children’s book” which is always good fun. If I weren’t between apartments, another bedside book would certainly be Boccaccio’s Decameron. Nothing like the ambiguous, fourteenth-century tales of a dirty old man to send you to sleep with a grin.
Among the praise for Geltner's The Medieval Prison:
"This is a very valuable contribution to the history of crime and criminal justice. Geltner demonstrates, contrary to the claims of modern historians, that the prison as a punitive institution was born in the later Middle Ages, and shows, contrary to the claims of medieval historians, that prisons were not hellholes. There is no equivalent study of Italian medieval prisons."
--Trevor Dean, author of Crime and Justice in Late Medieval Italy

"A most welcome addition to what has been a neglected field of medieval legal and social history. Geltner argues very persuasively that imprisonment was an important phenomenon in medieval Italian cities. The Medieval Prison should appeal to a fairly broad audience outside the field of medieval history."
--James B. Given, author of Inquisition and Medieval Society
Read more about The Medieval Prison, including the introduction, at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue