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Momus

Momus

Leon Battista Alberti

Edited by Virginia Brown
Edited and translated by Sarah Knight

ISBN 9780674007543

Publication date: 06/15/2003

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.

Praise

  • 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, The New Republic

Authors

  • Sarah Knight is Professor of Renaissance Literature at the University of Leicester.
  • Virginia Brown is Senior Fellow, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto.

Book Details

  • 448 pages
  • 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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