Review of Robert E. Lerner, Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life at Berfrois

UigChessmen_SelectionOfKings.jpgMy review of Robert E. Lerner, Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life has just appeared at Berfrois.

Beyond the ranks of medievalists, Ernst Kantorowicz (1895-1963) is largely known for his magisterial 1957 book The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology. Praised by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish, and a reference point for Giorgio Agamben, The King’s Two Bodies is almost certainly a book now more cited than read. Yet Kantorowicz was the author of other important books, as well as several articles and chapters, some of which were collected in the posthumous Selected Studies in 1965. In 1927, he had published a major German-language biography of the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich II, an immense though very readable study which was roundly criticised by more traditional historians. Not to be put off, Kantorowicz followed it with a second volume in 1931 proving sources and further readings, as impressive in its ostentatious erudition as the first volume had been in its accessibility. In 1946, after delays in press due in part to the war, he published a study in English entitled Laudes Regiae: A Study of Liturgical Acclamations and Medieval Ruler Worship. In October 1950, for reasons to be discussed, he self-funded the publication of a pamphlet The Fundamental Issue: Documents and Marginal Notes on the University of California Loyalty OathThe King’s Two Bodies was a late work, much delayed, which appeared only a few years before his death. He never wrote, nor even began, another book. Of these works, only The King’s Two Bodies remains in print in English, despite the 1931 translation of Fredrick the Second and the other books being written in that language. [continues here]

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