Richard Parmentier is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Brandeis University. His studies in semiotic anthropology Signs in Society and Signs and Society discuss the subject the context of its “twin peaks” of Charles Sanders Peirce and Ferdinand de Saussure. I discovered Parmentier’s Amazon Listmania! lists many years ago–I believe they were linked off of a Hans Blumenberg book–and they were responsible for introducing me to a number of works of great scholarship.

Unfortunately, Amazon subsequently discontinued its Listmania! feature and deleted all lists that had ever been posted. This still dismays me. The internet does not cater to intellectual content and Amazon had, in its way, managed to cultivate a disorganized but incredibly worthwhile amount of organic intellectual work.

I archived Parmentier’s lists before they were taken down, and he has kindly permitted me to repost them here. I encourage people to delve into the lists and discover something new.

I have retained Parmentier’s introductory notes at the beginning of each list.

David Auerbach

1. Really Important Books

I keep a special selection of books close-to-hand in my study, not because they contain information I need to refer to on a regular basis but because each embodies a particular mode of argumentation that I find useful to keep in mind (and difficult to remember in detail). In the (hypothetical) event of having to abandon ship, I hope I would have time to grab at least these volumes.

Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt
Assmann, Jan; Lorton, David (Translator)
(Cornell University Press)

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature - Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition
Erich Auerbach; Willard R. Trask (Translator); Edward W. Said (Introduction)
(Princeton University Press)

The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (University of Texas Press Slavic Series)
Bakhtin, M. M.; Holquist, Michael (Editor); Emerson, Caryl (Translator); Holquist, Michael (Translator)
(University of Texas Press)

Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art
Belting, Hans; Jephcott, Edmund (Translator)
(University of Chicago Press)

The Arcades Project
Benjamin, Walter; Eiland, Howard (Translator); McLaughlin, Kevin (Translator)
(Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press)

Etymologies and Genealogies: A Literary Anthropology of the French Middle Ages
Bloch, R. Howard Howard
(University of Chicago Press)

The Genesis of the Copernican World (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought)
Blumenberg, Hans; Wallace, Robert M. (Translator)
(The MIT Press)

Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity
Brown, Peter
(University of California Press)

The Philosophy of the Enlightenment: Updated Edition
Cassirer, Ernst; Gay, Peter (Foreword)
(Princeton University Press)

Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750
Daston, Lorraine; Park, Katharine
(Zone Books)

The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece
Detienne, Marcel; Lloyd, Janet (Translator); Vidal-Naquet, Pierre (Foreword)
(Zone Books)

The Mediation of Ornament
Grabar, Oleg
(Princeton University Press)

Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World
Greenblatt, Stephen
(University of Chicago Press)

Language in Literature (Belknap Press)
Jakobson, Roman; Pomorska, Krystyna (Editor); Rudy, Stephen (Editor)
(Belknap Press)

The King's Two Bodies
Ernst H. Kantorowicz
(Princeton University Press)

Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought.)
Koselleck, Reinhart; Tribe, Keith (Translator)
(Columbia University Press)

On Representation
Marin, Louis; Porter, Catherine (Translator)
(Stanford University Press)

Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason
Ong, S.J., Walter J.; Johns, Adrian (Foreword)
(University of Chicago Press)

Freud y filosofía: Un ensayo de interpretación
Paul Ricoeur; Denis Savage
(Motilal Banarsidass)

The Implications of Literacy
Stock, Brian
(Princeton University Press)

Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece
Vernant, Jean-Pierre; Vidal-Naquet, Pierre; Lloyd, Janet (Translator)
(Zone Books)

The Art of Memory
Frances A. Yates
(University of Chicago Press)

The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society in the Greek World
Vidal-Naquet, Pierre; Szegedy-Maszak, Andrew (Translator)
(Johns Hopkins University Press)

Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond
Nagy, Gregory
(Cambridge University Press)

Orientalism
Said, Edward W.
(Penguin Books)

ANALYZING BACH CANTATAS
CHAFE
(Oxford University Press USA)

Categories of Medieval Culture
Gurevich, A. J.
(Routledge Kegan & Paul)

Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Collected Works of Northrop Frye, Volume 22)
Frye, Northrop; Denham, Robert (Editor)
(University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division)

Archaic Roman Religion
Dumézil, Professor Georges
(The Johns Hopkins University Press)

History of Madness
Foucault, Michel; Khalfa, Jean (Editor); Murphy, Jonathan (Translator)
(Routledge)


2. Great Short Books

When challenged to present a substantive yet succinct account of their subject matter in less than 150 pages, a number of scholars have written remarkable short books. Some of these books were originally lecture series and, thus, maximize the clarity of presentation. Others represent syntheses or summaries of larger works of scholarship. And, in some cases, authors have expanded what was basically an article-length work into a tidy monograph. I don’t include in this list books that collect independent articles.

The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy
Cassirer, Ernst; Domandi, Mario; Domandi, Mario (Translator)
(University of Chicago Press)

The Riddle of Nostradamus: A Critical Dialogue (Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society)
Dumézil, Professor Georges; Wing, Ms. Betsy (Translator)
(The Johns Hopkins University Press)

Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India
Eck, Diana
(Columbia University Press)

Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages
Eco, Umberto; Bredin, Hugh (Translator)
(Yale University Press)

The Enigma of Piero: Piero Della Francesca
Ginzburg, Carlo; Ryle, Martin (Translator); Soper, Kate (Translator); Burke, Peter (Introduction)
(Verso)

The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things
George Kubler
(Yale University Press)

Byzantium: Revised Edition (British Museum Paperbacks)
Loverance, Rowena
(Harvard University Press)

On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State (Princeton Classics)
Strayer, Joseph R.; Tilly, Charles (Foreword); Jordan, William Chester (Foreword)
(Princeton University Press)

Race Matters
West, Cornel
(Beacon Press)

Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes
Vygotsky, L. S.; Cole, Michael (Editor); John-Steiner, Vera (Editor); Scribner, Sylvia (Editor); Souberman, Ellen (Editor)
(Harvard University Press)

The Many Faces of Realism (Paul Carus Lectures)
Putnam, Hilary
(Open Court Publishing Company)

The Origins of Greek Thought
Vernant, Jean-Pierre
(Cornell University Press)

Your Money or Your Life: Economy and Religion in the Middle Ages
Goff, Jacques Le; Ranum, Patricia (Translator)
(Zone Books)

The Decipherment of Linear B (Canto)
Chadwick, John
(Cambridge University Press)

Babylon, Memphis, Persepolis: Eastern Contexts of Greek Culture
Burkert, Walter
(Harvard University Press)

Western Attitudes toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present (The Johns Hopkins Symposia in Comparative History)
Ariès, Philippe; Ranum, Patricia (Translator)
(Johns Hopkins University Press)

The Old World and the New: 1492-1650 (Canto)
Elliott, J. H.
(Cambridge University Press)

Mental Illness and Psychology
Foucault, Michel; Dreyfus, Hubert (Foreword)
(University of California Press)

Metaphysical Song
Tomlinson, Gary
(Princeton University Press)

An Introduction to Legal Reasoning (Phoenix Books)
Levi, Edward H.
(University Of Chicago Press)

Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism
Erwin Panofsky
(Archabbey Publications)


3. Big Books

Here are some big books in my collection that cover the topic without the constraint of space. There is some comfort in knowing that one will not need to read another book on a topic for quite a while.

The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Vol. 1
Fernand Braudel, .
(University of California Press)

Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe
Brundage, James A.
(University of Chicago Press)

Frege: Philosophy of Language, Second Edition
Dummett, Michael
(Harvard University Press)

Python
Fontenrose, Joseph
(University of California Press)

Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age
Green, Peter
(University of California Press)

Traces on the Rhodian Shore
Glacken, Clarence J.
(University of California Press)

The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making
Johns, Adrian
(University of Chicago Press)

Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis
Kershaw, Ian
(W. W. Norton & Company)

The Reformation: A History
MacCulloch, Diarmaid
(Penguin Books)

After the Ice: A Global Human History, 20,000–5000 BC
Mithen, Steven
(Harvard University Press)

The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain
Netanyahu, B.
(New York Review Books)

A History of Medieval Spain (Cornell Paperbacks)
O'Callaghan, Joseph F.
(Cornell University Press)

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb
Rhodes, Richard
(Simon & Schuster)

Reversing the Gaze: Amar Singh's Diary, A Colonial Subject's Narrative of Imperial India (Oxford India Paperbacks)
Singh, Amar; Rudolph, Susanne Hoeber (Editor); Rudolph, Lloyd I. (Editor); Kanota, Mohan Singh (Editor)
(Oxford University Press)

Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity
Taylor, Charles
(Harvard University Press)

God’s War: A New History of the Crusades
Tyerman, Christopher
(Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press)

How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics
Watkins, Calvert
(Oxford University Press)

Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge Paperback Library)
Westfall, Richard S.
(Cambridge University Press)

History of the Goths
Wolfram, Herwig; Dunlap, Thomas J.
(University of California Press)

Malinowski: Odyssey of an Anthropologist, 1884–1920
Young, Michael W.
(Yale University Press)

Utopian Thought in the Western World (Belknap Press)
Manuel, Frank E.; Manuel, Fritzie P.
(Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press)

The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance
Mayr, Ernst
(Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press)

Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages
Clagett, Marshall
(Univ of Wisconsin Pr)

The Mechanization of the World Picture: Pythagoras to Newton
Dijksterhuis, Eduard Jan; Dikshoorn, C. (Translator)
(Princeton University Press)


4. Risky Books

Here are a group of books that take risks, either in advancing an original hypothesis, charting a new direction for research, or proposing an innovative methodology. Not everyone will agree with these authors, but readers will be struck by their creativity and daring and will be envious of their ability to take a path less traveled by.

Aztecs: An Interpretation
Clendinnen, Inga
(Cambridge University Press)

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Jaynes, Julian; Jaynes, Julian
(Mariner Books)

Composers at Work: The Craft of Musical Composition 1450-1600
Owens, Jessie Ann
(Oxford University Press USA)

Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made
Genovese, Eugene D.
(Vintage)

Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
Boswell, John
(Vintage)

Phrasikleia: An Anthropology of Reading in Ancient Greece (Myth and Poetics)
Svenbro, Jesper; Lloyd, Janet (Translator)
(Cornell University Press)

Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life
Shapin, Steven; Schaffer, Simon
(Princeton University Press)

The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry
Milman Parry; Adam Parry (Editor)
(Oxford University Press)

The Anger of Achilles: Mênis in Greek Epic (Myth and Poetics)
Muellner, Leonard
(Cornell University Press)

Galileo: Heretic
Redondi, Pietro; Rosenthal, Raymond (Translator)
(Princeton University Press)

Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe
White, Hayden
(Johns Hopkins University Press)

From Scythia to Camelot (Arthurian Characters and Themes)
C. Scott Littleton; Linda A. Malcor
(Routledge)

The Elementary Structures of Kinship
Levi-Strauss, Claude
(Beacon Press)

The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other
Todorov, Tzvetan; Howard, Richard (Translator); Pagden, Anthony (Foreword)
(University of Oklahoma Press)

Appendix: Richard Parmentier’s Books

I add these for convenience. –DBA

Signs in Society: Studies in Semiotic Anthropology (Advances in Semiotics)
Parmentier, Richard J.
(Indiana University Press)

Signs and Society: Further Studies in Semiotic Anthropology
Parmentier, Richard J.
(Indiana University Press)