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
Jan Assmann
(Cornell University Press)

The Arcades Project
Walter Benjamin
(Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press)

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

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

The Philosophy of the Enlightenment: Updated Edition
Ernst Cassirer
(Princeton University Press)

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

The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece
Marcel Detienne
(Zone Books)

The Mediation of Ornament
Oleg Grabar
(Princeton University Press)

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

Language in Literature (Belknap Press)
Roman Jakobson
(Belknap Press)

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

On Representation
Louis Marin
(Stanford University Press)

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

The Implications of Literacy
Brian Stock
(Princeton University Press)

Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece
Jean-Pierre Vernant, Pierre Vidal-Naquet
(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
Pierre Vidal-Naquet
(Johns Hopkins University Press)

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

Orientalism
Edward W. Said
(Penguin Books)

ANALYZING BACH CANTATAS
CHAFE
(Oxford University Press USA)

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

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

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

History of Madness
Michel Foucault
(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
Ernst Cassirer, Mario Domandi
(University of Chicago Press)

The Riddle of Nostradamus: A Critical Dialogue (Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society)
Professor Georges Dumézil
(The Johns Hopkins University Press)

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

Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages
Umberto Eco
(Yale University Press)

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

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

On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State (Princeton Classics)
Joseph R. Strayer
(Princeton University Press)

Race Matters
Cornel West
(Beacon Press)

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Illness and Psychology
Michel Foucault
(University of California Press)

Metaphysical Song
Gary Tomlinson
(Princeton University Press)

An Introduction to Legal Reasoning (Phoenix Books)
Edward H. Levi
(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.

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

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

Python
Joseph Fontenrose
(University of California Press)

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

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

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

The Reformation: A History
Diarmaid MacCulloch
(Penguin Books)

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

Stonehenge
John North
(Free Press)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mechanization of the World Picture: Pythagoras to Newton
Eduard Jan Dijksterhuis
(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
Inga Clendinnen
(Cambridge University Press)

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

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

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

Galileo: Heretic
Pietro Redondi
(Princeton University Press)

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

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

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

The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other
Tzvetan Todorov
(University of Oklahoma Press)

Appendix: Richard Parmentier’s Books

I add these for convenience. –DBA

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