Contesting the Renaissance

Contesting the Renaissance

Contesting the Renaissance

Contesting the Renaissance

Synopsis

In this book, William Caferro asks if the Renaissance was really a period of progress, reason, the emergence of the individual, and the beginning of modernity.

  • An influential investigation into the nature of the European Renaissance
  • Summarizes scholarly debates about the nature of the Renaissance
  • Engages with specific controversies concerning gender identity, economics, the emergence of the modern state, and reason and faith
  • Takes a balanced approach to the many different problems and perspectives that characterize Renaissance studies

Excerpt

Few historical periods have elicited more discussion than the Renaissance. It defies easy categorization, confounds basic definition, and has thus remained a topic of vigorous debate. Scholars have contested virtually every aspect of it, from its causes and general characteristics, to its temporal and regional boundaries, to whether indeed the label is at all valid. The discourse has occasioned a vast literature that has only grown larger in subsequent years, with new approaches and techniques borrowed from anthropology, psychology, gender studies, and literary criticism.

The identification of the era as a distinct one dates back to the period itself, to the writings of contemporaries who were aware of their importance and priority. The key figure was Francis Petrarch (d. 1374), who consciously separated himself from the “barbarism” that preceded him, on the basis of his love and understanding of the classics. In Letters on Familiar Matters, Petrarch characterized the period from the adoption of Christianity by the Roman emperors in the fourth century up to his own age as one of “tenebrae” or “darkness.” In doing this Petrarch subverted the traditional notion among medieval Christian writers who associated the “dark age” with the period prior to the advent of Christianity. Petrarch made his determination on linguistic and cultural grounds, in terms of the good Latin and high culture of what he called “antique” Rome as opposed to the bad Latin and decline in learning in the later period. Subsequent humanists, both in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, reinforced the distinction. Flavio Biondo (d. 1463) in his History of Italy from the Decline of the Roman Empire (Historiarum ab inclinatione Romanorum imperii decades, 1439–53) drew a clear chronological boundary between his own age and the thousand years that preceded it. He located Rome’s decline as beginning with the sack of city by Goths in 410 (which he erroneously dated as . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.