Florence in Transition - Vol. 2

Florence in Transition - Vol. 2

Florence in Transition - Vol. 2

Florence in Transition - Vol. 2

Excerpt

Remembering Henry James's admonition that if there is no theory, then the subject is not "discutable," it will be necessary to venture certain hypotheses.

Although Florence was very much a part of late medieval Europe and shared amply in its spiritual and intellectual problems, yet there was a marked difference between the Arno city and other cities of Europe. The crisis in medieval theology and the development of radical nominalism were abundantly evident in Arno culture as were the penchant for the arcane and the endless allegorizing. Traditional political ideology still furnished hierarchical scaffolding to some--certainly not the least influential--but tensions between old and new were discernible in the lives of individuals as well as in the actions of political blocs. A foreigner coming into Florence would have been much at home within certain segments of the political milieu. Yet with it all, there were changes in process alien to him.

J. Huizinga in The Waning of the Middle Ages convincingly portrays "the violent tenor of life" and the "high-strung personality" of North and Northerner. Lucien Febvre extends these insights in his Le Problème de l'Incroyance au XVIe Siècle: La Religion de Rabelais (Paris, 1947), showing the high degree of "fluidity of a world where nothing is strictly delimited." Mystical in their faith, with preference for vivid color and jarring sound, the sixteenth-century Frenchman was in close contact with the sources of emotional life. The trecento Florentine, too, was attracted by the lure of the "fluidité d'un monde où rien n'est strictement délimité, où les êtres eux-mêmes, perdant leur frontières, changent en un clin d'oeil, sans provoquer autrement d'objection de forme, d'aspect, de dimension, voire de règne." During the second half of the trecento, however, a new paideia emerged to repress this colorful world. What was unmistakable to the visitor in Florence was the stern geometric pattern of . . .

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