The Value of the Renaissance Past in Contemporary Culture
What is the significance of doing Renaissance Studies now, not only in terms of the field per se, but in terms of what the field has to say to contemporary society? In the past, the field of Renaissance Studies has drawn themes and orientations from particular concerns of the moment, without losing its rigorous focus, and has given back crucial insights to those studying it. Could the same be said today? To facilitate a multifaceted answer, this book attempts to cover some of the principal areas of this interdisciplinary field within the humanities and social sciences. Contributors include specialists in history, languages and literatures, the history of science, cultural studies, art history, philosophy, sociology and politics.
‘This lonely provincialism, this admission that we are just the historical moment that we are’1 – who among the seekers along the pathways of the past has not experienced Richard Rorty’s sense of isolation? Stepping out of the rather narrower focus suggested by our title, this book is concerned largely with subjects and their objects. It queries the relations between researchers and their studies; it investigates to what degree a certain ref lexivity af fects the seeker as well as the thing being sought; it wonders where the world of yesterday fits into the world of today, and vice versa. However hard we try, we will never fully succeed in bringing ‘in here’ what is ‘out there’. Is that a boon or a bane? ‘Objectivity is not neutrality’, one expert (Thomas Haskell) has said.2 Amen! We make a virtue of necessity and seize the chance to remind ourselves and others about the reasons that impelled us on our voyages of discovery and prof fer our appraisal of what we found when we got there. Ideas about doing an anthology on ‘Renaissance Now!’ coalesced when one of the contributors was asked to participate in an RTE radio broadcast about ‘The Borgias’ – not the historical family (one of whose descendants he claimed to have met once on a bus to Prato), but the television series. Midway into an on-the-air conversation touching the themes of anachro- nism, presentism, simplification, exaggeration and outright fabrication, he ref lected that Jeremy Irons was brilliant as the...
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