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.
Brendan Dooley Introduction
‘Orlando slowly drew in his head, sat down at the table, and, with the half- conscious air of one doing what they do every day of their lives at this hour, took out a writing book labeled “Aethelbert: A Tragedy in Five Acts,” and dipped an old stained goose quill in the ink.’ It was an age of extraordinary accomplishment; this must surely be at least one of the meanings Virginia Woolf was attempting to convey in these lines from her novel, set in the Renaissance, where the principal character has just turned attention to the objects in the room, and the associated tasks, after gazing out the open window at the peacocks in the garden of his parents’ country estate.1 There can be no doubt about the features that still impress. Take a more recent novel, still on the newsstands. The dust jacket informs: ‘In the simmering hot summer of 1492, a monstrous evil is stirring within the Eternal City of Rome. The brutal murder of an alchemist sets of f a desperate race to uncover the plot that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge Europe back into medieval darkness.’ From ‘a New York Times bestselling author who is branching out’ one would expect no less.2 We are put in mind of the monstrous evils that threaten to extinguish the lights of the Western World – and maybe, that is the point. Now step into the five-story atrium of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC...
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