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.
Tom Conley 6 Renaissance que voicy: Torque in a Tower (Reading Montaigne, Essais, III, iii)
Renaissance Now!: the motto under which the papers of this volume are written suggests that the early modern age, at once both familiar and remote, ought to be displaced into the cultures in which we are living. The vertical dash of the exclamation point compels us to think of the Renaissance as something that in the same thrust is informative and alienating: the bed- rock of the modern era, when seen from afar, the Renaissance can tell us how we are shaped as we are and, as psychoanalysts are wont to say, ‘where we are coming from’. Yet we discover its mental structures to be so unlike what we know that its alterity prods us to rethink how we live our lives and reconsider what we believe we are. The title infers, too, that the task of the historian and the critic has political valence: in our various disciplines we ‘work’ on the Renaissance not to retreat into a fantasy of what it might have been but to bring it into our perspective in order to alter the condition of our world for the better. In a strong sense we find in it a sensorium – a way of living – that we would do well to recognize. In this sense Michel Foucault’s luminous pages of Les Mots et les choses (1966) on the passage of a mentality that marked the Renaissance to a classical age detail how a regime of similitude and analogy gave way to another of resemblance. A prevailing...
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