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Renaissance Now!

The Value of the Renaissance Past in Contemporary Culture

Edited By Brendan Dooley

This volume directs a transdisciplinary gaze on the field of Renaissance Studies as currently practised in Europe, North America and beyond. The concept of the Renaissance as applied to a particular time and place is still regarded as being of central importance to the history of thought and culture. The essays collected here raise the question of the contemporary relevance of the Renaissance.
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.

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Chris Barrett 9 The Map You Cannot See: Paradise Lost and the Poetics of Navigation

Extract

Even after his eyesight deteriorated to total blindness in 1651, John Milton continued to shop for atlases. Milton had, throughout his life, amassed a substantial collection of the most impressive and authoritative atlases of the period, and in the 1650s, despite the precarious state of his finances, the loss of his vision, and the unlikelihood of ever travelling again beyond the London area, he continued to keep tabs on the newest additions to the field. In a 1656 letter, Milton asks his travelling friend, Peter Heimbach, to report on which of two newly available atlases in Amsterdam was ‘the fuller and more accurate’. Heimbach had already written to Milton of the cost of an atlas the poet had asked his young friend to price for him. Perhaps anticipating the perplexity of puzzled Peter Heimbach about the use of an atlas to this economically-straitened, visually-impaired poet, Milton wittily jokes at the cost of such a book and its unlikely appeal to the blind. ‘You say that they ask one hundred and thirty f lorins’, Milton writes, ‘I think it must be the Mauritanian Mount Atlas, not the book, that you say is to be bought at such a steep price […]. Since to me, blind, pictured maps could hardly be useful, […] I fear that the more I paid for the book, the more I should mourn my loss.’1 Nonetheless, Milton goes on to ask Heimbach to investigate ‘which of the two editions, Blaeu’s or Jansen’s, is the fuller and more accurate’ of...

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