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Middle Ages monkey wrench

Poster: carl christianson <einar@cvn.net>

>Elen, taking a break from studying...
>>As has already been established, historians disagree about any 
>>exact date of the beginning of the "Middle Ages." The debate 
>>centers around when to pin-point the end of classical, "humanistic," 
>>pursuit and the beginning of a return to such endeavours, aka the 
>>Renaissance, or rebirth of civilization.  The era in-between is the 
>>"middle age."  (Somehow the Carolingian era, itself a renaissance 
>>of sorts, is ignored for the purpose of definition, though it is 
>>firmly contained within the Middle Ages.  But, this period is the 
>>defining point for the transition between "early middle ages" and 
>>"late middle ages").
>Here's the monkey wrench... WHICH RENAISSANCE DO YOU MEAN?  The Provencal
Renaissance, in music and poetry especially, in the twelfth century?  The
Carolingian?  What about the Ottonian?  What about the Saxon flowering of
Alfred's Wessex?  Or even <evil grin> the Ionian Renaissance of the 7th
century BCE - which seriously predates our period?
>>Some consider the end to be when the Roman 
>>Empire was split between East and West, others when Roman itself 
>>was sacked in 410.
>Rome's decline began before the sack... epidemics will do that to a
people.  Think Antonine plague...
>  Thus, the West fragmented into too many units 
>>to organize and prosper (not my words) in the sense of large scale.  
>>The late middle ages sees the development of large scale architecture, 
>>the founding of universities, etc. which builds towards the Renaissance. 
>>However, most authors point to the stimulation of Florence, by the 
>>great wealth of the Medici, towards culture development (aka art 
>>and scholarship) for a point in time to signify the "great rebirth 
>>of civilization."
>From my notes (thank you, Dr. Gill):  Italian Renaissances - Petrarch's
career in the late 1340's a generally accepted point of demarcation,
especially as concerns his Latin works and his sonnets in the vernacular,
goes up to 1529 when Charles V's soldier sack Rome and Pope Clement VII is
taken prisoner.  It spreads from there into Northern Europe:  Italians go
north to teach, northerners go to Italy to learn.  The Renaissance of
classical learning in the North is not generally considered to have started
until the 1470's.
>The medieval Europeans were never really uncivilized.  Trade went on, for
instance - take a look at Venice and also the Hansa:  they were going
strong in the twelfth century.  I don't think we can say that the flowering
of the trecento and the quattrocento was anything but cultural - art,
literature, philosophy - because it sure isn't political.  What sets off
the Italian Renaissance is that the great classical writings that had been
so carefully stored in the monasteries (nice safe place, I put my
keys/Plautus' plays/Plato's dialogues in a nice safe place, now where did I
put them?!?!?!?) were finally relocated, read, discussed, studied,
intellectually devoured.  Church Latin and classical Latin are two
different things:  Petrarch was reviving classical Latin.  Classical Greek
was another one - when the Florentines finally got their hands on a real
Greek scholar from the East, thanks to the discussions about reuniting the
Roman and Orthodox Church, they spent a bundle to keep him there, teaching!
 Art also took a quantum leap forward, primarily because of a new
preoccupation with the human form and painting what you observed.  In
painting there is a deliberate, discernable break with the past.  Compare
Simone Martini's _Annunciation_ and Fra Filippo Lippi's Madonnas... these
treat the same subject, heck, the same person in two totally different ways!
>>By the way, if you consider your question stupid, feel comforted 
>>that you are joined by every Medieval scholar because the first 
>>objective of every book on the subject is to define the parameters 
>>of the period. And, rarely  will two books give the exact same dates.
>And that is because there is no agreement anymore.  You should hear one of
the profs at my university (he pays homage to demography and the Annales
school of history - lead me to the nearest airbag) - he brags about ragging
on freshmen in his World History courses whenever they say "what about the
Ren-" and threatens to flunk them if they use the word in term papers or on
exams.  This is in diametric opposition to my medieval history prof, who
thinks it's still a viable term for cultural developments only.
Burckhardt's definition and view, which was once considered carved in
stone, has been discarded, by and large for most fields except art history.
 When you talk it about painting, it still applies.  But not in politics.
We can go there after Friday, once exams are done, if anyone wants to
discuss it then... I need to get back to studying.
>Elen Prydydd
>going back to her demography project <YUCK!!> with heavy sighs  
Einar Thorgrimmson

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