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Middle Ages monkey wrench (fwd)

Poster: clevin@ripco.com (Craig Levin)

Einar Thorgrimsson:

> >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?

Prof. Cohen, over at Catholic, frankly rejects the idea of
Renaissance, in all its forms. As far as he's concerned, Late
Antique art motifs permeated the mediaeval world to such an
extent that mediaeval artists could-and did-consciously choose to
follow the tradtion they inherited from the classical world, or
break away from it. As long as they could go to Byzantium, which
remained basically static artistically speaking, "the grandeur
that was Rome" was not far away. Moreover, iconography dies hard.
I can find Carolingian illuminations that look like they came
from fifth century scrolls-and eleventh century copies of those
same Carolingian illuminations, not too much the worse for wear!

> >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!

Having worked with classical and mediaeval texts in the Latin,
let me tell you something: there is no real gap, linguisitcally
speaking. Cicero could have gone ahead and read Aquinas or Duns
Scotus without difficulty (well, he'd be as boggled as everyone
else is about the Subtle Doctor, but not because he could
understand his Latin), even as those learned men read him and the
Fathers of the Church in their classical and late antique Latin.
Classics studies never completely ceased in the Middle Ages-in
fact, the Trojan War was one of the great chivalric cycles!

Perspective-well, that's another matter. Again, we can see
Northern people working with perspective at about the same time
as the Italians were-but not in parquet or painting-in

> >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.

Don't discount the Annales school just because your
practicioner's arrogant. Bloch did landmark work on manorial
society, for example. Granted, I'm not one myself, but their
view from the large scale is as worthy as the work that, for
example, I do, looking at the cult of chivalry, and impinges upon
it greatly-it is their work which let us understand _why_ the
gentry in all of Europe signed on in droves to become retainers
of the kings and powerful nobles from 1300-1500. Before them, we
had no clear idea of what the Price Revolution was.

Craig Levin
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