The Emergence of the Renaissance Concept in Europe: The Fifteenth through the Mid-Nineteenth Century
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Today it is standard to think of history-writing as a negotiation between past and present. All history is viewed through concepts we inherit in our time, no matter how much effort we make to shed those concepts. Likewise, each past interpretation of the Renaissance was bound to a particular historical situation and to the needs, values, and desires people had in that context. It is impossible to separate the layers of historical time. Put another way, allegory and typology are inescapable. Antonio Gramsci’s thoughts on the Italian Renaissance in the early twentieth century are one example of such hermeneutical negotiation. Gramsci saw the Renaissance as a conflict between humanist elitism and vernacular popularism, yet how much this was true of Renaissance Italy and how much of this applied to Gramsci’s own nation, time, and culture is difficult to ascertain. Reacting to the theories of Jacob Burckhardt and his Italian translators and followers and to cultural nationalist movements in Italy in the wake of the 1860 Risorgimento, Gramsci wanted to dispel the idea of an “Italian Renaissance.” In fact, Gramsci stated, the ideological “content of the Renaissance was developed outside Italy, in Germany and France” (374), and the Italians, at least until Burckhardt’s theory, never thought of themselves as having had a Renaissance.
KeywordsNineteenth Century Eighteenth Century Sixteenth Century National Culture Aesthetic Experience
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- 1.There is a growing literature on the Grand Tour. One might start with Edward Chaney, The Evolution of the Grand Tour: Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations since the Renaissance. Second Edition (London: Frank Cass, 2000), andGoogle Scholar
- The Impact of Italy: The Grand Tour and Beyond, ed. Clare Hornsby (London: The British School at Rome, 2000).Google Scholar