Renaissances and Revivals

Monika Otter

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394016
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Renaissances and Revivals

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Reception
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This article provides a cautionary approach against an uncritical espousal of revival and renaissance as concepts of historical explanation, demonstrating how pervasively they function as instruments of ideology. Renaissance and revival are two separate and connected issues. Whether Renaissance is best seen as an absolute epochal divide, a paradigm shift that fundamentally altered the worldview, and even the psychological constitution of Europeans, or whether it would be better to de-emphasize or even abandon that notion, has been, and still is, a matter of lively debate. As the concept of renaissance attempts to single out certain historical moments as positively asserting something new, it is closely related to the larger problem of historical periodization. Renewals are sporadic events that become a part of the intellectual foundation. As they made them the underpinning of their own intellectual culture, medieval writers were always conscious of also being readers, always responding to a prior culture that enriched and authorized their own. And even where the prior culture seemed overwhelming or stifling, it pushed medieval writers to forge a literary idiom that was authentically theirs.

Keywords: revival; renaissance; instruments of ideology; historical periodization; renewal

Article.  8806 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Reception ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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