Among Ancient Men: Petrarch, Machiavelli, Sidney and Huygens

Jürgen Pieters

in Speaking With the Dead

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780748615889
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652020 | DOI:
Among Ancient Men: Petrarch, Machiavelli, Sidney and Huygens

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This chapter discusses the importance of Petrarch, Machiavelli, Sir Philip Sidney, and Constantijn Huygens in the early-modern period. Stephen Greenblatt's description of his own work as stemming from a desire to converse with the past is related to a fundamental critique of Old Historicism. The chapter confronts Greenblatt's reflections upon the conversation with the dead with those of a number of others who famously made use of the concept before him. In the Defence of Poesy, Sidney asserts that the essence of poetry (its ‘cause’) is not to be found in the ornamental function of verse. Huygens was a man of both politics and letters. A brief analysis of some of his writings on painting is also presented. The Platonic background of Huygens' logic is obvious: painters only occupy themselves with the outward appearance of reality, with ‘shadows and dreams’, not with the inner truth of nature.

Keywords: Petrarch; Machiavelli; Sir Philip Sidney; Constantijn Huygens; Stephen Greenblatt; Old Historicism; Defence of Poesy; painting; poetry; dead

Chapter.  20021 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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