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Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

a
The Modern Divide:
From Either Side
Margreta de Grazia
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

No period division has had more consequence than the divide between the
medieval and the modern, with the exception, perhaps, of that between
b.c. and a.d. For like the b.c./a.d. divide, the medieval/modern break does
more than separate one period from another, as do other period divisions:
for example, dynasties (Tudor from Stuart), centuries (thirteenth from fifteenth), literary figures (Age of Chaucer from Age of Shakespeare), and
modes of economic production (feudalism from capitalism). Whether you
exist on one side or the other of the b.c./a.d. divide determines nothing less
than salvation.1 Whether you work on one side or the other of the medieval/
modern divide determines nothing less than relevance. Everything after that
divide has relevance to the present; everything before it is irrelevant. There
is no denying the exceptional force of that secular divide; indeed, it works
less as a historical marker than a massive value judgment, determining what
matters and what does not. It is no wonder that Renaissance studies should
covet its inaugural title early modern, and that medieval studies might
wish to preempt it with the still earlier claim of being premodern.
But why such a premium on the modern?
There was certainly nothing especially desirable about being modern in early uses of the term.2 For at first, anyone or anything at some point
could be modern, indeed could not but be modern, for the term meant simply recent or current. It carried no semantic weight. Like its Latin root modernus, it functioned as what linguists have termed a deictic, an empty variable
whose content derived from the conditions of its enunciation: when it was
uttered, as well as where, by and to whom. The term was roughly synonymous with such rolling markers of contemporaneity as present, recent, and
above all, as we shall see, new. Whatever existed in timea philosophy, an
invention, a monarch or popehad to have been at some point modern, if
only temporarily. For like any form of the contemporary, modernus could be
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 37:3, Fall 2007

DOI 10.1215/10829636-2007-008 2007 by Duke University Press

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Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

superseded: Queen Mary was the modern queen until Elizabeths coronation. The passage of time would eventually render the modern obsolete or
ancient; the timely would eventually fall behind the times, making way for
a new modern.
At a certain point, the empty indicator assumes semantic substance.
Modern breaks from its cycle of recurrence and freezes into an epochal monolith. It is futile to ask just when this semantic shift occurred. For it would be
tantamount to asking, When was modern modernized? (The semantics of
time-words has a way of going self-referential, not to mention abstract and
general.) But one can say that modern became a period designation when it
lost its dyadic relation to ancient: when it ceased to relate to the ancient either
as mere adjunct (modern dwarfs standing on the shoulders of ancient giants)
or as emulous rival (moderns debating the superiority of the ancients). Once
it lost that relational status, modern came into its own; indeed it defined itself
as the repudiation of what has come before.3 It instated itself as new, a word
whose semantic history is tightly bound up with that of modern. For it, too,
broke from its relational status: it left the old behind in order to reference
not a renewal of what was before but the emergence of what had never been
before. (Like modern, too, new was elevated to period status, in its German
counterpart, Neuzeit.)4 It is from its kinship to this modernized new that modern derives its cachet, what Fredric Jameson has recently termed the supreme
value of innovation, its irresistible electrical and libidinal charge.5
For novelty is the essence of modernity. It is around the possibility of a spontaneously generated new, with no connection to the past, that
its existence as a period concept has depended. It can be seen to emerge in
Nietzsches essay, On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life,
where he prescribes forgetting the past as the antidote for the historical
excess of his own time; disburdened of the past, the epigonic late-comer
of a superannuated tradition might, by a bold reversal, emerge as the pristine first-born of an entirely new race.6 In discussing Nietzsche, Paul de
Man stresses modernitys desire to wipe out whatever came earlier, a suppression of anteriority so extreme that representation limits itself to the
present.7 For Jrgen Habermas, the project of modernity, still incomplete,
originates in a radicalized consciousness . . . which frees itself from all
specific historical ties.8 Bruno Latour also considers the project unfulfilled,
indeed unfulfillable; because the time of the now cannot be cleanly fissured
from the time of the then, the modern remains out of reach, and thus we
have never been modern.9
For a cadre of mid-twentieth-century German philosophers of his454 Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies / 37.3 / 2007

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tory, it is not that the project of modernity has not been or cannot be fulfilled, but rather that it has been fulfilled already, and in the very Christian era the modern would disavow. Developments by which the modern
is distinguishedprogress, teleology, freedom, for exampleare secularized appropriations from medieval Christian eschatology. If its attributes are
mere replays of the Christian past, then the moderns claim to being innovational is untenable, or in the strikingly juridical language of the debate,
illegitimate.10 In his influential The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, Hans
Blumenberg defends the modern ages claim to epochal status by granting
that while the modern retained the same problems or needs as the Middle
Ages, it introduced new solutions or reoccupations: thus the Cartesian cogito
addressed the need for certainty previously met by the promise of salvation.11
As the modern comes into being as novel, so, too, it survives by
remaining so. Thus Jameson locates a lingering strain of the modern in
postmodernisms abiding fixation on the new, however much it might try
to repackage (postmodernize) novelty as difference or alterity.12 For Lyotard, the postmodern continues within the purview of the modern precisely
because of this abiding fixation; indeed, to account for the ongoing proliferation of ever-new modernisms, he ingeniously (and preposterously) places
the postmodern before the modern: a work can become modern only if at
first it is postmodern.13
If 1400 to 1600 is to be the period of nascent modernity, then it, too,
must authorize itself by the introduction of novelty. In this regard, Renaissance proves something of a misnomer; its backward-turning name indicates
a return to the past rather than its repudiation. What novelty in returning to antiquity? This is the genius of Erwin Panofskys explanation of why
the Renaissance holds pride of place: From the fourteenth through the sixteenth century, then, and from one end of Europe to the other, the men of
the Renaissance were convinced that the period in which they lived was a
new age.14 1400 to 1600, then, defines itself as a new period, the modern,
when it recognized itself as being new, in the modern sense of without precedent. (Time-words are going circular again.) It establishes its modernity by
registering its own apartness from what had come before.
As Panofsky tells it, it was not the return to antiquity that distinguished the period 14001600 known since the late nineteenth century as
the Renaissance. For well before 1400, there had been periodic returns to
ancient arts and letters: the Carolingian renaissance in the ninth century,
the Ottonian and Anglo-Saxon renovatii of around 1000, and the protoDe Grazia / The Modern Divide 455

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Renaissance of the twelfth century. But none of those renewals qualify as


proper renascences for the simple (and oddly literal) reason that they were
not preceded by death. Antiquity could not be reborn until it had first died.
Before 1400, it still lingered in the background, to be admired or ignored,
or recycled in the service of Christian faith. And this survival is precisely
what precluded its revival. But at a certain point around 1400, antiquity
was pronounced dead and gone, once and for all: The classical past was
looked upon, for the first time, as a totality cut off from the present.15 This
very perception, for Panofsky, is what distinguished the Renaissance from
earlier generic renascences. It was not, it should be stressed, that the physical remains of antiquity had vanished. On the contrary, with the unearthing of Roman statuary around 1500, antiquity was arguably more materially present: the Laocon, the Hercules, the Apollo Belvedere were so many
exhumed stone corpses. (Rome contained a whole population in marble,
writes Leonard Barkan.)16 It was its awareness of the gap between past and
presentas definite as that between death and lifethat uniquely qualified the period between 1400 and 1600 as Renaissance with a capital R.17
For only then was there consciousness of the past as discrete from the present: bounded, enclosed, and cordoned off, or as Heidegger would put it (and
Panofsky had read his Heidegger), enframed.18 And for him, as for Panofsky, it is precisely the concept of an epoch that distinguishes the modern
age.19 When the present sees itself as discrete from what preceded itwhen
it in effect periodizes itselfmodernity has arrived.
It is here, I would maintain, that the period divide is most damaging to the Middle Ages. By such a determination, it is denied historical
consciousness. [D]uring the whole millennium 4001400, there was no
sense of history even among the educated.20 This millennial lack leads to
a whole range of deprivations. No sense of history means no understanding of all the makings of what we term historychronology, anachronism,
diachrony, causalityuntil the Renaissance. Thomas Greene describes
this same lack of historical consciousness, somewhat more tenderly, as diachronic innocence: an experiencing of time as perennial synchronicity, a
cross-time so closely approximating stasis that it is hardly recognizable as
time.21 (How, one wonders, did they ever negotiate verb tenses?) But it is not
only a sense of history that goes wanting. With no sense of the present as
distinct from the past, there is no real sense of loss. The Middle Ages had
left antiquity unburied, writes Panofsky, whereas [t]he Renaissance stood
weeping at its grave.22 Without loss, there can be no real mourning, nostalgia, alienation, andabove allno melancholy, what might be termed the
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period illness of the Renaissance, embodied in its two great epochal icons:
Drers Melancholia and Shakespeares Hamlet. (It is for good reason that
James Simpson begins his revisionist medieval history with the antiquary
John Leland: alienated, torn, diachronically conscious to the point of physical illness, he resembles Nietzsches suprahistorical man who recoils in nausea from historical oversaturation.)23 But the defect extends further still, to
where literary studies feels it most. Without a recognition of loss, there can
be no desire to recover, and without the desire to recover, there is no inspiration to represent, in either images or words, what has been lost: in sum, no
stimulation to artistic production. By contrast, consider the response, cited
by Barkan, to the excavation of the Laocon in 1506: As soon as [the statue]
was visible everyone started to draw, all the while discoursing on ancient
things.24 First burial, then exhumation, then the longing to bring back to
life through aesthetic representation.
There can be no denying that the modern divide has been hard on
medievalists, and they cannot be blamed for trying (like a third world country) to catch up, often by stretching the starting point of the modern back a
century or more so that the Middle Ages is no longer a middle of any kind,
but rather a beginning avant le lettre, an earlier early modern or premodern.
(The Renaissance finds itself in the same defensive position when the inception of the modern age is assigned to the Enlightenment, as by Habermas
and Foucault, or to Romanticism, as by Jauss). The pre of the neologism is
as problematically ambiguous as the post of the now commonplace postmodern: by retaining the root word, both terms suggest a continuity with
the modern, its prequel and its sequel. The modern continuum is thereby
stretched out at both ends: an earlier-early-modern and a later-late-modern.
Thus the traditional tripartite division (ancient, medieval, modern) folds
into two, and the Middle Ages is phased out, leaving the bipartite ancient
and modern. Perhaps antimodern (as in Antichrist) might be preferable, anti
denoting opposition as well as alterity, with a homonymic dash of antecedence (ante).25 Of course, premodern also invites connections between the
two modern extremes, as in Bruce Holsingers substitution of the post of
Lyotards Postmodern Condition with the pre of his Premodern Condition.
As he argues, poststructuralist theory reaches back to medieval texts for its
inspiration: The diachronic imagination of the nouvelle critique reaches
across a millennium to embrace a distant epoch as a foundation for its own
intellectual work.26 The millennium between the pre and post drops out
of the picture: and that millennium is none other than the (original) modern
period itself, from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. Subjected to the
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same fate to which it had subjected the Middle Ages, the modern receives its
just deserts: it is consigned to the obscurity of an irrelevant interval between
two termini.
While medieval studies has suffered from the divide, the Renaissance has
flourished, enjoying pride of place as the inaugural period of the modernof the new, invention, novelty, innovation. Its special affinity to the
modern, even in its late and latest attenuations, is clinched by the very designation early modern, a term which carries a built-in semantic guarantee of
its link to the present: as sure and fast as early is connected to late, a terminus
ad quem to a terminus a quo, start to finish. Whatever the subject in question
(subjectivity, representation, racism, nationalism, capitalism, empire, new
science), it is readily and commonly supposed that the modern here and now
has a special rapport with the early modern there and then. Too readily and
commonly supposed.
Again and again, even in this new millennium, the status of the
Renaissance as the start of the modern is reconfirmed, as in this first sentence of a recent study: If there is one moment at which most people define
the birth of modern European civilization, it is surely the period between
1400 and 1600 known as the Renaissance.27 As the firstborn of every facet
of the modern, the Renaissance, like an overindulged first child, stands at
risk of being spoiledby not being held accountable. The tie between the
early modern and the latest modern is taken for granted. Parallels, analogues,
affinities come fast and loose, repeatedly confirming what they began by
assuming: that the present now has a privileged link to the early modern
then. New forms of consciousness, of nation formation, of colonial ambition
establish themselves by giving themselves roots in what has been acclaimed
the seedbed or (more dramatically) the crucible of the modern. The Renaissance is the invention (or beginning) of every modern this-or-that: of subjectivity, the literary, literary subjectivity, pragmatism, technology, the world
market, mercantile capitalism, commodity fetishism, slavery, contact with
the East, urban sprawl, providentially driven fatality akin to terrorism, every
manner of consciousness and the unconscious, including historical consciousness and more recently ecological consciousness. Such anticipatory
histories would do well to contemplate the paradoxical anecdote invoked
by Roussel, Foucault, and Jameson of a traveler who reported having seen
showcased in a provincial museum the skull of Voltaire as a child.28 The joke
is on notions of history that find in an earlier period the terms of a later one
that has not yet come to pass. That the cranium should be that of Voltaire,
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the great progressivist philosophe of the Enlightenment, sharpens the irony,


but it might just as effectively have been the skull of proleptic Shakespeare,
or better yet, of Hamlet, who has been deemed even further ahead of his
time than Shakespeare.29
And yet what is the basis for this special kinship of the Renaissance
with the present? What entitles it to the status of the early modern? Why
should it enjoy a stronger relation to the present than any other period: the
thirteenth century, say, or the recently expired twentieth?
There is no way to account for this special rapport without reverting
to Hegels grand nineteenth-century periodizing narrative. In his magisterial
Philosophy of History, Hegel reaches back to the sixteenth century in order
to set the modern age into motion. As the Spirit of Consciousness sweeps
across the millennia and the globe, history advances dialectically toward the
telos of absolute consciousness, following the progress of the sun from east
to west, in four imperial phases, from Oriental to Greek to Romanuntil
it reaches the fourth final stage of the Germanic or the modern where a
rupture [occurs], the first of its kind and profound as it was novel.30 What
was it? For Hegel, as might be expected, it was an idea, issuing from the
brain of a monk: Luthers solafideism, the simple doctrine that faith was
all that mattered, the doctrine which severed devotion from its medieval
material fixation and turned it inward in what Hegel termed that meditative introversion of the soul upon itself.31 In the world of events, Luthers
doctrine expressed itself in Christendoms renunciation of the Holy Land:
The West bade an eternal farewell to the East at the Holy Sepulcher. No
more crusades to possess the Holy Land, no more pilgrimages in homage
to it, no more worshipping of its scattered icons and relics. For the lesson
of the three Marys at the sepulcher had finally been learned: the Holy One
they sought was not to be found there or anywhere elseNon est hic. This
was the lesson that fifteen hundred years later spurred modern consciousness
on its accelerated course toward an increasingly abstract and universalizing
self-realization.
Jacob Burckhardt, in his seminal The Civilization of the Renaissance in
Italy, resituates the Hegelian threshold.32 He pushes it south, from Germany
to Italy, and pulls it back in time from 1500 to 1300. (What Hegel describes
in a few pages as the end of the medieval worldthe return to antiquity,
the flourishing of the arts, and discovery of the new worldBurkchardt
swells into a massive volume on the Renaissance.) And he turns the onset
of the modern into a cultural and political event rather than an ideational
one. Along with Michelet, he is generally credited with introducing the term
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Renaissance, with no mention of his dissatisfaction with the term.33 (In the
German edition, he often distanced himself from it by putting it in quotation marks.) For he regarded it as something of a misnomer that exaggerated
the importance of the return of antiquity when the Renaissance, he insisted,
would have occurred even without its revival.34 For him, the period was
less a rebirth than a birth: the birth of manof man as individual as
opposed to man as subject to the general categories of the Middle Ages (of
race, people, party, family, or community)issued not from the retrieval
of antiquity but rather from the lapsed civic and religious strictures of the
independent city-states. At least thirty times in his great opus, Burckhardt
refers to the period as the early modern, beginning of the modern, or the start
of the modern, attributing to the Quattro- and Cinquecento: the most modern state in the world, the modern form of glory, classes in the modern
sense, a modern standard of good and evil, the firstborn among the sons
of modern Europe, all evidence that the Renaissance was, as is asserted in
the final line of his book, the leader of modern ages.35
Burckhardts modern, however, is very different from that precipitated by Hegels theodicy, embodied in not a Martin Luther of strict inner
conscience but a Cesare Borgia of raw unbridled will. The Reformation, for
Burckhardt, was where history took a wrong turn. The church was about
to expire under the weight of its own corruption, giving still freer reign to
the rapacious creative energies of individualism, when it suddenly revived
to counter the minatory head of the Reformation: secularization . . . was
adjourned for centuries by the German Reformation.36 As Burckhardts
rabidly anti-Hegelian pupil Nietzsche repeatedly complained, the arrival
of the Reformation was a historical disaster, spearheaded by that calamity
of a monk, who by reforming the church, revived it, and thereby cheated
Europe of the harvest of the Renaissance.37 As a result, Europe settled for
the leveling institutions of a democratized, centralized, and progressivist state
that, to his mind, had reduced human potential to a dull mediocrity: modern man suffers from a weakened personality.38 But this was the modern
that had its birth in Hegels triumphant Reformation, not in Burckhardts
Renaissance of prodigious individuals. One hundred such [Renaissance]
men, Nietzsche claimed, would suffice to revitalize his present by grafting it
onto new stock. This is the use of history as genealogy, taking the knife to
[a cultures] roots and planting a new, stern discipline: It is an attempt to
give oneself, as it were a posteriori, a past in which one would like to originate
in opposition to that in which one did originate.39
To the formative narratives of Hegel and Burckhardt might be
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added Marxs account of the prehistory of capitalist economic production.


Marx also situates the onset of the last modern phase in what we might term
the long sixteenth century, identifying it as [t]he prelude of the revolution
that laid the foundation of the capitalist mode of production.40 He refers to
this period as the historical genesis of capitalism and likens its inaugural
role to that of original sin. The expulsion from Eden into a fallen world
serves as analogy for the transition from feudalism to capitalism. As original
sin condemned man to eating bread by the sweat of his brow, so economic
original sin or primitive accumulation exempted some few from labor
while it consigned most to selling themselves into wage-labor.41
All three nineteenth-century historiographiesHegels theodicy,
Burckhardts cultural history, and Marxs economic prehistoryconferred
upon the Renaissance the status of inaugural epoch of the modern. And all
three lighted upon it in order to set the modern into motion in a particular
direction: Hegels Reformation leading to the emancipation of consciousness, Burckhardts Renaissance reactivating the individuals dynamic creative energies, Marxs primitive accumulation culminating in equitable distribution of labor and resources. And all three had their trajectories push off
against a lackluster past of Catholicism, medievalism, and feudalism respectively. And now the connection they postulated between the long sixteenth
century and the ever-receding present has become axiomatic, certainly in
Renaissance literary studies, whose dominant figure has maintained from
the very start of his stellar career that the Renaissance and the present are
linked both analogically and causally, so that the modern is stretched over
the early modern, as our face is to our skull.42
Yet what is strange about this legacy is that while the two end
points of the narrative have survived, the narrative connecting them has
vanished. After poststructuralisms attack on historicism, continuums of
any stripe (teleological, evolutionary, developmental) are decidedly out of
favor. (Jameson is the salient exception, holding fast to the Marxist uninterrupted narrative of class struggle.)43 In the wake of the counterhistories
of Nietzsche and Foucault or the ptits recits of Lyotard, the progression of
continuous history has been judged too partial to the dominant powers,
leaving much of the (nonbourgeois and non-Western) world behind (panting to catch up). Hence the appeal of Althussers call for a history without a
subject or telos and of Foucaults articulation of a genetic history that avoids
both by artificially isolating elements in the past as the a posteriori preconditions for the present.44 There is no unified origin working itself out through
time (incrementally, serially, dialectically), but rather systematic dissociaDe Grazia / The Modern Divide 461

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tion in the form of epistemic rupture, dispersal, reversal, and accident.45


And yet the Renaissance retains its status as the early that precedes the late,
as if everything that catches our attention there now had been developing all
along during the five-hundred-year interval between then and now.
This, I am claiming, is the basis for the presumed affinity between
the early modern and the modern: teleology has been repudiated, yet the
affinity it instantiated is retained. And it holds sway over even those structures of affinity that have nothing to do with continuous time. Typologies,
for example, are drawn from the patristic exegetical tradition where they
describe the figural relation of the Old Testament to the New: the New
is concealed in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New. But the relation between the two is the result not of temporal continuity, but rather of
the immanence of the Word of God (the Old anticipates, the New fulfills).
Homologies originate in evolutionary biology and designate the parallels
in structure between the parts (organs) of different organisms. Again, the
correspondencesay the arm of man, foreleg of horse, wing of bird, and
the pectoral fin of a fishderives from no chronological continuum but
rather from their evolution from a common remote ancestor. Genealogy
postulates conditions of possibility in the past for some synchronic feature
of the present, but privileges no particular past. On the model of Lacanian
psychoanalysis, a posterior present takes precedence over an anterior past,
just as the imaginary is prior to the real, but again, no particular purchase is
accorded to the early modern.
Not one of these structures for putting the past into relation with
the present assigns any special privilege to the Renaissance. Nor does the
historical materialism of Benjamin, though he is often invoked as the presiding genius of synchronic juxtaposition. And indeed in his eighteen Theses
on the Philosophy of History, he targets and blasts open the continuum of
history that he identifies with the victorious march of the enemy, as it carries its cultural spoils forward into the future.46 But the wreckage in its wake
can be accessed, and from those scattered shards, some pieces might be made
to spark and constellate with the present. There is an attraction between
them, to be sure, the result of a secret agreement between past generations
and the present one, but not more for one generation than another.47 His
early thesis, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, might suggest otherwise,
for there he links the expressionism of his own early twentieth century to the
German Baroque (roughly correspondent to the Renaissance, with two Wittenbergians, Luther and Hamlet at its heart).48 Yet the royal martyr dramas,
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treatises, and emblem books he scrutinizes have none of the contemporary


prestige of Shakespeares dramas, for example: arcane and esoteric, they are
cultural cast-offs retrieved from the historical debris. For Benjamin, their
allure lies not in their accessible modernity but rather in their obdurate and
occulted estrangement; their recovery demands painstaking patience ([the
secret agreement] cannot be settled cheaply) and resists the indulgent latterday projections of what he terms self-absorbed fantasizing.49 Benjamins
present is chronologically impartial; an enormous abridgment of the history of mankind, it has no particular affinity with 14001600 or any other
epochal unit.50
It is often said nowadays that the Renaissance constructed in the nineteenth
century reverted back to the past while the early modern fashioned in the
twentieth century looks ahead to the future. But the Renaissance from the start
was periodized as the push-off point of the modern. Every time Shakespeare
or the early modern is cast as the nascent form of some facet of the modern,
its identity as such is reconfirmed. What I am suggesting is that early modern studies routinely preserves the two endpoints of the nineteenth-century
narratives but dissolves the intervening connection that linked them, leaving a yawning historical chasm in between (15002000)not unlike the
notorious gap separating the Renaissance from antiquity called the Middle
Ages (another Dark Ages!). Yet we continue to link the two endpoints, thus
retaining the prestige of the periods inaugural title while tossing (into historys ashbin) the diachronic narrative that conferred it in the first place.
Studies continue to proliferate crediting some new aspect of modernity to the early modern. Whatever is of urgent interest in the present is
assigned a priori origins in the early modern. The modern divide thus hampers work on either side, driving the medieval to contest its exclusion and
encouraging the Renaissance to take its privilege for granted: and both critical positions simply deepen the divide.
It is hard to know what to do about the dilemma other than to
point it out. We could rehaul the divisions, and politics or theory or even
institutional exigencies might challenge or pressure us to do so. But could we
dispose of them altogether? According to Heidegger, periods are themselves
a modern kind of representing, the way we represent the past to ourselves
in order to make it intelligible; indeed, such a dependency on representation
is, for him, the exclusive feature of the modern age.51 Benedetto Croce recognizes the same epistemological impasse: periodization is intrinsic to thought
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and determined by the determination of thought.52 Or at least that is how it


is in the modern period. If this is indeed the case, as much as we might redefine or reorganize our periods, dubbing them modernities or temporalities
and reconfiguring them as polychronic, synoptic, or anachronic, we would
still be bearing witness to the truth of Jamesons maxim, We cannot not
periodize.53 But if by some radical epistemic bouleversement, we were able to
drop periodizing altogether, that would in itself signal that we had left the
modern behindas long as it were not for still another period, for (in one
final instance of the self-referential semantics of time-talk) that would be a
sure sign that we were still thinking under the auspices of the modern.

a
Notes

I wish to thank Austin Zeiderman for his help with this essay, and Crystal Bartolovitch for her laser-sharp critique.
For the similarly consequential operations of the Great Divide in anthropology,
between them and us or nature and culture, see Bruno Latour, We Have Never
Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1993), 1112 ff.
For uses of modernus from the fifth century through the Middle Ages, see Hans
Ulrich Gumbrecht, Making Sense in Life and Literature, trans. Glen Burns (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 8182.
Only after generations of debate does modern finally come into its own, in a standoff
frequently identified with its emergence as a free-standing period. See Fredric Jamesons jaunty summary in A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present
(London: Verso, 2002), 2022.
On Neuzeit, see Reinhart Koselleck, Neuzeit: Remarks on the Semantics of the
Modern Concepts of Movement, in Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time,
trans. Keith Tribe (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), 23166.
Jameson, A Singular Modernity, 5. On the modern as our present fetish, see Linda
Charnes, The Fetish of the Modern, in Hamlets Heirs: Shakespeare and the Politics
of a New Millennium (New York, Routledge, 2006), 1325.
Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life, in
Untimely Meditations, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1997), 104, 123.
Paul de Man, Literary History and Literary Modernity, in Blindness and Insight:
Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), 148.
Jrgen Habermas, Modernity: An Incomplete Project, in Modernism/Postmodernism,
ed. Peter Brooker (London: Longman, 1992), 127.

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10
11

12
13
14
15
16
17
18

19

20
21
22
23

24
25

26
27
28
29

Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, 4648.


Karl Lowith, Meaning in History: The Theological Implications of the Philosophy of History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949).
Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, trans. Robert M. Wallace (Cam
bridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1983), 183202. For a summary of Blumenbergs discussion of modern reoccupations, see Wallaces introduction, xxix xvii.
Jameson, A Singular Modernity, 34.
Jean Franois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. G.
Bennington and B. Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 79.
Erwin Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (New York: Harper and
Row, 1960), 36.
Ibid., 113.
Leonard Barkan, Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of
Renaissance Culture (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999), 63.
Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences, 106.
William Lovitt discusses his translation of Heideggers Ge-stell as enframing in the
introduction to The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William
Lovitt (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), xxixx xxvii. For a historicization of the
material and semantic properties of frame and of its consequence for the periodization of both the modern and the Renaissance, see Rayna Kalas, Frame, Glass, Verse:
The Technology of Poetic Invention in the English Renaissance (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell
University Press, 2007).
See Heidegger, The Age of the World Picture, Question Concerning Technology, 130:
The world picture does not change from an earlier medieval one into a modern one,
but rather, the fact that the world becomes picture at all is what distinguishes the
essence of the modern age.
Peter Burke, The Renaissance Sense of the Past (New York: St. Martins Press, 1967), 1.
Thomas M. Greene, The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry
(New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1982), 30.
Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences, 113.
See The Melancholy of John Leland and the Beginnings of English Literary History, in James Simpson, The Oxford English Literary History, Volume 2, 13501547:
Reform and Cultural Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 633.
Barkan, Unearthing the Past, 3.
On the multiple valences of Antichrist, see John Parker, The Aesthetics of Antichrist:
From Christian Drama to Christopher Marlowe (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press,
2007).
Bruce Holsinger, The Premodern Condition: Medievalism and the Making of Theory
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 4.
Jerry Brotton, The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2003), vii.
See Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act
(Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1981), 139.
See Margreta de Grazia, Hamlet before His Time, Modern Language Quarterly 62
(2001): 35575.
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30 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree (New York:
Dover Publications, 1956), 395.
31 Ibid., 421.
32 On Burckhardts largely unrecognized Hegelianism, see E. H. Gombrich, In Search of
Cultural History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 1425. On the implicit presence of
the diachronic in synchronic accounts, see Jameson, Political Unconscious, 28; and A
Singular Modernity, 79.
33 On Burckhardts equation of the Renaissance with the beginning of the modern age,
see Felix Gilbert, History: Politics or Culture? Reflections on Ranke and Burckhardt
(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990), 61 n. 17.
34 Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, trans. S. G. C. Middlemore (New York: Penguin, 1959), 120.
35 Ibid., 65, 104, 230, 289, 98, 351.
36 Ibid., 9596.
37 Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann, in On the Genealogy of Morals (New York: Random House, 1967; repr. New York: Vintage, 1989),
320; see also Nietzsche, Human All Too Human, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1986), 11415.
38 Nietzsche, On the Uses and Disadvantages of History, Untimely Meditations, 83.
39 Ibid., 95, 76 respectively.
40 Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume One, trans. Ben Fowkes
(New York: Vintage, 1976), 878.
41 Ibid., 873. For a significant recasting of Marxs prehistory that identifies the capitalist wellspring with the medieval, see The Marxist Premodern, a special issue of The
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, ed. Bruce Holsinger and Ethan Knapp,
34.3 (2004).
42 On the tight linkage between the Renaissance and the present, see the following by
Stephen Greenblatt: Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture (New York:
Routledge, 1990), 167; and Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 17475.
43 Jameson, Political Unconscious, 3334.
44 This prescript (quoted by Jameson in A Singular Modernity, 49) epitomizes Louis
Althussers and tienne Balibars rearticulation of Marxist periodization, in Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster (London: Verso, 1987), 91105; Michel Foucault,
Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays
and Interviews, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell
University Press, 1988), 13964.
45 Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, 164.
46 Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), XIV, XV; for historys triumphal procession, see VII.
47 Benjamin, Theses, II.
48 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osborne (London: Verso, 1996), 13839.
49 Ibid., 53.
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51
52
53

Benjamin, Theses, XVIII.


Heidegger, The Age of the World Picture, Question Concerning Technology, 129, 130.
Benedetto Croce, Theory and History of Historiography, trans. Douglas Ainslie (London: George G. Harrap, 1921), 113.
Jameson, A Singular Modernity, 29.

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