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Renaissance Historiography As I understand the historiography, the general view held before the 1960s was that the medieval years were the “Dark Ages”, where intellectual poverty was prevalent, except for some glimmers in the monasteries; and, that the Renaissance was a transitional period of re-discovery that produced the Modern Period (Bouwsma 1979, 4). This idea grew out of the historians that wrote during that period. If you still have Breisach (1983) from the Historiography class, take a look at Chapter 11, “The Renaissance and the Reformation.” (A limited preview of the book is available on Google Books here) It was those Renaissance historians that originally labeled the period between their present and Ancient Rome as dark (Breisach, 1983, 160). In contrast, between the 1960s and Bouwsma‟s AHA presidential address in 1979, historians like Hay (1961)</a> promoted the idea that the Renaissance was sui generis (its own thing) (Bouwsma, 4-5) (Hay 1961, 10-25) (Breisach, 425-426). I‟m still reading Hay for my first book review so I‟m still ignorant of his remaining arguments. Nevertheless, the synthesis of history Bouwsma describes is very much like the Annales paradigm we learned about in our Historiography class (Bentley 1999, 103-115) Green and Troup 1999, 87-109). He hints about this with his reference to Braudel‟s concept of longue duree; references to Ladurie‟s structuralism; and, his invocation of a sociologist, Max Weber, and an anthropologist, Clifford Geertz (Green and Troup, 89) (Bouwsma, 7-10). The rise of social history in the last forty years has widened the tools we can use … our scope (gender, culture, etc etc) is broader; and our methods of inquiry widened. But, since the 1980s (when I earned my BS), historians, especially in the USA, started criticizing past works. Whether this was because the kids of World War 2, the Korean War and the Vietnam War had grown up; and some had become historians, I‟m not sure. This is important as those kids were the first generation of Americans to see the wars as visual images. The innocence of war as a clean, noble event was shattered. There was a lack of trust in “The Establishment.” The distrust of all things extended to previously written history (Breisach, 418-430). So, in my opinion, they went off looking for alternative interpretations of the “why” of history. Interpretations that would fit the “who, what, when, and where” and the paradigm of distrust and expectations of evil intent and human failing they had developed in their youth.
2 Terrell DG - Short Notes on the Reformation III In the last fifteen years, I‟ve seen more balanced cultural history being written and less of the pure subjectivity I saw in my high school and undergraduate days (the 1970s and 1980s).
Evaluating Rubens' Susanna and the Elders I had to look up the reference of the painting. The story of Susanna is an apocryphal book of scripture. (The text on the Internet Sacred Text Archive is at http://www.sacredtexts.com/bib/apo/sus001.htm) During the Babylonian Captivity (of the Jews, not the Papacy—though the connection is probably intentional), Susanna was a good wife to an honorable, rich man. Her and her husband had a garden. Her husband associated with the Judges appointed over the Jews. Susanna hung out in the garden around lunch, every day. Two of the judges got “the hots” for Susanna. One day, they both went to spy on her as she was in the garden. They approached her and proposed a threesome, threatening to accuse her of adultery if she did not agree. She did not give in. They accused her and brought her to trial. The judges were believed and Susanna was condemned to death. But a man, Daniel, insisted on examining the judges separately. The judges had not worked out the fine details of their false story and they contradicted each other. Saving Susanna and convicting the judges of false witness. But in the end, it was Daniel who was exalted for his discernment and not Susanna for her virtue… there's a gender study in there, somewhere For the painting… it seems to be the moment the bad guys put the make on Susanna. The bride could be the Church, the bride of Christ. One of the men is wearing scarlet, white and gold… like a Pope. The other is wearing black, with no decoration… like a Dominican of the Inquisition who, to the Protestant mind, engaged in similar tactics to those attributed to the Judges who accosted Susanna. It is also convenient that the hands of both men are placed so that, were they wearing a pectoral cross, it would be hidden. Sneaky old Rubens.
3 Terrell DG - Short Notes on the Reformation III I am looking at the trees in the left background and have seen these trees in other paintings by French and low-country painters. Would this localize the painting in the viewer‟s mind? Is the indirect reference to Daniel pointing to Luther?
Evaluating Lotto's "The Triumph of Chastity". What do I see? Cupid (Eros) and Venus (Aphrodite) in their naked glory. On her shoulder… a box containing a hair comb and some other items. It might be Vanities in both the spiritual and “cosmological” senses. There are pearls in her hair, which fits. Her sacred animal was the dove. Her necklace… I cannot recognize it. They are being chased by ... Chastity... I suppose. But how to know? I see Chastity has taken Cupid‟s little recurve bow, broken it and is now beating the stuffings out of the little urchin. So much for erotic love. The animal at the assaulting woman‟s throat is odd. It looks like a weasel but is white. I fetched my Bestiary and I find that weasels represent "perfect discipline" ... “rats and mice which spoil everything” are emblematic of vices that “corrupt the soul.” So the weasel, which hunts and kills rats bigger than itself is an emblem of destroying vices. Ah, northern weasels in winter assume a white coat. They are called ermines (Charbonneau-Lassay 1991, 148-150). "Popular imagination in the past pictured the ermine as an amphibious animal which only visited clear streams, meadows, or mossy flowering woodlands, and which hated dirt to the point that it would let itself be killed rather than tread on muddy ground and soil its immaculate coat.” (Charbonneau-Lassay, 150-151) The stone around the neck… ruby or garnet? Garnet is closest of the red stones. “Meaning and Symbolism of the Garnet: Purity, truth, faithfulness and friendship Awareness, commitment and regeneration” (catholic-saints.info 2008). I wonder why not pearls… “Meaning and Symbolism of the Pearl: Loyalty, faithfulness and friendship. Modesty, chastity and purity” (CharbonneauLassay 1991) I wonder if the knotted cord has any meaning. Being an old Eagle Scout and Sailor, I see that the knot in front is a doubled loop knot on a long bight. So, there is another knot at the back of her neck. (http://www.outdoorcanada.ca/fish/loop_knot.shtml) I do not know of a symbolic meaning.
4 Terrell DG - Short Notes on the Reformation III But in freemasonry, the “cable tow” is a similar loop of cord placed around the neck of a candidate, at the beginning of his initiation, to be an “outward and visible symbol of a vow in which a man has pledged his life, or has pledged himself to save another life at the risk of his own. Its length and strength are measured by the ability of the man to fulfill his obligation and his sense of the moral sanctity of his obligation - a test, that is, both of his capacity and of his character.” (Dafoe 2007) Here the vow represented by the cord might be tied to the meaning of the stone suspended from it. The green dress… Why not white? “Green symbolizes freedom from bondage.” (catholicsaints.info 2008) The sputtering torch behind Cupid… it might represent the flame of lust going out? The horizon is changing from light behind Chastity to dark behind Venus. This might represent the dawning of enlightenment.
Memorization Reading in Burckhardt this morning before an evening shift... The story of Niccolo Niccoli‟s relationship with Piero de‟ Pazzi is telling. Once the indolent young man, Piero, was convinced to mend his ways and take up humanist studies, one of the tasks he completed was to learn “by heart the whole Aeneid and many speeches of Livy…” (Burckhardt 1878, 97-98). In the paragraph before Burckhardt began speaking of Niccolo, he wrote of Aeneas Sylvius, whom I did not know. A web search led me to learn that he was also Pope Pius II (r. 1458-1464) and wrote a treatise on liberal education, De Liberorum Education, in which he said: Nature and circumstances thus provide us with the general material of speech, its topics, and the broader conditions of their treatment. When, however, speech is considered as an art, we find that it is the function of Grammar to order its expression; of Dialectic to give it point; of Rhetoric to illustrate it; of Philosophy to perfect it. But before entering upon this in detail we must first insist upon the overwhelming importance of Memory, which is in truth the first condition of capacity for letters. A boy should learn without effort, retain with accuracy, and reproduce easily. Rightly is memory called „the nursing mother of learning.‟ It needs cultivation, however, whether a boy be gifted with retentiveness or
5 Terrell DG - Short Notes on the Reformation III not. Therefore, let some passage from poet or moralist be committed to memory every day. (Sylvius 1900) Thus I assert the value of cultivating one‟s memory, especially in the historian.
Memorization or Just Plain Studying--A Criticism of Gouwens I sense a contradiction in Gouwens I wish to describe. At one point, he scathingly criticizes the use of rote memorization and drills in education. He asserts that the practice repressed creativity and had no positive effect in “preparing citizens for the moral responsibilities of public service” (Gouwens 1998, 60). Yet, several pages later, he discusses the positive effect that reading the classics had upon their readers. He rightfully acknowledges that “we all express ourselves through the language that is embedded in one or another discursive field” and asserts that reading the ancient tests “must surely have had lasting effects on them” which “increased the conceptual vocabulary of the humanists” and “increased their range of expression” (Gouwens, 63-64). I submit he is wrong in his opinion of memorization and wrong about the amount of intensive study the humanists applied to their labors. My contrary assertion is based upon personal experience. Let me explain. I am a Freemason. I am part of a fraternity that has passed the essence of its initiatory ritual and practice through the generations by means of strictly observed oral transmission--“from the instructive tongue to the attentive ear, and safely housed in the vaults of faithful breasts.” I took upon myself the additional responsibility of earning a “Certificate of Proficiency in the Ritual” from my Grand Lodge. This required me to memorize, through oral transmission, the script and stage directions of three three-act plays and the verbatim delivery of four one-hour-long lectures. Once proficient, I had to prove my proficiency through a ten-hour verbal exemplification of all I had learned--without making more than twenty single-word errors. Preparing for the examination required about 1200 hours over 18 months. I have periodically repeated the examination to maintain the Certificate‟s currency. After another nineteen years of certification, I will, by the grace of God, receive a “Lifetime Certificate of Proficiency” and be exempt from further examination. The speech patterns I learned have changed the way I speak and have given me a mental model I can use to examine many aspects of the world.
6 Terrell DG - Short Notes on the Reformation III I disclose this to lend some authority to my asserting that memorization had a salutatory effect upon my conceptual vocabulary similar to that Gouwens attributes to the study Humanists gave their ancient texts. Gouwens expresses agreement with Michael Baxandall‟s assertion that “the reading and imitation of ancient texts equipped humanists with a more nuanced vocabulary for analyzing paintings and, more generally, for structuring their experience (Gouwens, 64). I submit that the practice of rote memorization and drills pertaining to ancient texts is probably how Petrarch, Machiavelli and others gained the mental capacity to visualize the structures through which they interpreted the world; and, to master the vocabulary that allowed them to communicate their nuanced views in language filled with allusions and turns of phrase synthesized from the memorized texts. I would not be surprised to find Petrarch quite proficient in quoting long passages of Cicero‟s letters to Atticus--verbatim. In Gouwens notes, he amplifies his views about Petrarch‟s description of walk a through Rome, in which the physical ruins were juxtaposed with his internalized literary representations. Gouwens is intrigued at the resemblance between Petrarch‟s “cognitive mapping” and the “way that classical orators committed speeches to memory” (Gouwens, 68). I believe the process was the same and that Petrarch and his colleagues used memorization as the mechanism with which they internalized the writings of the ancients-and which provided the raw mental material that informed their efforts at rhetoric and the reconstruction of ancient culture. (Gouwens, 71) My two sesterces, (or, should I say florins now?)
The witchcraft conspiracy The character of the “evil principle” in Lucifer or Satan was a characteristic Christianity inherited from its Hebrew forebears. The expulsion of mankind‟s primordial forbearers from the Garden of Eden, facilitated by Lucifer, is not to be found in the words of Christ as they appear in the Gospels. It is through the writing of St. Paul in his letters to the Romans (Rom. 5:13-21) and Corinthians (I Cor. 15:21-22) that the story seems to enter the Christian mythos, where it gives rise to the doctrine of original sin. The episode remains proof to many that Lucifer can appear bodily to humanity, even conversing with them (Lea 1890, 2004, 7, 9). This legend was complemented by information describing the “Fall of the Angels”, which is hinted about in Genesis (6:1-4), Isaiah (24:21-22) and The Revelation of John (12:7-9). The story, that a portion the “Sons of God” (angels) gradually became rebellious and, under the
7 Terrell DG - Short Notes on the Reformation III leadership of Lucifer, were expelled from heaven into the Earth; is also expounded upon in the apocryphal Book of Enoch (Barnstone 1894, 3-9). These two stories provided the basis for believing that evil supernatural beings co-inhabited the Earth with mankind; a view supported by Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Pope Leo I, and Gregory the Great. These views influenced medieval theologians, who further propagated this worldview until it became pervasive in Christendom (Lea, 42-77). In this world, spiritual beings, both good and bad, inhabited daily life and affected the doings of mankind as each person was alternately tempted towards good (by guardian angels) and evil (by demonic dark angels). Attempting to discern the will of God was a common Christian practice also derived from Hebrew practice. The related practice of wizardry, that of compelling God, or one of the lesser supernatural beings, to act in one‟s behalf are prominent in the Old Testament. Christianity inherited these superstitions. Lea attributes especial importance to Isidor of Seville in transmitting credence in the evil powers of wizards and magicians (Lea, 105-108, 112-113). This mindset provided theologians with a convenient mechanism upon which to explain evil in the world that had no other obvious explanation. In a real sense, any occurrence that could not be reasonably expected from God, either working a miracle or through natural causes He had set in motion, must be attributed to superstitious causes—either implicitly or explicitly attributable to connivance with Lucifer and his demons (Lea, 130-134). It was this dichotomy of worldview and the acceptance of the idea that supernatural beings interacted with humanity that set the stage for intolerance. Priests and saints readily used incantations and symbolic devices to communicate with beings allied with God, for the purpose of achieving desirable ends—often offering acts of obedience and sacrifice deemed desirable to the beings in trade for consideration. Others were assumed to conduct similar negotiations with beings not allied with God, pagan or demonic, for the purposes of power or gain. Finally, as a servant, one was expected to support the interests of one‟s master, or be deemed an unworthy servant and punished. This concept extended to those claiming Christ as their king and came into play when people were faced with persons serving another king; one hostile to Christ‟s interests. So, I assert it was a combination of the acceptance of the reality of human-demonic interaction and the concept of that fealty due to Christ as King that drove the overall assault on nonChristian (not necessarily Luciferian) spirituality and mysticism.
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Confessional Identities and Witchcraft Something Kern said keeps coming back to haunt me: More recently, however, scholars have tended to downplay the central importance of confessional distinctions when analyzing cultural and social change in early modern Europe. They opt instead for a research plan that emphasizes what reform movements had in common, without entirely abandoning respect for doctrinal differences. (Kern 1994, 324) Once I had digested this thought, I realized this spoke to the current tendency against drawing distinctions among religion-based groups of persons; decrying all such “discrimination” as bias. When an audience can no longer easily distinguish critique from criticism, or analysis from censure, scholars spend their first three, carefully-caveated, well-footnoted, pages preparing readers to accept peaceably the notion that religious distinctions can exist—and “function politically in specific situations”. (Kern, 325)
Civil wars in France France was the focus of European religious conflict in the sixteenth century. There were two major religio-philosophical forces: Catholic and Protestant/Reformed Christianity, and the hint of a nascent Secular Humanist movement. The two religious ideologies were supported by a range of supporters, including fanatics willing to use violence in support of their position. The politics were complicated by: the notionally Catholic king‟s open secret of illicit homosexual behavior which tended to weaken the “mandate of heaven” as seen by his supporters and strengthened the cause of his detractors; and, the foreign influences exerted by the Catholic Curia, French Reformed exiles in Geneva, and the Spanish Habsburg Imperium. Also, the weakened Valois king was surrounded by other noble families (the Catholic Guise and Bourbon and the Reformed/Protestant Navarre and Montmorency) intent on using religion as a wedge to weaken the king in favor of their own chances at gaining the succession to the throne of France (MacCulloch 2004, 464 ff). No wonder the humanists eventually turned towards a Republic… but for Jean-Jacques Rousseau... but that is later.
9 Terrell DG - Short Notes on the Reformation III European Domination I was asked why the Europeans achieved global dominance in the 16th century. Why? My flippant first response was, “Because they could.” As I sit here, pondering all that I have read and written over the past four months, I realize they had several things going for them: Greed, including the willingness to invest capital and risk long voyages to trade and colonize. Desire, expressed in a willingness to obey the “Great Commission” of Jesus to convert the entire world, hopefully while satisfying their greed. Confidence, arising from their faith in a victorious God; and the knowledge of an extraordinary past in the character of the Roman Empire. Knowledge, deriving from the sciences and scientific method; the experimental developments of ship construction and handling; and, weapons development. Cognitive Flexibility, arising from exposure to philosophy, theology and metaphysics. Europeans seemed well equipped to comprehend the unknown cultures and situations they faced in their travels.
Witchcraft obsession and Kern I am reviewing the notes I made on this week‟s readings, taking another opportunity to think about them. Looking at Kern, I am made to realize how much accusations of sorcery and magic were used as ideological weapons; possible due to the universal loathing of the diabolical that bridged the confessional divide between Catholic and Protestant. Such accusations were useful to both sides, in their ideological war; much as ideologues today are prone to use modern versions of universally-rejected evils (racism, ageism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, fascism, etc) as weapons intended to place enemies on the defensive (Kern 1994, 337-338). Such labeling freezes discussions in the public sphere as any rebuttals are prone to be seen as tacit acknowledgement or weak untruths. The allegations also serve to personalize the ideological conflict for those of like mind; in a sense it gives them a focus—a “they” from whom “we” can be ascertained. Finally, the assertions polarize discussions in a way that tends to prevent tolerant behaviors, for to express sympathy with the opposition opens the tolerant up to being identified with them (Alinsky 1971, 130-131).
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The Witchcraft obsession I thought about European obsession with the malevolent influence of witches in terms of a similar (to me) modern manifestation: anti-Semitism and wondered if there were equivalences. The key concept that occurs to me is stereotyping. Through demonization (literally) and dehumanization, people of the time could distance themselves from the supposed practitioners of witchcraft enough to kill them without remorse. As with anti-Semitism, oppositional and inflammatory literature often preceded violent acts against “witches”. This denigration and demonization in the press and in the churches—the effective heaping of causality for the evils of the world upon witches—created the obsession which led to efforts at elimination (Falk 2006). Demonization and dehumanization leading to obsession… sort of the way American Liberals and Conservatives are treating each other these days. It is as if groups of people need to have an identity, even if it means defining my group‟s boundary only in terms of being “not you”. David G Terrell Herndon, Virginia
Alinsky, Saul D. Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals. New York: Vintage Books, 1971. Barnstone, Willis (ed). The Other Bible. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1894. Bentley, Michael. Modern Historiography: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 1999. Bouwsma, William J. "The Renaissance and the Drama of Western History." The American Historical Review (American Historical Association) 84, no. 1 (February 1979): 1-15. Breisach, Ernst. Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983. Burckhardt, Jacob. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. 1rbnh11.pdf. Translated by S.G.C. Middlemore. Vol. eBook #2074. Project Gutenberg, 1878. catholic-saints.info. "Symbolism of Colors." Catholic Saints. 2008. http://www.catholicsaints.info/catholic-symbols/symbolism-of-colors.htm (accessed July 6, 2010). —. "Symbolism of Precious Stones." Catholic Saints. 2008. http://www.catholic-saints.info/catholicsymbols/symbolism-precious-stones.htm (accessed July 6, 2010).
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Charbonneau-Lassay, Louis. The Bestiary of Christ. Translated by D.M. Dooling. New York: Arkana Penguin Books, 1991. Dafoe, Stephen A. "The Cable Tow." MasonicDictionary.com. 2007. http://www.masonicdictionary.com/cabletow.html (accessed July 6, 2010). Falk, Avner. "Collective Psychological Processes in Anti-Semitism." Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Spring 2006. http://www.jcpa.org/phas/phas-falk-s06.htm (accessed August 9, 2010). Gouwens, Kenneth. "Perceiving the Past: Renaissance Humanism after the "Cognitive Turn"." The American Historical Review, (American Historical Association) 103, no. 1 (February 1998): 55-82. Green, Anna, and Kathleen Troup. The Houses of History: A critical reader in twentieth-century history and theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999. Kern, Edmund. "Confessional Identity and Magic in the Late Sixteenth Century: Jakob Bithner and Witchcraft in Styria." The Sixteenth Century Journal XXV, no. 2 (Summer 1994): 323-340. Lea, Henry C. Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft . Kessinger Reprint. Vol. 1. 3 vols. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 1890, 2004. MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation. New York: Penguin Books, 2004. Sylvius, Aeneas. "Elfinspell: Aeneas Sylvius, extract from De Liberorum Educatione from Woodward: treatise on Education, translated by Merrick Whitcomb, from A Literary Source-book of the Italian Renaissance (1900)." Elfinspell: An Open Source Publisher and Patron of the Arts, Literature and Invention. 1900. http://www.elfinspell.com/WhitcombSylvius.html (accessed May 11, 2010).
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