Renaissance Theory

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Renaissance Theory presents an animated conversation among art historians about the optimal ways of conceptualizing Renaissance art, and the links between Renaissance art and contemporary art and theory. This is the first discussion of its kind, involving not only questions within Renaissance scholarship, but issues of concern to art historians and critics in all fields. Organized as a virtual roundtable discussion, the contributors discuss rifts and disagreements about how to understand the Renaissance and debate the principal texts and authors of the last thirty years who have sought to reconceptualize the period. They then turn to the issue of the relation between modern art and the Renaissance: Why do modern art historians and critics so seldom refer to the Renaissance? Is the Renaissance our indispensable heritage, or are we cut off from it by the revolution of modernism?

The volume includes an introduction by Rebecca Zorach and two final, synoptic essays, as well as contributions from some of the most prominent thinkers on Renaissance art including Stephen Campbell, Michael Cole, Frederika Jakobs, Claire Farago, and Matt Kavaler.

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Published on
Apr 1, 2008
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Art / Criticism & Theory
Art / History / General
Art / History / Renaissance
Social Science / Media Studies
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Content Protection
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Eligible for Family Library

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On a windy night in the month of May, the full moon was flashing from cloud to cloud, each so small that it began to melt instantaneously beneath her hurried breath; and, in the fulness of the troubled light that she was shedding, the bright tongues of the sea were creeping up closer and closer through the creeks of the surrounding land, till they quivered like quicksilver under the walls of Mossleigh Abbey, standing dark and lonely amongst the Fens.

It was a night when, even in that solitude, everything seemed mysteriously and troublously alive. The wind cried as with a living voice, and the croaks of herons answered from the sands, The light of the moon went and came as to a rhythmic respiration; and when it hashed, the bats were seen hitting with thin z-like cry high up over the waterside, and when it was dimmed the owl moaned from the ivied walls. At intervals, from the distant lagoons, came the faint ‘quack, quack’ of flocks of ducks at feed. The night was still, but enchanted; subdued, yet quivering with sinister life. Over and above all was the heavy breath of the ocean, crawling nearer and nearer, eager yet fearful, with deep tremors, to the electric wand of that heavenly light.

Presently, from inland, came another sound—the quick tramp of a horse’s feet coming along the narrow road which wound up to, and past, the abbey ruins. As it grew louder, it seemed that every other sound was hushed, and everything listened to its coming; till at last, out of the moonbeams and the shadows, flashed a tall white horse, ridden by a shape in black.

Arrived opposite the ruins, the horse paused, and its rider, a woman, looked eagerly up and down the road, whereupon, as if at a signal, all the faint sounds of the night became audible again. The woman sat still, listening; and her face looked like marble. After pausing thus motionless for some minutes, she turned from the road, and walked her horse through the broken wall, across a stone-strewn field, and in through the gloomy arch of the silent abbey, till she reached the roofless space within, where the grass grew rank and deep, mingled with monstrous weeds, and running green and slimy over long neglected graves.

How dark and solemn it seemed between those crumbling walls, which only the dark ivy seemed to hold together with its clutching sinewy fingers! yet, through each of the broken windows, and through every archway, the moonlight beamed, making streaks of luminous whiteness on the grassy floor. The horse moved slowly, at his own will, picking his way carefully among fragments of fallen masonry, and stopping short at times to inspect curiously some object in his path. All was bright and luminous overhead; all dim and ominous there below. At last, reaching the centre of the place, the horse paused, and its rider again became motionless, looking upward.

"There was a time, and no mistake, When thet same ranche down in the brake Was pleasanter a heap to me Than any sight on land or sea.

The hosses knew it like their master, Smelt it miles orf, and spank'd the faster!

Ay, bent to reach thet very spot, Flew till they halted steaming hot Sharp opposite the door, among The chicks and children old and young; And down I'd jump, and all the go Was 'Fortune, boss!' and 'Welcome, Joe!'

And Cissy with her shining face, Tho' she was missus of the place, Stood larfing, hands upon her hips; And when upon her rosy lips I put my mouth and gave her one, She'd cuff me, and enjy the fun!

She was a widow young and tight, Her chap had died in a free fight, And here she lived, and round her had Two chicks, three brothers, and her dad, All making money fast as hay, And doing better every day.

Waal! guess tho' I was peart and swift, Spooning was never much my gift; But Cissy was a gal so sweet, So fresh, so spicy, and so neat, It put your wits all out o' place, Only to star' into her face.

Skin whiter than a new-laid egg, Lips full of juice, and sech a leg!

A smell about her, morn and e'en, Like fresh-bleach'd linen on a green; And from her hand when she took mine, The warmth ran up like sherry wine; And if in liquor I made free To pull her larfing on my knee, Why, there she'd sit, and feel so nice, Her heer all scent, her breath all spice!

See! women hate, both young and old, A chap that's over shy and cold, And fire of all sorts kitches quick, And Cissy seem'd to feel full slick The same fond feelings, and at last Grew kinder every time I passed; And all her face, from eyes to chin, Said *'Bravo, Joe! You're safe to win!'

And tho' we didn't fix, d'ye see, In downright words that it should be, Ciss and her fam'ly understood That she and me would jine for good.

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