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Periodization QAD

4 September, 2005

Periodization — the Quick and Dirty Version

What exactly is Early Modern? Early Modern is the chronological period between the Middle Ages (Late) and the actual Modern. Chronologically, Early Modern starts somewhere in the really late 14th c. in Italy, but more like the early 16th c. everywhere else. It ends somewhere in the late 17th c or maybe even the early 18th c. This may seem a bit confusing. That’s because Early Modern is defined as much by what it isn’t as by what it includes. It isn’t part of the Middle Ages or the Modern World (which starts somewhere around the Age of Revolution, except for when it starts around the Enlightenment). It includes such non-chronological periods, or better, movements, as ‘the’ Renaissance, the Reformation, the Catholic- or Counter-reformation, the Voyages of Exploration/Discovery and Empire, and the Price Revolution. It is the time of the Tudors and Stuarts, the Valois and Bourbons, and the Habsburgs. It is the time of Leonardo and Shakespeare, of Luther and Loyola, of di Lasso and Bach. Some people might say that the Early Modern is a period where people tried to escape their dark Medieval Past by looking toward a bright future, suddenly aware of the marvels of human potential. Those people would be idiots.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. 4 September, 2005 11:50 pm

    ADM – I don’t think I’ve commented here before, but I’ve been lurking for awhile. Hello!I read this post and the punch-drunk version below and liked them both very much (I’m a medievalist, btw, in literature), but I especially liked this one for the last two sentences. LOL! Nothing gets me crankier than the whole “medieval bad / renaissance good” narrative.From the literary side of things, one way to complicate and confuse students — and, more to the point, demonstrate the arbitrariness of much of periodization — is to point out that Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are all considered renaissance writers, but Chaucer, who lived *after* them, and who read them and was influenced by them, was a medieval writer. Go figure.

  2. 5 September, 2005 2:32 am

    Thanks! I’ve always thought of Dante as Medieval, but I bow to the greater knowledge of a Lit person!

  3. 5 September, 2005 3:36 am

    I dunno — I’m a medieval lit critter, and I consider Dante medieval.Your last two sentences, btw, have vast entertainment potential if you remind yourself that this was precisely what Francesco “Let’s call ’em the Dark Ages” Petrarch claimed to be doing.Not that you’re wrong. I just like calling Petrarch an idiot.

  4. 5 September, 2005 3:45 am

    That’s pretty much what I was thinking when I wrote it. No “standing on the shoulders of giants” for Sr. Petrarcho. I know Laura died in 1348 — was it plague?

  5. 5 September, 2005 2:34 pm

    D’oh! Y’all are right. Dante is considered medieval, even by Italians, who generally like to push “their” renaissance back as far as possible. I don’t why I put him on that list. Maybe when I type fast I just can’t help typing those three Italian names together. Or maybe I was just tired. ­čÖé Mea culpa!

  6. 5 September, 2005 3:09 pm

    Btw, I am very, very embarrassed by my elementary mistake. Please don’t take my medievalist club membership away! ­čÖé

  7. 5 September, 2005 3:44 pm

    early modern is a discursive construct…in service of white western hegemony. ­čÖé

  8. 6 September, 2005 3:55 am

    You forgot the patriarchy!

  9. 6 September, 2005 5:04 pm

    I just happened to stuble across the blog doing some research, and I have to say–it’s fantastic. I weep to think so many people get a skewed view of history because so many intellectuals like to ignore this important period. Thanks for doing your part to enlighten the multitudes.

  10. 6 September, 2005 5:27 pm

    oh yah! The patriarchy! Down with it!

  11. 6 September, 2005 6:41 pm

    Does anybody else think that’s it’s kinda ironic that the whole periodization of history notion is essential a construct of apocalyptic literature? It makes the whole presence of such a concept in an academic environment so loaded for deconstruction…

  12. 6 September, 2005 9:41 pm

    Um, didn’t the Greeks have a rather mythical periodization schema (age of gold, silver, iron) long before Judeo-Christian apocalypticism?

  13. 7 September, 2005 12:58 am

    Of course, we also now have Age of Empires. That always makes me giggle when I see it in WH texts. Especially as they always through in the South American Empires (native). And of course, the schema leaves out the whole British Empire thing. I always liked favorite Classics professor at Beachy U. He said that heroes were people who lived in one of those mythic ages (can’t remember which one). So living in the age made one a hero by definition.I also like how Susannah Clarke used aureate and argentine for the ages of English magic. I associated it at the time with Roman Literature, but perhaps it’s more the Greek version? Does anyone know?

  14. 7 September, 2005 4:17 am

    Well, Hesiod in WD talks about *races* and they do follow one another chronologically but I don’t recall a specific notion of *ages* as in periods of history before Ovid’s Metamorphoses. If you want to get really precise I would imagine that the notion of ages per se is probably a category of Hellenistic historiography which is, of course, where Dan 7 fits as apocalyptic historiography. That having been said, I would imagine that the Renaissance folk who started thinking about the notion were more grounded in Dan and 4 Esdras before they learned their Ovid and Hesiod, thus apocalyptic notions probably served as the primary lenses for the interpretations of these texts. It’s not just where the idea originated–it’s also about lines of transmission. And the magic things are probably references to Ovid, but I’m not certain.

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