sábado, 11 de julio de 2015

Prejudice against the medieval runs deep.

Eric Christiansen defends the Middle Ages in The New York Review of Books 

by Eric Christiansen
The Middle Ages
by Johannes Fried, translated from the German by Peter Lewis
Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 580 pp., $35.00
1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt
by Juliet Barker
Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 506 pp., $29.95
Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography
by Sara Lipton
Metropolitan, 390 pp., $37.00

“Prejudice against the medieval runs deep. It is an adjective applied to atrocity, as in Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent comment on the men who murdered 126 people at a school in Peshawar and served ‘a dark and almost medieval vision.’ It is also applied to all severe punishment, out-of-date technology (this ‘medieval’ typewriter), and all illiberal attitudes. For many, the Middle Ages are ineradicably reprehensible, as well as comic: knights immobilized in their armor, fat monks panting after licentious nuns, ladies locked into chastity belts. The stand-bys of eighteenth-century derision have stood the test of time. Remember those angels dancing on a pinpoint? They still dance for those who believe that the medieval schools were engaged in a wasted intellectual effort.

“Unfair! the medievalists have shouted, from the days when Edward Gibbon cried ‘Gone Away!’ and set the enlightened hounds on the scent of decay and moldy monks that in his nostrils accompanied the fall of the Roman Empire. Unfair because it has been found again and again that our skills, laws, liberties, nations, and languages are the result of hard work in the millennium reputed dark, unlit by reason, and recessive from the sunshine of the classical civilizations, when perfectly formed philosophers sat debating in public colonnades, monk-free.

“Our gratitude to that Greco-Roman civilization is seldom stinted, but those who came afterward have left castles, cathedrals, Italian and Flemish and Byzantine art, printing, plainsong, and parliaments, not to mention universities. Yet the black propaganda of Voltaire, Hume, Kant, and Mark Twain remains suspended in the air like soot in the old factory towns, while intellectuals crow over the birth of ‘modernity’ like fancied fighting cocks...”


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