Renaissance heroes

Gill Othen gill at
Tue Aug 5 08:08:52 EDT 2003

>Oh, they have angst in spades, but they also take for granted a variant on
>theocracy, a monarchical system, an aristocratic structure of society, the
>concept that the ultimate destination of a successful merchant will be the
>aristocracy....... A lot of the psychological problems they have are also
>linked to concepts such as divination, magic, alchemy, which are hardly
>of our world. The Dame de Doubtance could hardly have such an influence on
>real modern hero as she has on Francis.

I totally disagree, because I think these latter things are 20th century
preoccupations. I guess we must have different world views.

>But such things did happen. Look at Federico de Montefeltro, who lost an
>and half his face, yet was one of the most powerful condottiere of Italy
>*after* that - and ran the court at Urbino that was the model of a
>Renaissance court.

>>Losing an eye is not as perilous as a belly wound. Look, I'm not a medical
person, but I had a long discussion with a doctor and a vet who read the
books, and they convinced me that these parts of the book were highly
unrealistic. Prior to that conversation, I would have shared your opinion.<<

Interesting. I' have thought the sort of damage Montefeltro took would have
been just as dangerous. I understand about abdominal wounds, but people
*did* recover from them, even then.

[ME:You don't feel individualism was a feature of the Renaissance?]

YOU:No, I think it was emergent at that time, but that medieval and
cultures had a lot more in common with modern asian cultures, which have a
much more collective or community-based mindset.

Hm. Mediaeval, yes, but renaissance I'm not so convinced about. I come at it
mainly from a literary perspective, and there are a lot of very distinctive
individuals from Chaucer onwards. The Wyf of Bath, for example - she has
little allegiance to family mores!

>[MESurely the history of that period is littered with individuals who
forged powerful >businesses and families? I don't think Bess of Hardwick
lacked  individualism, to take a random example!]

YOU:I would argue that since European history is, for the most part, written
by people from highly individualistic cultural backgrounds, these types of
individuals are exactly what historians look for and write about, because
they appeal. Sure, you can pick out some rugged individuals as examples,
but, particularly in the case of women, even their most enthusiastic fans
have to admit that they tend to be atypical examples.

ME: Modern European history may be written from that perspective, but the
literature of the period (say from about 1400 onwards) emphasises that same
individualism. You can even see it in Chaucer's career, in the movement from
the very mediaeval, stained-glass-window treatment of "The Boke of the
Duchesse" or "The Parliament of Fowles" to the handling of teh psychological
complexities of "Troilus and Criseyde". Yes teh latter has a lot of
mediaeval cultural norms in it, but the portriats of the lovers and Pandarus
in particular are very distinctively individual. By teh time you get to the
diary of Benvenuto Cellini, a century later, you are very much in the
"highly individualistic culture" you refer to. And Cellini could have met
one of DD's heroes.

ObDWJ: this is pretty much teh period DWJ is playing with in "Magicians of
Caprona", of course, though it seems that her Renaissance Italy is
contemporary with the semi-Edwardian world of Cat and Chrestomanci. Or is it
Victorian? "Stealer of Souls" has more of a mid-nineteenth-century feel to
it, but the accident that kills Cat's parents is very Edwardian in feel.

(Finally almost not OT!)


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