I have been interested in the 12th century since my 20s when it was very fashionable to say of anybody with whom you disagreed, which was basically anybody over the age of 30, "One of the great minds of the 12th century", and one day I thought, "I don't know anything about the 12 century." So I started buying books, reading about it, and I discovered it was a period of great flowering, it was a Renaissance before what we think is the Renaissance, the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century.
Shakespeare is, essentially, the emanation of the Renaissance. The overflow of his fame on the Continent in later years was but the sequel of the flood of the Renaissance in Western Europe. He was the child of that great movement, and marks its height as it penetrated the North with civilization.
George Edward Woodberry
The Dark Ages gradually ended six centuries ago with the Renaissance, which seeded new ideas for a different world. The Renaissance ideal dominated our culture until three centuries ago, from the 14th to the 18th century, when it was superseded by modernism. Not surprisingly, this human ideal has almost been forgotten in our culture. The Renaissance, literally "re-birth", was a revival and rediscovery of classical Greek and Roman culture following the decline of culture, trade, and technology during the Dark Ages.
Jacob Lund Fisker
I admire most of all The Renaissance Man, and if it can be said without pretentiousness, I like to think of myself as one, at least in some small measure. Not a Michelangelo, mark you, but perhaps a poor man's Cellini or a road company Cosimo de' Medici ... the Renaissance Man did a number of things, many of them well, a few beautifully. He was no damned specialist.
Jean Toomer is a phantom of the Harlem Renaissance. Pick up any general study of the literature written by Afro-Americans, and there is the name of Jean Toomer. In biographies and memoirs of Harlem Renaissance figures, his name is invoked as if he had been one of the sights along Lenox Avenue.
The Renaissance did not break completely with mediaeval history and values. Sir Philip Sidney is often considered the model of the perfect Renaissance gentleman. He embodied the mediaeval virtues of the knight (the noble warrior), the lover (the man of passion), and the scholar (the man of learning). His death in 1586, after the Battle of Zutphen, sacrificing the last of his water supply to a wounded soldier, made him a hero. His great sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella is one of the key texts of the time, distilling the author's virtues and beliefs into the first of the Renaissance love masterpieces. His other great work, Arcadia, is a prose romance interspersed with many poems and songs.
The Renaissance had resulted in the emancipation of the individual, in making him feel that the universe had no other purpose than his happiness. This brought an entirely new answer to the question, 'Why should I do this or that?' It used to be, 'Because self-instituted authority command you.' The answer now was, 'Because it is good for men.' In this lies our greatest debt to the Renaissance, that it instituted the welfare of men as the end of all action.
This is why it might be more useful to understand the proliferation of interactive media as an opportunity for renaissance: a moment when we have the ability to step out of the story altogether. Renaissances are historical instances of widespread recontextualisation. People in a variety of different arts, philosophies and sciences have the ability to reframe their reality. Renaissance literally means 'rebirth'. It is the rebirth of old ideas in a new context.
But I had no patience with this convent chatter. I had felt the brush take life in my hand that afternoon; I had had my finger in the great, succulent pie of creation. I was a man of the Renaissance that evening- of Browning's renaissance. I, who had walked the streets of Rome in Genoa velvet and had seen the stars through Galileo's tube, spurned the friars, with their dusty tomes, and their sunken, jealous eyes and their crabbed hair-splitting speech.
In western civilization, the period ruled by mysticism is known as the 'Dark Ages' and the 'Middle Ages'. I will assume that you know the nature of that period and the state of human existence in those ages. The Renaissance broke the rules of the mystics. "Renaissance" means the "rebirth". Few people today will care to remind you that it was a rebirth of reason - of man's mind.
There is a remarkable degree of consistency in the way mediaeval literature affirms humanity. With all its faults, humanity emerges as more realistic than heavenly ideals... Because the mediaeval period is seen from our own times as historically distant, 'behind' the Renaissance with all the changes which that period brought, it has been undervalued for its own debates, developments and changes. The fact that mediaeval times have been revisited, re-imagined and rewritten, especially in the Romantic period, has tended to compound the ideas of difference and distance between this age and what came after. But in many ways the mediaeval period presages the issues and concerns of the Renaissance period and prepares the way for what was to come.
Literature before the Renaissance had frequently offered ideal patterns for living which were dominated by the ethos of the church, but after the Reformation the search for individual expression and meaning took over. Institutions were questioned and re-evaluated, often while being praised at the same time. But where there had been conventional modes of expression, reflecting ideal modes of behaviour - religious, heroic, or social - Renaissance writing explored the geography of the human soul, redefining its relationship with authority, history, science, and the future. This involved experimentation with form and genre, and an enormous variety of linguistic and literary innovations in a short period of time. Reason, rather than religion, was the driving force in this search for rules to govern human behaviour in the Renaissance world. The power and mystique of religion had been overthrown in one bold stroke: where the marvellous no longer holds sway, real life has to provide explanations. Man, and the use he makes of his powers, capabilities, and free will, is thus the subject matter of Renaissance literature, from the early sonnets modelled on Petrarch to the English epic which closes the period, Paradise Lost, published after the Restoration, when the Renaissance had long finished. The Reformation gave cultural, philosophical, and ideological impetus to English Renaissance writing. The writers in the century following the Reformation had to explore and redefine all the concerns of humanity. In a world where old assumptions were no longer valid, where scientific discoveries questioned age-old hypotheses, and where man rather than God was the central interest, it was the writers who reflected and attempted to respond to the disintegration of former certainties. For it is when the universe is out of control that it is at its most frightening - and its most stimulating. There would never again be such an atmosphere of creative tension in the country. What was created was a language, a literature, and a national and international identity.
We have been taught, both inside the classroom and outside of it, that there exists an entity called the West, and that one can think of this West as a society and civilization independent of and in opposition to other societies and civilizations. Many of us even grew up believing that this West has a genealogy, according to which ancient Greece begat Rome, Rome begat Christian Europe, Christian Europe begat the Renaissance, the Renaissance the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment political democracy and the industrial revolution. Industry, crossed with democracy, in turn yielded the United States, embodying the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Eric R. Wolf
Via the mediation of the Enlightenment, this movement had changed from a hobby among a tiny literate elite and their secretaries, an ostentatious amusement among princely and mercantile art patrons and their masterly suppliers (who established a first 'art system'), into a national, a European, indeed a planetary matter. In order to spread from the few to the many, the renaissance had to discard its humanistic exterior and reveal itself as the return of ancient mass culture. The true renaissance question, reformulated in the terminology of practical philosophy - namely, whether other forms of life are possible and permissible for us alongside and after Christianity, especially ones whose patterns are derived from Greek and Roman (perhaps even Egyptian or Indian) antiquity - was no longer a secret discourse or an academic exercise in the nineteenth century, but rather an epochal passion, an inescapable pro nobis.