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Reviewed by:
  • The Renaissance World
  • Ronald Witt
John Jeffries Martin , ed. The Renaissance World.New York: Routledge, 2007. xxi + 702 pp. index. illus. map. $240. ISBN: 978–0–415– 33259–0.

Designed to depict the Renaissance "as a movement and in movement" (6), this excellent collection of thirty-four essays will prove of interest to both specialists and general readers. While a few essays cover a wider chronological span, most are focused on the long sixteenth century. The grouping of the collection under six rubrics reflects the broad avenues of approach taken in portraying the world of the Renaissance. "Three Preludes" acts as a frame for the articles to follow. Its three essays, Ingrid Rowland's "Rome at the Center of a Civilization," Lyle Massey's "Framing and Mirroring the World," and Samuel K. Cohn, Jr.'s "The Black Death, Tragedy, and Transformation," deal respectively with the Renaissance's adaptation of antiquity, the development of visual perspective, and the effects of the Black Death.

Grouped under the rubric "A World in Motion," the following five essays, Joanne M. Ferraro's "The Manufacture and Movement of Goods," Alexander Cowan's "Cities, Towns, and New Forms of Culture," Francisco Bethencourt's "European Expansion and the New Order of Knowledge," John A. Marino's "The Invention of Europe," and Anthony Grafton's "José de Acosta: Renaissance Historiography and New World Humanity," describe the cultural effects of urbanization and the role of geographical exploration in expanding Europe's consciousness of its relationship with the rest of the world.

The increase in knowledge of ancient and new cultures and the rapidity of its diffusion define the interest of the essays in the section entitled "The Movement of Ideas." Peter Burke's "The Circulation of Knowledge," Michael Tworek's "Virgil and Homer in Poland," François Rigolot's "Montaigne in Italy," Katherine Elliot van Liere's "Shared studies foster Friendship: Humanism and History in Spain," and David Harris Sacks's "Niccolò Machiavelli and Thomas More: Parallel Lives," argue for the pan-European character of intellectual life in the sixteenth century.

The interaction between political power and new forms of art and learning serves as subject of the fourth division "The Circulation of Power." Malcolm Vale's "Courts, Art, and Power," Thomas James Dandelet's "The Imperial Renaissance," Randolph Starn's "Renaissance Triumphalism in Art," Daniel Goffman's "The Ottoman Empire," Constantin Fasolt's "Religious Authority and Ecclesiastical Govenance," Caroline Castiglione's "Mothers and Children," and Robert C. Davis's "The Renaissance Goes up in Smoke" offer rich analyses of the uses made [End Page 957] of Renaissance culture by authorities, both secular and ecclesiastical, in a society in which efforts to centralize government encountered strong resistence from countervailing tendencies.

Entitled "Making Identities," the following group of essays includes a wide range of studies concerning the formation of identity, that is, the process of self-fashioning in the Renaissance. Kenneth Gouwens's "Human Exceptionalism," Albert Russell Ascoli's "Worthy of Faith? Authors and Readers in Early Modernity," Bronwen Wilson's "The Renaissance Portrait: From Resemblance to Representation," Jacqueline Marie Musacchio's "Objects and Identity: Antonio de Medici and the Casino at San Marco in Florence," Douglas Biow's "Food: Pietro Aretino and the Art of Conspicuous Consumption," and David Bevington's "Shakespeare's Dream of Retirement," discuss the construction of identity with regard to individual personality and to human beings as a species.

The essays included under "Beliefs and Reforms," Meredith J. Gill's "Speaking Books, Moving Images," N. S. Davidson's "Religious Minorities," Susan R. Boettcher's "Humanism and the Dream of Christian Unity," Brad S. Gregory's "Christian Reform and Its Discontents," David Gentilcore's "A Tale of Two Tribunals," Alida C. Metcalf's "Christianity in Sixteenth-Century Brazil," and Regina Mara Schwartz's "Toward a Sacramental Poetics," all deal in one way or another with the enormous influence exerted on contemporary religious beliefs by the return to the sources of Christian truth, pagan, Jewish, and Christian. The tendency of these analyses is to regard the Reformation as one with the Renaissance in the long sixteenth century.

Paula Findlen's "The Sun at the Center of the World" represents the final theme of the collection...


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pp. 957-958
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Archived 2009
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