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Book Reviews John M. Steadman. R e d efin in g a P e r io d St y le : “ R en a issa n c e, ” “ M a n n erist, ” and “ Ba r o q u e ” in Lite r a t u r e . Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1990. Pp. 206. The very existence of period styles has been the subject of much controversy. Eminent critics including Heinrich Wôlfflin, Erwin Panofsky, René Wellek, and Helen Gardner have argued that it may be useful to use terms such as “ Renaissance,” “ mannerist,” “ baroque,” and “ metaphysical” in order to describe the extraordinary diversity in Euro­ pean literary and artistic works created between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, but these same scholars have pointed out that it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to define specifically what these terms mean and when the various periods began and ended. John Steadman reminds us that the Renaissance refers to different chronological eras in France and Italy. The same can be said about the baroque, mannerist, and metaphysical periods. John Steadman indicates that major studies on mannerism, for example, have sug­ gested widely diverse dates for this literary movement. Walter Friedlaender proposed the years of 1540 to 1580 for the mannerist age whereas Marcel Raymond believed that man­ nerism ended sometime around 1610. Other influential critics associated baroque literature and art with the Counter-Reformation and it would seem that the mannerist and baroque movements took place simultaneously. Many scholars have applied the adjective “ meta­ physical” to certain English poets o f the seventeenth century, but it is not at all clear how metaphysical poets in England differed from baroque poets on the European continent. Steadman shows that it is impossible to determine with certainty whether these frequently used terms referred to definite trends in art and literature from the early modern period. These comments should not lead readers to conclude that John Steadman has not made a significant contribution to scholarship. In this very well-researched book, he argues per­ suasively that we should interpret European paintings and literary works created between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries through the prism of classical rhetorical theories. He notes that a creative application of the rhetorical distinction between low, middle, and high styles and an imaginative approach to both the imitation of classical models and the concept of decorum enabled painters and writers to give profound and new interpretations of the classical and neo-Latin traditions. Steadman analyzes with great depth often over­ looked links between literature and painting from these centuries. The basic thesis in this book is very sound. Steadman argues that it is artificial to divide European literature and painting from the early modern era into several distinct and separate periods. He believes that it would be much more useful for art historians and literary critics to stress the gradual evolution which occurred during these centuries as painters and writers began to imitate creatively not just classical models but also those from the modern era as well. This very thoughtful book by John Steadman definitely improves our understanding of stylistic diversity in both literature and painting. E dm u n d J. C a m pio n University o f Tennessee, Knoxville Jean Weisgerber. L es M asq u es f r a g il e s: e st h é tiq u e et fo rm es d e la l ittér a tu r e r o c o c o . Lausanne: L’Age d’Homme, 1991. Pp. 268. Outre son enthousiasme et son style entraînant, Weisgerber a le grand mérite de traiter le rococo en synthétiste, mettant en lumière des traits partagés par différents arts et pays. V o l . XXXIII, No. 3 115 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
p. 115
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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