The history of the modern Mediterranean is a history of fracturing. Since the middle of the seventeenth century, when the primitive accumulation of Atlantic capitalism and the Protestant Reformation occurred, this sea has lived and breathed with — as Ferdand Braudel would have it it — different rhythms. This essay attempts to tackle this issue by connecting the fall of the Mediterranean with the rise modern Europe through a decolonial perspective (Quijano). The essay refers to Europe’s Northern shores, which, from being saved from the space of ‘colonial difference’, somehow collapsed into one of ‘imperial difference’ (Mignolo), considering throughout those dynamics through which all shores of the Mediterranean suffered — albeit to different degrees — from the same colonial matrix of power.
The Mediterranean’s Northern shores are European. Their Europeanness, though, is a quasi-Calibanesque one, at once dangerously near to African and Eastern shores, and far enough from the ‘perfect’ core of a ‘real’ Europe. Therefore, if Orientalism and Mediterraneanism were born as cultural tools for the implementation of European colonialism, another discursive formation, which we may call ‘Meridionism’ (Pfister and Cazzato), was born as a cultural tool for the foundation of modern European identity, whose centre was set far from the shores of the Mediterranean. Having laid out this discursive-political context, the essay moves to investigate a specific scenario — John Ruskin’s ambivalent cult of the ‘savage but righteous’ Gothic on Italian soil. Such a reading is both useful and relevant to any comprehension of the deep historical and epistemological processes that accompanied the fracturing of the modern Mediterranean.