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Topography as Historiography: Petrarch, Chaucer, and the Making of Medieval Rome

Topography as Historiography: Petrarch, Chaucer, and the Making of Medieval Rome Gibbon and Burckhardt both anchor those epochal boundaries in Rome’s ruins, which provide a physical emblem for a historiography of violent breaks and ruptures by recalling the loss of civilizations.4 But in reading those ruins as symbols of classical loss on the one hand or Renaissance recovery on the other, both Gibbon and Burckhardt virtually erase all material trace of the centuries that passed between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Renaissance humanism, except to designate them as an intervening period —“the Middle Ages.” For both Gibbon and Burckhardt, “the Middle Ages” does not describe a period in Rome’s history so much as it does a suspension of that history, the onset of which brought about classical Rome’s loss and ushered in a period of historical darkness from which that buried past could later be recovered. Thus for Gibbon, the medieval period is notable for its destructive ignorance of Rome’s past glory, when “the forms of ancient architecture were disregarded by a people insensible of their use and beauty” (2433), and when, furthermore, “the statues, altars, and houses of the daemons were an abomination” that merited only violent extirpation (2431). Burckhardt upholds a similar http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies Duke University Press

Topography as Historiography: Petrarch, Chaucer, and the Making of Medieval Rome

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2000 by Duke University Press
ISSN
1082-9636
eISSN
1527-8263
DOI
10.1215/10829636-30-2-211
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Gibbon and Burckhardt both anchor those epochal boundaries in Rome’s ruins, which provide a physical emblem for a historiography of violent breaks and ruptures by recalling the loss of civilizations.4 But in reading those ruins as symbols of classical loss on the one hand or Renaissance recovery on the other, both Gibbon and Burckhardt virtually erase all material trace of the centuries that passed between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Renaissance humanism, except to designate them as an intervening period —“the Middle Ages.” For both Gibbon and Burckhardt, “the Middle Ages” does not describe a period in Rome’s history so much as it does a suspension of that history, the onset of which brought about classical Rome’s loss and ushered in a period of historical darkness from which that buried past could later be recovered. Thus for Gibbon, the medieval period is notable for its destructive ignorance of Rome’s past glory, when “the forms of ancient architecture were disregarded by a people insensible of their use and beauty” (2433), and when, furthermore, “the statues, altars, and houses of the daemons were an abomination” that merited only violent extirpation (2431). Burckhardt upholds a similar

Journal

Journal of Medieval and Early Modern StudiesDuke University Press

Published: Apr 1, 2000

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