At the start of his brilliant essay ‘Venice’, first published in 1882, Henry James famously commented that there ‘was nothing new’ to be said about the city. An equally famous quotation is to be found in the first edition of Murray’s Handbook for travellers in Northern Italy published forty years earlier: ‘no one enters Venice a stranger.’ (1842, p.
Playing on the title of Robert Hughes's popular history of modernist art, The Shock of the New (1980), Larry Norman recreates that moment in 17th- and 18th-century France when the classical literary texts that Renaissance humanists had treated as timeless vehicles of cultural value, and so put at the core of European education, came to many to seem shockingly ‘primitive,’ even ‘barbari
It is not surprising that a professor of religious studies reading Carlo Pietrangeli’s wonderfully informative book, The Vatican Museums: Five Centuries of History (1), would become curious about how the Vatican Museums came to be separated from the Vatican Library, and in particular about how a Museo Profano could have been created within the thoroughly relig
Simon Goldhill throws down the gauntlet to the entire field of classical reception studies in his new book Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity. This flourishing sub-discipline of Classics has, in the last two decades in particular, explored a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches.
In his early 20th-century anti-clerical novel La Catedral, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez follows his protagonist into Toledo Cathedral’s Mozarabic Chapel for the daily celebration of what Richard Ford, in the 19th century, called ‘this peculiar ritual’: ‘As Gabriel listened to the monotonous singing of the Mozarabic priests he remembered the quarrels during the time of Alfonso VI between the
As L. P. Hartley famously remarked in The Go-Between (1953), ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. This was more prescient than he knew, for most of the English-speaking world now seems to view the past not merely as foreign but as totally alien – diverting at times, perhaps, but utterly irrelevant to them and their lives.