The Renaissance by Paul Johnson
A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles)

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The Renaissance holds an undying place in the human imagination, and its great heroes remain our own, from Michelangelo and Leonardo to Dante and Montaigne. This period of profound evolution in European thought is credited with transforming the West from medieval to modern; reviving the city as the center of human activity and the acme of civilization; and, of course, producing the most astonishing outpouring of artistic creation the world has ever known. Perhaps no era in history was more revolutionary, and none has been more romanticized. What was it? In The Renaissance, the great historian Paul Johnson tackles that question with the towering erudition and imaginative fire that are his trademarks.

Johnson begins by painting the economic, technological, and social developments that give the period its background. But, as Johnson explains, "The Renaissance was primarily a human event, propelled forward by a number of individuals of outstanding talent, in some cases amounting to genius." It is the human foreground that absorbs most of the book's attention. "We can give all kinds of satisfying explanations of why and when the Renaissance occurred and how it transmitted itself," Johnson writes. "But there is no explaining Dante, no explaining Chaucer. Genius suddenly comes to life, and speaks out of a vacuum. Then it is silent, equally mysteriously. The trends continue and intensify, but genius is lacking." In the four parts that make up the heart of the book--"The Renaissance in Literature and Scholarship," "The Anatomy of Renaissance Sculpture," "The Buildings of the Renaissance," and "The Apostolic Successions of Renaissance Painting"--Johnson chronicles the lives and works of the age's animating spirits. Finally, he examines the spread and decline of the Renaissance, and its abiding legacy. A book of dazzling riches, The Renaissance is a compact masterpiece of the historian's art.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Paul Johnson

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Paul Johnson is an acclaimed historian and author. In addition to his many biographies, his books also include A History of the American People and Modern Times. He has contributed to Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many others. He lives in London.
Published December 18, 2007 by Modern Library. 210 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Travel. Non-fiction

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If it's Thursday, this must be Michelangelo--a stimulating and sophisticated, if rapid, tour of the Italian Renaissance (with the emphasis on the visual arts in the 15th and 16th centuries).

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Renaissance: A Short Hist...

Publishers Weekly

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This slim volume is among the first in a new series, the Modern Library Chronicles, described by the publisher as authoritative, lively, and accessible. Noted historian Johnson's (A History of the

Jul 31 2000 | Read Full Review of The Renaissance: A Short Hist...

Austin Chronicle

Johnson pointed out that this part of the Renaissance – most of the works were composed by artists from 16th-century Europe – is any chorale's treasure trove, yet even in a concert devoted mainly to examples from the period, "we can only scratch the surface."

Jul 02 2004 | Read Full Review of The Renaissance: A Short Hist...

Project MUSE

Though Favor's suspicion that Harlem Renaissance writing granted a "class privilege" to "folk" identity leads him to find progressive resistance to assimilation in moments that might otherwise look like bourgeois elitism, his readings demonstrate the degree to which the celebration of "folk" iden...

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