Sunday, December 18, 2011

The mother of us all ...

... The Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, explored by Adam Kirsch | Harvard Magazine Jan-Feb 2012. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The great literary scholar Ernst Robert Curtius reflected on this absence in his 1948 magnum opus, European Literature and the Middle Ages. “What strikes me most is this: The American mind might go back to Puritanism or to William Penn, but it lacked that which preceded them; it lacked the Middle Ages,” Curtius wrote. “It was in the position of a man who has never known his mother.” Yet he saw this lack as an opportunity for American scholarship. “The American conquest of the Middle Ages,” he observed, “has something of that romantic glamor and of that deep sentimental urge which we might expect in a man who should set out to find his lost mother.” That “conquest” began, in his view, with the “cult of Dante” that sprang up among the New England poets of the nineteenth century, above all Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who translated the Divine Comedy.

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