4.0033 Eastern European Renaissance (48)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 11 May 90 16:41:54 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0033. Friday, 11 May 1990.

(1) Date: 10 May 90 17:59:53 EST (39 lines)
From: James O'Donnell <JODONNEL@PENNSAS>
Subject: Rebirth in eastern Europe

(2) Date: Fri, 11 May 90 07:14:23 IST (9 lines)
From: Daniel Boyarin <BOYARIN@TAUNIVM>
Subject: Re: 4.0028 Poland, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 10 May 90 17:59:53 EST
From: James O'Donnell <JODONNEL@PENNSAS>
Subject: Rebirth in eastern Europe

From: Jim O'Donnell (Classics, Penn)

Our ignorance of eastern European Renaissances (here is the place to
praise Matthias Corvinus Hunyadi, fifteenth century king of Hungary and
creator of an astonishing library of precious manuscripts: there is a
volume of facsimiles of selected pages edited by two persons named
Csapodi, I believe, and well worth a half hour in the library turning
the pages) is in part a reflection of the long Stalinist darkness in the
east. Too many important historical investigations in that area can
only be carried out with a variety of linguistic skills and local
awareness likely to be found only in native speakers. For Corvinus, for
example, it would be necessary in order to write his biography (not yet
written in a `western' language -- what may exist in Magyar I have no
way of knowing) to master at least German, Hungarian, Serbo-Croatian,
and Turkish (his best moments outside the library spent fighting the
Turks). It is hard even to imagine from what department of an American
university one could acquire the Ph.D. that would fit one to write his
story. As our e-links to the east begin to open, it is pleasant to think
that in restoring the central and eastern Europe of the present to the
European community, it may also be possible to restore more of its past.
Our standard history textbooks (the ones that worry about when the
Renaissance started) are too often (I'm thinking of one textbook by
Peter Gay, for example) histories not of Europe but of France and
England, with Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Low Countries in supporting
roles. Or look at Barbara Tuchman's books about the run-up to WWI, *The
Proud Tower* and *Guns of August*: the Balkans don't exist for her, nor
the Baltic.

Two books that threw much light in these areas for me (and I'd love to
hear of more): Rebecca West, *Black Lamb and Grey Falcon* (account of
her journies in Yugoslavia in the 30s, long and rambling and
idiosyncratic, but fascinating), and Patrick Leigh Fermor, *Between the
Woods and the Water* (account of the Hungarian and Romanian stages of a
walking tour he made in the early 30s from Holland to Constantinople --
but written in the 80s, with no mawkish nostalgia or melancholy
recollections about what happened in those lands since: Leigh Fermor's
books generally are marvels of amateur erudition, shedding light
wherever he goes).
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------16----
Date: Fri, 11 May 90 07:14:23 IST
From: Daniel Boyarin <BOYARIN@TAUNIVM>
Subject: Re: 4.0028 Poland, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance (38)

i apollgize for thoughtless observation about Poland. I must admit that
my image is really of backward little Jewish villages and I have no,
repeat, no knowledge of anything about Poland. One of the disadvantages
of email is that the casual idiocies that one usually only shares with
friends get broadcast to strangers.