Unearthing the Past - Barkan, Leonard - Yale University Press
Literary Studies
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Art and Architecture

Unearthing the Past

Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture

  • Leonard Barkan
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Out of Print.

Winner of the 1999 Scaglione Prize in Comparative Literature Studies awarded by the Modern Language Association

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2000 by Choice Magazine

Winner of the Christian Gauss Award in 2000 awarded by Phi Beta Kappa

Co-winner of the 2001 PEN/Architectural Digest Award for Literary Writing on the Visual Arts

Winner of the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award given by the College Art Association

Winner of the Morton Dawen Zabel Award for 2004, given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters

Some of the most famous artworks of all timeŚstatues like the Apollo Belvedere and the Laoco÷nŚlay underground, forgotten, for more than a thousand years. Their rediscovery beneath Rome in the fifteenth century launched a thrilling archaeological adventure that unearthed thousands of late antique objects, from grand three-dimensional masterpieces to fragments of sculpted bodies. In this rich and engaging book, Leonard Barkan tells the full cultural story of the first emergence into daylight of antiquity, almost literally, in the flesh. As discovery and rebirth became literal daily narratives, Barkan shows, Renaissance conceptions of art, art history, aesthetics, and historiography were transformed.

Employing a variety of interdisciplinary approaches, from Warburg to Foucault, from documentary history to cultural studies, the author probes the impact of the archaeological finds on Renaissance consciousnesses. He takes us on an extraordinary intellectual tour that encompasses the rebirth of art history as rediscovered objects confirmed or refuted the written records of antiquity. The result was the reconstruction of history as discursive systems were devised to weave the past into the present and, ultimately, the reconstruction of Renaissance art itself.

Leonard Barkan is Samuel Rudin University Professor of the Humanities and professor of English and Fine Arts at New York University. He is also director of the New York Institute for the Humanities. His earlier book, The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism, won the Christian Gauss Award.

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