The renaissance of the renaissance? Long overdue?

Last Friday (January 13th) I spent all day in London at a meeting of the Council of the Society for Renaissance Studies, debating ways in which the Society can support the study of all matters Renaissance. The Council settled on putting its available fund into supporting Postgraduate attendance and speakers at conferences; Postdoctoral Fellowships; an Undergraduate Essay Prize and an essay prize for students still at secondary school. These are exciting developments in themselves (it is great being able to allocate funding in a climate where funding for education and research in the arts is becoming increasingly contested and constrained), but what was possibly, just possibly even more exciting was to watch the passion in the eyes of the people sat around the table. There, huddled around a table in a stuffy seminar room in the University of London were 30- odd Renaissance scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds and institutional contexts. There was a female professor specialising in Renaissance pirates rubbing shoulders with an expert on Early Modern Persia. Next to them sat a Renaissance art historian (me!), happily chatting away to an authority on Spain. Dr Spain talked to the music historian, who sat between an expert on Spenser and an authority on Shakespeare. The Tudor architectural historian had sent apologies, and the expert on cassoniwas late because she couldn’t find a space to lock up her bike. Age- wise, if such a comment is allowed, Council included scholars right at the beginning of their career as well as distinguished emeritus professors. The eyes of every one of them sparkled at the prospect of doing something to be able to share their passion, to be able to have an opportunity to permit another generation of future scholars and enthusiasts to catch the bug of Renaissance- itis. And it mattered to none of them whether the future Renaissance enthusiasts would follow in their own particular areas of specialism, all that mattered was that there was going to be an ongoing and enduring fascination to learn from the past to gain a better understanding of the present and the future.
The going in academia can occasionally be tough, especially at the moment with the landscape of higher education changing so rapidly and so profoundly, but Friday was one of those days that was good for the soul. While such passion and such desire for knowledge persists, there is a lot that is right with the world.


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