Thursday, September 25, 2008

Middle Ages

Where they as dark as we thought?

36 comments:

JP said...

Greek culture was the prevailing voice of reason and enlightenment in the world in the classical era. When Rome fell in 476 AD, everything the world knew from and about Greece fell with it.

With the absence of Greek learning, which had previously been the benchmark of the educated, the world was plunged into a thousand years of darkness. The only spark of enlightenment that remained in the world was the Church, which, unfortunately, guarded its limited wisdom and used it as a powerful hegemonic force and as leverage to control the rest of the world for an entire millennium, until the Renaissance.

I'm sure the Middle Ages weren't entirely void of advancements, but they are undoubtedly the longest period of stagnancy in technology and human understanding known to us.

joel derby said...

I had previously believed that the Middle ages were filled with mud huts and people dying in the fields, but the pictures I've seen, show a different, though equally beautiful, form of architecture and art. The beginning of this unit has definitely changed my view of the middle ages.

joel derby said...

Equally as beautiful as classical art i mean

1337fragger said...

joel finds dying farm people beautiful? ok...
so i agree with john. after rome, the technological advancements were put on hold during the middle ages, but they were still artsy and elegant.

Dean Elazab said...

So im totally on the wrong account, 1337 fragger is me...a long time ago. i hate blogging on my 4 year old computer.

Aaron Nussdorf said...

i think that the middle ages had an artistic backpull: the arts regressed. i preffered the realism of the greco-roman times; the weltenshuung was really focussed on being saved by god. this is a major shift from man is the messure of all things to god being the essence of all things, which i view as a huge regression.

stephen gieger said...

I agree with John's comments about the Greek culture in its sophistcality and influence, however, I do not think that the Middle Ages were as dark as some would like to insinuate. The Middle Ages certainly lacked in the advancement in art and architecture, but one cannot forget writers such as Chaucer. There were also many military advances that were unknown to the Greeks and even the Romans.

Caroline said...

I think a good example about what Aaron said is the sculptures. For example, the one of Christ as Orpheus seems so plain and lacking detail when compared to the beautiful, ornate sculptures of the Greeks and Romans.

Ehren said...

I think it depends on what is being examined. For example, the depicion of Christ as Orpheus does seem more primitive and less ornate than some Greek and Roman works, but on the other hand, some architectural innovations do seem advanced (such as the clerestory and central plan).

tmichals said...

Sure, the Middle ages may not have had many artistic and architectural advances. However, I think that it would be unimaginable for someone to say that the advances from the previous period were not incredibly innovative and beautiful. Even if they were stuck with the works of the Greeks and Romans, it really couldn't have been all that work. While the sculptures may not be as ornate and elegant, I think the architecture is detailed and stylish (especially the mosaic scenery).

El Paco said...

There wasn't an "absence of Greek learning." Like Mrs. Scandurro said in class, monks copied manuscripts of Aristotle and Plato; we wouldn't know anything about the Greeks if their works hadn't survived the Dark ages. What happened is that the Catholic Church Christianized the the Platonic concept of the "perfect form" and refused to accept anything outside of the Bible (except random stuff that the Popes made up: i.e. "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin"). Since the Church made sure that their theology pervaded, creative and scientific thought regressed (if not regressed, didn't advance).

Taylor makes a good point, too. Art in the middle ages is no longer based on the principles of humanism; rather, it focuses on ethereal beauty.

puddlewonderful said...

My gut reaction is yes, yes, there was a total and utter regression. I cannot help but to grimace whenever I see the painful flatness of an early Christian painting or the malformed body of an early statue of Christ. Everything about medieval art rubs me the wrong way-- I adore the Greco-Roman realism and I am a humanist at heart. How can I help but to shudder at what appears to be-- what must be-- the loss of all these beautiful innovations, and the stagnation of technology for centuries? The only redeeming part of medieval art to me is its architecture-- I'm a sucker for churches. They're big, they're beautiful, they're breathtaking and ornate. They accomplish in me much of what they were designed for; when I am in a grand, beautiful church I am overcome by some spiritual awe, albeit a distinctly non-Christian one. I love arches and columns and clerestories and gold mosaics.

For the first time, however, I took a step back when studying this period. I caught myself mid-frown and checked my gut reaction and gave the matter thought instead. The perception of the dark ages as dark seem to me to be the result of a drastic paradigm shift, a shift under which we still operate in many ways. During the renaissance, whenever that may have been, the values of Europe changed dramatically. For years they had been spiritual and otherworldly, and all that mattered was to give glory to God. Just as today we once again value the human mind, the human thought, the human form, then they felt the opposite-- that the human was base, vile, secular. Their art, their lifestyles, their ideals attempted to remove them from those worldly urges-- it is inconceivable to us today, but I believe they would have looked at Discobolos or the Dying Gaul and felt revulsion. Why create these naked forms? Why emphasize this body that only drags one down? Why does this Gaul look unhappy to die? Death is gold, death is beautiful, death is heaven. Humanity implies sin, squalor... I rant on. The point is, art was only for symbolism, and only for God. Technology is similar-- why work on improving this life? It is so transient compared with the eternal one that follows.

It is impossible for us today, with our values, to look on that art, compare it with that of the Romans and Greeks, and see anything but a regression. But I would argue that it is not so much a regression as a shift in value-- a shift in value that in today's eyes-- my own included-- is worthless and depressing. But I am trying to take it with a grain of salt, and to see it through medieval lenses.

joel derby said...

Okay, that comment is way too long and I refuse to read it, but I did read Andrew's and I agree.

1337fragger said...

Sorry michelle i ignore your post and banish it. That is way too long and not fair to everyone else. on that note i strongly disagree

Dean Elazab said...

i hate my stupid auto login computer ^

ndepass said...

it does seem that the middle ages are overshadowed by the greek and roman eras, but like other people have said they do not seem dark at all, especially with all the windows, light, and gold in the buildings. (sorry for the cheesy joke),but the art and buildings do seem equally impressive to me.

puddlewonderful said...

Dean, why is my long post unfair? You're not obligated to read it.

Mr. Plainview said...

Okay. I think as many other people have said, much of the early Christian art seems boring. If I wanted to argue both sides, I would say at least they produced some pieces that aren't too bad. At least they created things we can still recognize (and I suppose appreciate) to this day. But I'm not writing to talk about art. Why are so many people talking about art?
I want to talk about the Black Death. Though it may not have come long before the Renaissance, it still killed half the bloody population of Europe! (You see, I have been in tune with my European History class.) 25,000,000 people died in 100 years. It crippled the economy because there were no more able-bodied men to work the fields. Oh, and how did people die again? Well those who were infected coughed up their insides. And those who were perfectly clean died of famine.
Dunno about you, but that seems pretty dark to me...

michelle scandurro said...

Michelle said some good things, particularly about death!! You should take a deep breath & read her post. It's good for you.

And John: you correctly used the word "hegemony"--bonus points.

And Brandon: yeah, why did everyone immediately think of art? Interesting.

stephen gieger said...

I think it is clear from what most people have said that there is a general concensus that the dark ages were not as dark as thought by the "enlightened" thinkers of the Renassaince. However, the middle ages were certainly a departure from the idealistic pursuits of the Greeks, who laid the foundation for the moddern architecture we enjoy today.

JP said...

The middle ages were also a "dark" time in terms of government, politics, and class.

Feudalism, the system of peasants trading their loyalty to warlords in exchange for protection, is barely more civilized than hunter-gatherer pre-civilization. And in some ways, it's even less civilized.

El Paco said...

The dark ages were also dark in terms of the sky. The sky was dark back then.

JP said...

Except for during the day, when it was light.

El Paco said...

no, the days were pretty dark, too.

joel derby said...

So was the night dark?

El Paco said...

Oh, man! You don't even know!

Ehren said...

It seems like there might be a misconception about what defines "dark" when people refer to the dark ages (not necesarily in this class, just in general). While some people refer to the art and architecture (which may not make it seem terribly macabre), others may be refering to the health or class issues (which may definitly give it an eerie feel, warrenting the word "dark")

stephen gieger said...

I think that there was an obvious departure from the amount of skill and efficiency of the Hellenic and that of the Middle ages. However, Mrs. Scandurro made the point in class that education institutions began developing during this time period. Although the middle ages might have not been a time for creative ingenuity, they certainly supported the study and preservation of renown Greek works of literature.

puddlewonderful said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
puddlewonderful said...

I think the "dark" refers to a regression culturally-- and a culture (I think?) encompasses all those things-- art, literature, ideas, society, government... But I think in this class the idea of a dark age meant an era of intellectual and artistic death-- at least, that's what I gathered from the introduction to the period.

El Paco said...

Fo Rizzeal

Manal said...

I think, the Middle Ages could be considered dark compared to other time periods if we talk about the art. They weren't able to do much creative work because their topics were limited to those of religion. It probably got boring painting the same scenes and not being able to paint/draw what you felt. I also, agree with John about the governement being dark because of feudalism, but I think Stephen made a good point about the universities being created. That was one advancement along with the archetectural creativity. The churches can not be considered dark. So, I guess what really makes the era look bleak is the lack of individuality.

JP said...

Middle ages were also a terrible time for economics. For much of the middle ages, there was no currency at all and people had to barter.

Later, with the rise of the middle class merchants, currency came to most places in the middle ages. But for a while, if you wanted a sandwich, you had to trade one of your pigs for seven baskets, trade four of the baskets for a candlestick and a pair of wooden shoes, and then hope somebody with a spare sandwich lying around is walking barefoot. That's awful inconvenient.

Aaron Nussdorf said...

i considered dark to mean less developed which it was: the greeks and romans had government [dicatorships or republics], culture [plays and writings] and a better standard of living [the romans had aquiducts and forums]. the standard of living for the populace of the middle ages went to the dump: one reason the bubonic plague rampaged through europe was the poor sanitation [usually the jews were spared because they had to keep kosher--that's why they were blamed for the black death]. the standard of living defines the health and ability for growth; the middle ages lasted nearly 1200 years. the thing that pushed europe out of the middle ages was the reformation which was bloody

ndepass said...

like i said in the previous post about the greek art and how i began to favor their art, but i also began to form a different opinion on the middle ages as a whole and i realized that they are not as dreadful and dark as i once thought.

Margaret said...

I had also thought that the Dark Ages consisted of little thatched-roof huts and mud and pigs everywhere, and I also think that they weren't as "dark" as previously thought. We're disinclined to favor the Dark Ages because our culture pretty much rejects it. In 200 years, our society may value flatness and simplicity, and maybe they'd hate the Renaissance?

I think for its time, the art and architecture was beautiful and impressive. They were experimenting, learning from scratch. It's sort of amazing what they were able to accomplish, and without that period, we couldn't be where we are today. I can't deny that it probably was a crap time when it came to disease and economics, but the Dark Ages had its uses.