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2011年2月4日 星期五

有關文藝復興的一點看法 (2)

前言: 我曾跟學生談到文藝復興在西方美術史中的地位。由於時間的緊迫,我講得很快,加上學生對一般西方通史的知識比較貧乏,所以未能跟得上我想表達的一些我認為是較新,較獨到的見解。下課後,有一位程度較佳的學生提議,我不妨在我的網誌裡再補充一下。雖然我曾為這個題目寫了文章的第一部份 (2011-01-05),但有些學生跟我說他仍然覺得 Le Goff 的 idea 很深。我是同意他們的看法。要學會和運用一些新的理論去看 History 這個大問題,也的確不容易。可是,如個我在這個網誌裡所討論的觀點是太平庸,我覺得我不須再化時間去寫下去了。因為,我們都可以買一本 textbook 自己學習就已經夠,學生們都不用交學費去上堂。我們做老師的哪裡會有工作可做呢?

正面的去看,如果老師教的東西,學生不是全都明白 (不是全不明白),這是好的。因為,這可以顯示,學生求學的態度是怎樣? 如果學生的求學態度是誠懇,認真的,他們一定會主動請教老師,也會作出努力,繼續追求答案,直至滿足為止。但很可惜,現今香港的學生,已被那些以搵快錢為教學宗旨的商業性補習社弄得不再懂得思巧,只懂坐在椅上等候 model answer,就連指頭都懶得一動了。


就是由於有一位同學再請教我上一篇 "有關文藝復興的一點看 (1)" 的文章,所以,我就在堂上再化了一些時間去講解一下。經過再講解後,相信同學們也都明白了很多,大概也有七, 八成了。不過,若要掌握一個全新的理論去思巧問題,我相信同學還要付出更多努力。畢竟,世間是沒有免費午餐的。因此,學問學問,先學後問,所以,問,是不可或缺的了。

所以,如果讀者對我在這裡寫的文章,觀點,概念,有任何不清楚,不明白的,我是很喜歡作這裡作出回應。這樣,我就可以多一個題材去寫一篇新的文章。


正文:

I am not ready to write further on this topic at this site, since I have explained verbally in the class. However, what do the readers of the first article need, in my opinion, is some original explanations from the author about the relationships between time, rituals, innovation, collective memory and history, especially in the Reniassiance period. The following discussons are quoted from the book, History and Memory, written by the French historian and philospher, Jacques Le Goff for readers' references.  (David Leung's own comments)

Le Goff:


For the child, "to understand time is to liberate oneself from the present: not only to anticipate the future in relation to the regularities unconsciously established in the past, but to deploy a series of states, each of which is different from the others, and whose connection can be established only by a gradual movement without fixation or stopping point." (History, Le Goff, 3)

To understand time is essentially to demonstrate reversibility. In societies, the distinction between past and present (and future) also implies this ascent into memory and this liberation from the present, both of which in turn assume education, the constitution of a collective memory preceding and extending beyond the individual memory. (History, Le Goff, 3)

Since historical time is usually expressed in the form of a narrative, both in the historian's work and in collective memory, it includes an insistent reference to the present, an implicit focus on the present. This is obviously especially true for traditional history, which has long been primarily a story-history, a narrative. Whence the ambighity of even those historical discourses that seem to privilege the past, such as Michelet's program: history as the "integral resurrection of the past." (History, Le Goff, 7)


Through myths and rituals, primitive thought estalishes a particular kind of relation between past and present: " mythical history is paradoxically both separated from the present and conjoined with it...... Through ritual, the mythical 'separate' past is connected on the one hand with biological and seasonal periodicity, and on the other with the 'conjoin' past which links, from one generation to another, the dead with the living". (History, Le Goff, 7)

The past is defined as the period anterior to the events an individual remembers directly. Most societies consider the past as the model for the present. But there are interstices in this devotion to the past through which innovation and change slip in. What is the role of innovation in societies attahced to the past? Only a few sects succeed in isolating themselves in order to completely resist change.  The societies we call traditional, and particularly peasant societies, are not at all as static as they are thought to be. But if the attachment to the past can admit novelties and transformation, the direction of the evolution it perceives is usually that of a decadence or a decline. Thus innovation presents itself in a society in the form of a return to the past: that is the central idea of "renaissances." (History, Le Goff, 9)

Many revolutinary movements take a return to the past as their motto and ambition: .......
(one example that David Leung quotes here) Nationalist movements, including Nazism and fascism, which tend to inaugurate a completely new "order", present themselves a traditionalist, as returning to the past.
(History, Le Goff, 9)

Individuals composing a society almost always feel the need to have ancestors, and one of the roles of great men is to fill that need. The customs and the artistic taste of the past are often aped and adopted by revolutionaries. (Hisotory, Le Goff, 10)

Collective attitudes toward the past, the present, and the future can be schematically expressed as follows: in pagan antiquity, the valorization of the past predominated along with the idea of a decadent present; in the Middle Ages, the present is trapped between the weight of the past and the hope of an eschatological future; in the Reniassiance, on the contrary, the primary stress in on the present, while from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, the ideology of progress turns the valorization of time towards the future. (History, Le Goff, 11)

In fact, medieval time confines the present between a retroorientation toward the past and a futuro-tropism that is particularly strong among millenarians. Just the Church restrained or condemned millenarian movements, it privileged the past. (History, Le Goff, 11)

S. Stelling-Michaud has maintained that the men of the Middle Ages, tossed back and forth between the past and the future, tried to live the present non-temporally, as an instant that was supposed to be a moment of eternity. (History, Le Goff, 12-13)

...... medieval artists, caught between the attraction of the past, the mythical time of Paradise, and the search for the preogative moment that is oriented toward the future, whether salvation or damnation, sought above all to express the atemporal. (History, Le Goff, 13)

The present is further diminished by the tendency of medieval man to constantly actualize the past, especially the biblical past. The man of the Middle Ages lives in a constant anachronism, ignoring local color, and attributing to ancient people medieval costumes, feelings, and modes of behaviour. The Crusdaers believed that in Jersusalem they were punishing the true tormentors of Christ. But one can say: "the past is not studied as past, it is relived, brought into the present"? It is not rather that the present is eaten away by the past, for only the past gives the present its sense and its significant? (History, Le Goff, 13)

Nevertheless, at the end of the Middle Ages, the past is increasingly understood in relation to the time of the chronicles, to progress in dating, and to the measuring of time brought about by mechanical clocks. "Present and past are distinguished in the consciousness of the late Middle Ages not only in terms of their historical aspect, but also through a painful and tragic sensiblity". The French poet Villonn was tragically aware of this flight of time, of the irremediable passing away of the past. The Reniassance seems to be caught between two contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, progress in measuring, dating, and chronology permit the past to be put in perspective. On the other, the tragic sense of life and death, can lead to epicureanism, to the enjoyment of the present, expressed by poets from Lorenzo and Magnificent to Ronsard:

But gentle ladies, handsome youths,
Who sing and play upon your lutes,
Drink the joy of every days,
For hour by hour it slips away. (History, Le Goff, 13)


(David's comment) From the above statements cited from the writing of Le Goff, one can easily understand why we admit that Medieval men have no historical awareness of the past. They lived in an atemporal sense of time without clear distinctions between the past, the present and the future. But, on the contrary, the Renaissance society was perhaps the first one in the history, possessed with the sense of historical consciousness. Reniassiance people caught their sight on the tragic present, and at the same time, glorified the past with deep passion.

If anyone who does not really understand the above citation (the important statements and arguments) of Le Goff 's idea on time, collective memory and history, you can are welcome to write your questions to me.


Finished........


David Leung (theorydavid)

2011-02-04 (published)
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