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Title: Dividing Time: The Making of Historical Periodization in Early Modern Europe
Authors: Clark, Frederic Nolan
Advisors: Grafton, Anthony T
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Bibliography
Book History
Classical Reception
Intellectual History
Subjects: History
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation traces the emergence of modern historical periodization across early modern Europe, from approximately 1500 to 1700. It argues that modern temporal divisions--especially our threefold scheme that divides the past into ancient, medieval, and modern phases--sprang above all from distinctly early modern methods of reading. As documented by recent studies in book history, early moderns endlessly sorted, catalogued, and classified books. Yet fixing a coherent canon or "order of books" (ordo librorum) also created a parallel "order of times" (ordo temporum), as scholars both sorted texts by time and ordered time by texts. These bookish projects forced scholars to draw ever-sharper distinctions across diverse historico-temporal contexts. In particular, humanists accustomed to trumpeting the exemplarity of Greco-Roman literature had to confront "late" and seemingly less laudable authors who inhabited pasts very different from canonical classical antiquity. Hence, scholars discovered that the past was hardly monolithic; rather it contained a plurality of pasts, defined by layers of reception and dialogue with one another. As they grappled with this diversity (including that intervening millennium between antiquity and the present they started to term the medium aevum or "Middle Age"), they began to construct explicit narratives of periodizing. These narratives were ultimately formalized with the triumph of the threefold scheme of ancient/medieval/modern in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Dividing Time consists of two parallel parts. Part I, titled "The Order of Books" or Ordo Librorum, consists of three chapters that trace the rise of bibliographical thinking in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. These chapters offer case studies in what the dissertation terms temporal disjunction--the growing awareness that the past was replete with problem sites and fissures, and that not all of its temporal components flowed coherently into one another. Part II, titled "The Order of Times" or Ordo Temporum, examines how, over the course of the seventeenth century, these problems promoted new thinking about temporal division. In this fashion, Dividing Time reconstructs how often-tacit processes of periodizing laid the groundwork for so many of the theoretical, methodological, and ideological problems that still define modern historical thought.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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