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The Shock of the AncientLiterature and History in Early Modern France$
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Larry F. Norman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226591483

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226591506.001.0001

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Whose Ancients & Moderns?

Whose Ancients & Moderns?

(p.11) 1 Whose Ancients & Moderns?
The Shock of the Ancient

Larry F. Norman

University of Chicago Press

From the mid-seventeenth to the early eighteenth centuries—at the heart of what is called the French neoclassical age—poets, critics, and philosophers radically rethought how history shapes literature. Key to this rethinking was a new, and often disturbing, understanding of the cultures of antiquity that had been considered the foundation for later modern achievements. It is one of history's ironies that the modern period characterized as “classical” (or “neoclassical”) came to adopt a sharply critical distance in regard to the very Greco-Roman past that it apparently so admired. To understand the “shock of the ancient” is to wrestle with this basic paradox: the fracturing of historical time that fundamentally defamiliarizes classical antiquity was the work of an age that also often wished to coexist with that increasingly remote era.

Keywords:   neoclassical age, history, literature, antiquity, Greco-Roman past, historical time, modern achievements

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