Analysis Of Jacob Burckhardt 's The Civilisation Of The Renaissance

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Jacob Burckhardt in The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy characterises the period as one of vice. Seeing humanism as a form of excess, he argued that their retrieval of antiquity and subsequent neglect of Christianity misled them towards a life of amorality. For Burckhardt, the immorality of the Renaissance was most evident in their disregard for marriage. It is the humanists’ ethics of love and passion that contributed to Burckhardt’s characterisation of the Renaissance as a ‘glorious but problematic age’. The vice of lust is brought to the fore in the pornography produced during the sixteenth century. The conflation of sexuality, classicism and the contemporary in the literary and visual arts can be seen as emblematic of the period, representing the ‘corrupt and irreligious people’ of Renaissance society. Yet, this morally corrupting sexuality was not a new phenomenon. Pornography, which for the purpose of this discussion will refer to sexually explicit images, had existed prior to the Renaissance. Thus, its appearance cannot be attributable to the humanist concern for the classics. Sexually explicit images and literature exist within all cultures, what became problematic during the Renaissance was not what was depicted, but that these depictions were moved from the edge of artistic production to the centre.

Pornography during the Renaissance positioned itself within an arena of sin; it emphasised lust and encouraged sexual pleasure, placing itself in

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