chapter  6
The blood myth and the bee
Pages 14

This chapter, really an inter-chapter functioning as mortar between conceptual bricks, analyzes the early modern blood myth with which previous chapters have dealt alongside that myth’s unlikely counterpart, imitatio. Although not all humanist cultures focused with the same emphasis on poetry – for example, Venetian and German humanists had other outlets for their erudition – the technique of imitation, so much a part of the fabric of humanist poetry, was a driving force, or undergirding, of the new studia humanitatis. Its centrality to an investigation of early modern cultural descent requires no justification, as numerous previous studies have shown. The predominance among humanists of what we, in our idiom, would call literature includes history, learned epistles, and memoirs; the use of such “literature” for educational purposes is everywhere evident, and poetry often appears to wear the badge of highest achievement. This might be because poetry served as a crucial tool in the fabricated construction of cultural descent, linking the early modern world to “Greco-Roman splendor” (in Nietzsche’s phrase). More than merely an adornment, poetry, along with new historical techniques and the revival of Ciceronian rhetoric, helped to define the educational and aesthetic landscape of humanism. Historians, rhetoricians, and poets alike depended on the manufacture of cultural genealogies to advance their new humanist agendas. The genealogies, however, were as shallow – yet just as persuasive – as the remythicizations they embodied.