Raphael Falco

Cultural Genealogy: An Essay on Early Modern Myth

Cultural Genealogy explores the popularization in the Renaissance of the still pervasive myth that later cultures are the hereditary descendants of ancient or older cultures. The core of this myth is the widespread belief that a numinous charismatic power can be passed down unchanged, and in concrete forms, from earlier eras. Raphael Falco shows that such a process of descent is an impossible illusion in a knowledge-based culture. Anachronistic adoption of past values can only occur when these values are adapted and assimilated to the target culture. Without such transcultural adaptation, ancient values would appear as alien artifacts rather than as eternal truths.

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Through examples ranging from Petrarch to Columbus, Maffeo Vegio to the Habsburgs, this book shows how the new techne of systematic genealogy facilitated the process of "remythicizing" the ancient authorities, utterly transforming Greek and Roman values and reforging them into the mold of contemporary needs
"An original take on the place of myth in the modern world. And very well written to boot."
–Robert A. Segal, University of Aberdeen
"In the study of charisma, there is no other book; in the theory of tragedy, there is nothing like it."
–Arthur F. Kinney, University of Massachusetts

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