“There was a time once—or at least I think there was—” mused scholar John L. Lievsay recently at a gathering of historians and literary critics in Washington, D.C., “when a man might innocently use the term ‘the Renaissance’ to refer to a reasonably well-defined single phase, however involute its composition, in the history of Western-world culture. And no one would have argued, seriously, that the expression was other than a general synonym for the sixteenth century.
Nowadays, all that is changed. In an unguarded moment one says, as though it were a naughty word, ‘Renaissance’—and is instantly challenged. Just what does he think he is talking about?”