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5 The Mosaic of Speech

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Chapter Summary

Hispanist Américo Castro's metaphor is all the more apt for being itself a piece of the humanist mosaic. This chapter traces the humanist obsession with mosaic as a figure of speech more than a genre of visual art. Erasmus uses the figure of the mosaic, at times disparagingly and at times approvingly, to evoke the intertextual practices of ancient and modern authors. He also assimilates the textual mosaic to the cento and the rhapsody as composite forms that rework the fragments of tradition into new and at times disconcerting patterns. In the Renaissance, mosaic seems to have prospered as a metaphor even as it lost its once prestigious status as an art form. Most historical surveys of the art of mosaic regard the Renaissance as a period of decadence and decline, but the same era witnessed a tremendous revival of the classical topos of the mosaic of speech.

Keywords: Erasmus; Hispanist Américo Castro's metaphor; humanist mosaic; Latin speech; Renaissance literature; rhapsody; visual art

10.1163/9789004277151_007
/content/books/b9789004277151_007
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