In a new article in the Rochester University Newscenter, Kathleen McGarvey discusses Christopher Heuer’s Into the White: The Renaissance Arctic and the End of the Image. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full article. An excerpt appears below:
“The European Renaissance’s engagement with the Arctic is a little-known chapter of history but a relevant one today, when the region once again has become a site of anxious attention. When people now think of the Renaissance, they still think about art, Heuer says, and its associations with beauty, richness, and visuality. But the Arctic confronted its early modern visitors with an uneasy emptiness and visual impoverishment, and these, too, were part of the early modern experience.
European explorers of the globe’s southern regions encountered and exploited a dizzying variety of cultures and forms of plant and animal life. They made sense of the ‘wonders’ they found through constant comparison and contrast: the old world and the new, the ‘familiar’ and the ‘exotic.’ The Arctic offered no such easy schema—or even a definable terrain.
‘The Arctic is water, it’s air, it’s mist, ice, rock, and dust,’ Heuer says. Early explorers struggled to contend with the blankness and menacing ineffability of what they found there.”