Sunday, June 26, 2011

Craig Koslofsky's "Evening's Empire"

Craig Koslofsky is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe, and reported the following:
Is the statement by Ford Madox Ford, "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you" accurate for Evening's Empire?

The seventeenth century witnessed a new era in the history of the night. Kings, courtiers, city councils, and coffeehouse patrons all began to use the night for celebrations, entertainment, labor, and leisure in unprecedented ways across northern Europe. The rise of street lighting and spread of the coffeehouse are two seventeenth-century examples of the nocturnalization of daily life in early modern Europe.

On p. 99 of Evening's Empire we look back at a diurnal royal celebration of the sixteenth century in order to see what was new about nocturnalization at royal courts in the seventeenth century:
On June 27, 1559, Henry II of France (1519–59) opened a five-day tournament to celebrate the weddings of his daughter Elisabeth to Philip II of Spain and his sister Marguerite to Emmanuel-Philibert, duke of Savoy. The daytime jousts were the focus of the celebration, especially on the fateful third day. According to the eyewitness account of Antoine Caraccioli, bishop of Troyes, by five o’clock in the afternoon "the hour [was] late, the weather extremely hot, and the tournament concluded." Queen Catherine and the noble spectators begged to Henry to retire, but he insisted that "he would break his lance once more," with fatal results. To be sure, the festivals and celebrations of Henry II included lavish banquets at night, but the most elaborate events unfolded during the day.
A century later, Henry's successor Louis XIV brought the nocturnal court culture of the Baroque to its greatest heights. At age fourteen, Louis XIV of France (1643–1715) presented himself for the first time as "le roi soleil" in the nighttime performance of the court Ballet de la Nuit. As in countless other spectacles of the era, a nocturnal backdrop enhanced the appearance of a radiant monarch, evoking his power to dispel darkness and bedazzle his subjects.

The development from the afternoon jousting match of Henry II in 1559 to the lavish nocturnal performances and festivals of Louis XIV a century later opens my discussion of the dynamic uses of the night in royal spectacles, court culture, and political thought in this period. Evening's Empire reveals a revolution in early modern daily life – a new embrace of the night in theology, piety, court culture, urban daily life, and in the early Enlightenment. I call this revolution "nocturnalization," defined as the ongoing expansion of the legitimate social and symbolic uses of the night. The effects of nocturnalization are everywhere, and so Evening's Empire speaks to a broad range of themes and interests. From the Dark Night of the Soul of John of the Cross to the dark fantasy of the witches' sabbath, and from the glittering world of Versailles to the nocturnal conversations of "atheists" in the coffeehouses of London, Paris, or Leipzig, Evening's Empire offers a startling new perspective on the early modern world. This study uses the night as a category of analysis to re-examine and reframe confessional formation, the civilizing process, the rise of a bourgeois public sphere, the colonization of daily time, and the relationship between darkness, race, and the early Enlightenment in the European transition to modernity.
Read more about Evening's Empire at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue