Revisiting Presentism

The Experience of the Present in Late Medieval and Early Modern North-Western Europe




presentism, temporality, crisis, poetry, landscape painting, news


This essay explores the pertinence of the present as a temporal category in the late medieval and early modern period. After a historiographical overview of scholarship on presentism and reflections on the complex notion of ‘present’, we present three case studies to explore how the experience of the present could be discerned and studied in literature, visual arts, and news media. The first case study focuses on the increasing emphasis on the present in the Gruuthuse manuscript and rederijker plays. Secondly, an examination of depictions of the breach of the Sint Anthonisdijk in 1651 shows different ways in which Dutch landscape painters engaged with the present. The final case study discusses how the spread of the northern invention of printed newsletters stimulated a wider interest in the present ‘elsewhere’ in apparent peripheric locations like Geneva. Drawing on these cases, we reflect on the relation between crises and presentism and suggest that the manner in which time, and the present in particular, was experienced in north-western Europe seems to be distinctly different from the relation to time of people in Renaissance Italy.


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How to Cite

Blanc, J., Brero, T., Lecuppre-Desjardin , E., & Osnabrugge, M. (2023). Revisiting Presentism: The Experience of the Present in Late Medieval and Early Modern North-Western Europe. Early Modern Low Countries, 7(2), 190-219.