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One can hardly imagine that several decades ago the concept of spolia did not yet indicate a field of widespread research in the history of architecture, art and archaeology. The title of this volume with 12 essays and a fascinating introduction, points to this change in research focus, since the value of reuse of objects and materials has not always been recognized.
As L. P. Hartley famously remarked in The Go-Between (1953), ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. This was more prescient than he knew, for most of the English-speaking world now seems to view the past not merely as foreign but as totally alien – diverting at times, perhaps, but utterly irrelevant to them and their lives.
Playing on the title of Robert Hughes's popular history of modernist art, The Shock of the New (1980), Larry Norman recreates that moment in 17th- and 18th-century France when the classical literary texts that Renaissance humanists had treated as timeless vehicles of cultural value, and so put at the core of European education, came to many to seem shockingly ‘primitive,’ even ‘barbari