This is a deeply comparative study. It tunnels through the European Renaissance to discover the driving forces of its poetry, in which ruins are frequently the occasion for meditations on the passage of time. Hui begins by relativizing the very existence of ruins: too often in the West ruins are viewed as simply there, the tangible leftovers from earlier eras through which the latter may be known. By subtitling his introduction “A Japanese Friend,” he leaves no doubt that he is bringing something unusual to scholarly knowledge of the period in which the modern Western empires first took shape. Hui and his friend are in Rome, the seat of the great imperial forerunner, and she marvels at the ancient ruins. But in contrast to European Renaissance poets, she does not lament them, praise them, or take their passing as a reference point...

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