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Jacques Le Goff

Why are these strictures relevant and important? It may be argued that the interpretation of historical events and trends is always in some degree subjective. History is an art, not a science. History is always a matter of interpretation, and it is always subject to re-interpretation. Moreover, no historian can be isolated from his circumstances. The reader of Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, for example, is continually aware that Gibbon writes from the perspective of, and with the prejudices of, the Enlightenment. Indeed, part of the pleasure of Gibbon for the modern reader is that he or she learns much about the Enlightenment from seeing late antiquity and the early Middle Ages through Enlightenment eyes.

Gibbon, however, is not so bound up within the Enlightenment that one has to be an Enlightenment specialist to comprehend his meaning; we are still able to read him after two hundred years. By contrast, consider the following lines from Le Goff's essay, "Levi-Strauss in Broceliande" (1988): "thus we see here what Levi-Strauss has called the 'culinary triangle,' with roast meat in the mediating role, though boiled meat is present only metaphorically: (1988, p. 115). One wonders what the medievalist of the late twenty-second century will be able to make of such a passage.

Le Goff is himself aware of the problem. In the introduction to The Medieval Imagination, he admits that

A jaundiced observer might feel that the


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