To clarify: the title is excerpted from Act 1 of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. The full quote goes:
"Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile;
So ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes."
It's a warning against spending too much of your life in scholarly pursuits.
Day By Day
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Reassessing the Dark Ages
In the latest edition of the New English Review Emmet Scott summarizes the argument put forth in his new book, Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited. In it he surveys centuries of scholarship on the subject of the collapse of Classical civilization and the beginnings of Europe's "Dark Ages". He notes that the barbarian kingdoms that precipitated the fall of Rome adopted and spread, rather than destroying classical culture. He also notes that archaeology has shown that the collapse of that culture, taking place in the seventh rather than the fifth century, was not unique. A similar contemporaneous pattern of disruption can be seen in the great Christian centers of Anatolia, the Levant, and North Africa. He concludes that it was the expansion of Islam, rather than the barbarian invasions that signaled the death knell of classical civilization. Moreover, far from being a beacon of enlightenment in dark age Europe, Islam bequeathed to it the far more destructive concepts of holy war and absolute spiritual authority. This is a remarkable interpretation that stands in contrast to the Islamophilia and self-loathing that has characterized Western scholarship on the subject in recent years.