Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes



Oxford English Dictionary: antiquarian (n.): One who studies or is fond of antiquities; an antiquary.

antiquity (OED): 6. Matters, customs, precedents, or events of earlier times; ancient records.

7. Remains or monuments of antiquity; ancient relics.

OED antique: Applied to old furniture, pictures, china, and other articles of virtu, esp. as sought for and collected by amateurs (virtu: article, object, piece, etc., of virtu , an article such as virtuosos are interested in; a curio, antique, or other product of the fine arts

Wikipedia: antiquarian: "Today the term is often used in a pejorative sense, to refer to an excessively narrow focus on factual historical trivia, to the exclusion of a sense of historical context or process. . . . Antiquaries often appeared to possess an unwholesome interest in death, decay, and the unfashionable; while their focus on obscure and arcane details meant that they seemed to lack an awareness both of the realities and practicalities of modern life, and of the wider currents of history. For all these reasons they frequently became objects of ridicule. . . . The word's resonances were close to those of modern terms for individuals with obsessive interests in technical minutiae, such as nerd, trainspotter, or anorak."


Dr. White: Antiquarianism as shorthand for interest in history for its own sake, regardless of relevance or urgency to current questions.

Contrast historicism as dialogue or exchange between past and present--conviction that history matters only when it instructs the present mind.