Renaissance Humanism: An Introduction



hi this is Peter Beale and I want to just talk briefly about the idea of Renaissance humanism a cultural movement that starts in earnest in the 14th century continues through probably well into the 16th century I think the argument could be made that the process of information among other things and the rise of science and scientific revolution toward the end of the sixteenth century ultimately ensure the demise of Renaissance humanism as an important intellectual movement although the effects are very much with us right to this day Renaissance humanism is primarily focused on intellectual movement that shows up in the 14th century primarily in Italy and we can see that developing in the work of a number of people and we'll study just a little bit and more depth in them in a minute it's important because it has a great deal of interesting facts on the culture of the time of course the visual culture literary culture but also in the political culture of the era and this is of course of particular relevance in discussing the history of city states such as florence and the political ideas the political messages and indeed the personalities that arise in in this period to begin with you should probably think a little bit about what humanism means its relationship to concepts such as Renaissance and move forward from there I would suggest there's a number of different in a sense human isms we should probably walk quickly through what's going on there one of the most important ideas has to do with Lynch with humanism has to do with education and it's worth pointing out that in the Middle Ages we have a fairly vocational approach or at least professional approach to education particularly higher education which is itself a product of the Middle Ages the foundation of the great universities in Europe such as in Paris or Bologna or Padua primarily was intended to educate young men pretty much exclusively man in the fields of knowledge they would need to be professionals in at the time primarily we'd have faculties of theology law and medicine operating in these in these universities we start seeing by the time we come into the 14th century and we might particularly turn to someone will see them just a little bit more in-depth shortly patriarch for a reaction against this relatively narrow and again vocational or at least pre professional approach to education a good way of thinking of this might be for instance to consider the role of Aristotle in the thought of the time and particularly his emphasis on logic or at least the emphasis in the Middle Ages on using logic but a shift certainly occurs I think in the fourteen to go into the fifteenth century a way perhaps from Aristotle towards Plato and in particular shift away from logic and maybe more towards rhetoric and the ability to speak publicly to speak eloquently elegantly to show that one's mastery of Latin was more than again merely fill illogical or theoretical in essence to be poetic in one's approach to expression communication to do this we see a new approach in sort of higher education curriculum the studia who mama taught us this idea held that the sort of pre professional vocational focus on education was perhaps misguided certainly too narrow to produce to use the somewhat cliched phrase well-rounded individual and that the student should be exposed to a wide array of sources literary sources typically from classical Rome focusing on areas of writing such as perhaps philosophy history poetry again with the idea of providing the student with a sound foundation of subject matter and writing and speaking strategies this change in the curriculum grows out of a long term a longtime interest in the notion of the liberal arts the study of things that make one a free person or reflective of free status and I think that humanism with regard to the liberal arts and primarily to do with the problem again of expressing knowledge and having the capacity to forcefully and creatively convey ideas as I've already mentioned rhetoric therefore rises to the fore in this period and to be a good humanist was in essence to have the ability to speak on any number of subjects typically to the benefit of one's employer oftentimes a might be a city it might be an individual ruler and and be able to basically be a kind of ornament to the court if we're taking that particular example a servant to the public and and this is a big issue with the notion of civic humanism particularly in Florence where we have the conjunction of men holding political office who are also very very talented and erudite scholars in their own right the source in many ways for the pursuit of humanism is found in the writings and example in many ways of Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero those dates are from 106 to 43 BCE Cicero's place in first century BCE Rome is very very important and he's not just important for his activities as a politician as a lawyer and order but also for his books and we have a number of examples of these books that were translated handed down through the centuries through the Middle Ages certainly there's this market revival of studies of Cicero going from the 15th may you received 14 15 16 century onward Illustrated here just show how recent Cicero and how important certainly Cicero would be to the United States is a copy of Cicero's tusculum disputations owned by Thomas Jefferson printed in the 18th century and Thomas Jefferson's library had and I think many many other politicians and significant public figures of the time had copies of multiple books by Cicero in essence Cicero summarizes the importance Aamir's just speaking of rhetoric the importance of effective persuasive eloquent dignified expression on matters of great public interest certainly Cicero's own fate in the Civil War following the death of Julius Caesar speaks to his status as a committed and engaged political figure the sophistication of his language certainly interested people such as it we'll just look at him in a moment Petrarch and many many later authors who prided themselves in the ability to at least emulate Cicero's ability with Latin Petrarch 1304 274 is a very important figure in the development of humanism he certainly set himself up in the 14th century is a one of the first celebrities and sort of big public figures in in Europe in the 14th century and much of his reputation was founded on his travels to various locales in Europe recovering retrieving copying Latin main scripts of various kinds he also made a practice attracted of sending out writing letters to various people all over Europe with the expectation these letters would be shared describing his travels his research and generally providing the model of an engaged and committed humanist dedicated to reviving and restoring the Latin legacy particularly in literature and he was very much enamored of Cicero and Cicero's language and we have ample evidence of that including this copy of a letter to Cicero sister of course being long dead but Petrarch viewed him in many ways is a kind of friend or close companion another important figure in the development of humanism of course is boccaccio Giovanni Boccaccio most noted for his vernacular writing and this is something he really has in common with Petrarch both wrote in Italian but also we're very very seriously dedicated to the study of Latin and Latin authors now this is going to change this focus on Latin as we go into the 15th century and we'll see particularly by the beginning of the 15th century a new focus on the study of Greek patrick for instance didn't know greek and assumed the same actually this is the case with Boccaccio and by the middle is old really only until them only after the middle of the 15th century that we start seeing widespread understanding and use of Greek in him in this studies along with other languages such as Arabic and Hebrew so we have a couple title pages here again for the de camera and the famous for an accurate work and then also Boccaccio's genealogy the gods which is a very important reference for scholars going ahead the intersection of humanism and political life is very very strong in Florence and we have a number of important individuals for instance high place government officials such as Leonardo Bruni and Colucci Osamu Tati who dedicate themselves to in essence making concrete the connection that Cicero is drawn between literature and politics and certainly they drew would draw upon the example of someone like Cicero in drawing inspiration and Direction guidance for trying to maintain the fractious and unstable Florentine Republic in a reasonable state of stability this of course is going to begin to erode with the accession of the medici family going into the middle of the 15th century and by the time we go forward into the air Lorenzo de'medici who dies in 1492 we have a focus props moron courtly and more specifically literary aspects of humanistic pursuits we have famous scholars such as puja broccolini who among other things discovers a copy of the Karissa's dana torah rerum Lorenzo valla and his famous reputation of the donation of Constantine the idea that the church had control over the basically the Western Roman Empire he conclusively I think others had worked on this as well but can co-sleeper that the that document was a forgery and perhaps the last of the Italian humanists when we pay any attention niccolò machiavelli 1469 to 1527 most famous of course is the author of the prince lastly just to round up our quick introduction to humanism in the north of europe as the new sort of linguistic modes and ideas and obviously actual primary sources in terms of manuscripts are moving out of the south or the north we see a focus by the likes of Erasmus of Rotterdam and many other northern humanists to apply the same kind of fill illogical scholarly modes of investigation not to classical texts per se that is sorting out Cicero from forgers or you know pseudo Cicero's but focusing instead on works of a religious nature particularly early Christian writing which of course was in in Latin Jerome's Vulgate Latin Bible of the fifth century comes under particular investigation by Erasmus who produces a new edition of the Bible in the early 16th century I should say the New Testament to be more precise requiring skills in Greek in particular and looking again at Jerome's translation this in many ways is a foundation for the process entruv formation is this corrected New Testament is published we have to understand printing is emerging by 1450 and certainly was an invaluable aid in distributing the knowledge of the humanists as we go forward into the 16th century humanism I think begins to gradually fade from the scene part of this has to do I think with the rising strength of vernacular literature which of course had been started in earnest with the work of Dante in the beginning of the 14th century Boccaccio's Decameron is another example of immaculate vernacular literature Petrarch scans on the ARA from again the 14th century all these pointed to a new robust and sophisticated vernacular that is going to be increasingly important in communicating ideas I think also the rise of science and the fact that its language was primarily mathematical in nature and didn't rely upon the rhetorical sophistication that we associated with again Latin houmous and some have argue that the humanists emphasis on reviving preserving and in many ways perhaps mummifying Latin ensure that Latin became really once and for all a dead language one that studied primarily by scholars are not used every day but there's a little question particularly with regard to the studio hamana taught us that humanism plays a role even moving forward into today's education

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published