A History of the French Language

By Urban T. Holmes Jr.; Alexander H. Schutz | Go to book overview

VI
THE HUMANISTIC RENAISSANCE (1494-1610)

39. GENERAL CONDITIONS

The term "Renaissance," when used in the history of civilization, means that a large mass of people have changed their point of view --their outlook on life and its surrounding conditions. We have seen how the Middle Ages, with all their fineness of faith and enthusiasm, wore themselves out in the Middle French period; the people reacted and demanded something new. The novelty which presented itself ready to hand was the pseudo-pagan civilization of Italy. Italy had never been suited to medieval institutions. During the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries she attempted to combine a hodgepodge of art and literature from France, Germany, the Arabs, the Lombards, Byzantium, and antiquity; but from Dante's time ( 1265-1321) forward she recovered and, casting off foreign influence, set herself to reviving ancient art and letters. Her success was admirable. Italian architecture, sculpture, and painting made remarkable strides at once. In literature such masters as Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio not only cultivated Latin literature to a high degree; they gave Florence--and therefore Italy--a vernacular literature which was far in advance of any existing elsewhere in Europe. They dignified and tended to fix the Italian language. They were succeeded by a flood of humanists in both Latin and Italian.1

A scanty conception of Greek, in the Middle Ages, was derived from Donatus, Priscian, Isidore, and Roger Bacon. In the fifteenth century, thanks to the Council at Florence ( 1439) where the hierarchy of the Roman and Greek churches sought in vain for unity, Greek language and literature come to the fore. One of the Greek

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1
We should define a humanist as a man of critical mind whose chief interest is the history of civilization and letters, which he pursues for no practical consideration. Commonly this interest is in ancient civilization; such was the case in the sixteenth century.

-61-

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A History of the French Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Contents vii
  • A History of the French Language 1
  • II - Latin and Vulgar Latin 12
  • III - Low Romance (or Pre-Literary French) (700-1000 A.D.) 26
  • IV - Old French (1000-1300) 41
  • V - The Middle French Period (1300-1515) 53
  • VI - The Humanistic Renaissance (1494-1610) 61
  • VII - The Seventeenth Century 79
  • VIII - The Eighteenth Century 101
  • IX - The Nineteenth Century 114
  • X - The Present Day 129
  • Appendix I 143
  • Appendix II 161
  • Index 177
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