Humanist Poetics: Thought, Rhetoric, and Fiction in Sixteenth-Century England

Humanist Poetics: Thought, Rhetoric, and Fiction in Sixteenth-Century England

Humanist Poetics: Thought, Rhetoric, and Fiction in Sixteenth-Century England

Humanist Poetics: Thought, Rhetoric, and Fiction in Sixteenth-Century England

Excerpt

The Mind of Man is this worlds true dimension; and Knowledge is the measure of the minde: And as the minde, in her vast comprehension, Containes more worlds than all the world can finde: So Knowledge doth it selfe farre more extend, Than all the minds of Men can comprehend.

FULKE GREVILLE

"IMMORTAL GOD! WHAT A WORLD I SEE DAWNING: WHY CAN I NOT GROW YOUNG AGAIN?" ("SED TAMEN IN PRAESENTIA PENE LIBEAT ALIQUANTISPER REIUVENESCERE"): SO ERASMUS WRITES TO HIS friend Wolfgang Capito on 26 February 1517. His dramatic selfconsciousness displays the essential spirit of Renaissance humanists -- vital, immediate, durable; it is the direct consequence of their rediscovery of Greek texts, especially Plato. The revolutionary influence of these pagan writings released men from their concentrated study of the Church Fathers, of spiritual contemplation and the afterlife, taking them, with fresh excitement, to a new sense of personal liberty and accomplishment that was the chief historical legacy of Greek culture as the Renaissance redrew it, what Frederick B. Artz has labeled "the greatest originating force which history has known." This fundamental impulse of Florentine and northern humanists, a glorification of man broadly promulgated in Tudor England, has countless classical roots, of course -- the myth of Prometheus and the second chorus of Sophocles' Antigone are perhaps two of the best known -- while Varro gives full credit to Socrates in an important passage of Cicero's Academica.

Socrates . . . primus a rebus occultis et ab ipsa natura involutis, in quibus omnes ante eum philosophi occupati fuerunt, avocavisse philosophiam et ad vitam communem adduxisse, ut de virtutibus et vitiis omninoque de bonis . . .

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