A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice

By Rebecca W. Bushnell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Humanism Reconsidered

It is easy to forget that any canon maker must be first a canon breaker. Even Desiderius Erasmus, that notorious humanist defender of "good letters," once saw himself in the avant-garde. In his dialogue The Antibarbarians (1520) Erasmus's fictional spokesman Jacob Batt mocked the fear of the new humanist learning felt by the old scholastic "barbarians." He describes how these men spoke out against him (and thus Erasmus) "in public, in taverns, in workshops, at barbers, in brothels, . . . drunk and sober, saying that some unknown outsider was sowing a new heresy, that the best authors, Alexander, Ebrardus Graecista, Modista, Breviloquus, Mammetrectus, Catholicon, . . . were now to be shamefully driven out." Instead, "some unheard- of and dreadful absurdities of the pagans (ethnicorum) were being introduced: Horace, Virgil and Ovid." From these writers, Batt's -- and Erasmus's -- antagonists complained, children would learn only of love, and things that not even adults should know, and they proclaimed that "if plans were not made as soon as possible, it would mean the end of the Christian religion; and the age of the Antichrist would be here, or at least about to begin. For teachers had come, who would soothe those whose ears itch to hear something new (nouarum rerum)."1

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1
Antibarbarorum liber, in Desiderius Erasmus, Opera Omnia, vol. 1, bk. 1, ed. Kazimierz Kumaniecki ( Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1969), p. 61. The translation is my own, but I have consulted The Antibarbarians, trans. Margaret Mann Philips, in Collected Works of Erasmus, vol. 23: Literary and Educational Writings, vol. 1, ed. Craig R. Thompson ( Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978). See also Joan Simon, Education and Society in Tudor England ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), who recounts the

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A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Note on Text and Translations xiii
  • Prologue the Trials of Humanism 1
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction: Humanism Reconsidered 10
  • Chapter 2 - The Sovereign Master and the Scholar Prince 23
  • Chapter 3 - Cultivating the Mind 73
  • Chapter 4 - Harvesting Books 117
  • Chapter 5 - Tradition and Sovereignty 144
  • Epilogue Contemporary Humanist Pedagogy 185
  • Index 203
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