In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni

By Ronald G. Witt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
CONCLUSION

This book insists that the origin of Italian humanism is a serious historical issue. Despite the vast body of scholarship on Italian Renaissance humanism, almost nothing has been written about its origin. The explanation is not difficult to find. As long as Petrarch, who first visited Italy as an adult in 1337, is considered the movement's progenitor, scholars will trace the origins of humanism in Italy to Ms contacts with individuals in a number of central and northern Italian cities beginning in the 1340s. The origins of Italian humanism, consequently, will appear unproblematic. Defined as “prehumanists, ” Lovato and Mussato may receive mention, but their careers will serve primarily as a preface to the main story that begins in Avignon. Once the impetus is traced to an Italian phenomenon beginning in the mid-thirteenth century, however, the question of origins becomes insistent.

The debt that Italy owed France for its contribution to the efflorescence of vernacular literature in the thirteenth century has generally been recognized, but France's role in the origins of Italian humanism must also be acknowledged. Whereas current scholarship admits a degree of French influence on Italian humanism in the years around 1300, I have argued that French literature and scholarship exerted their most important effect—and a decisive one—more than a century earlier, in the late twelfth century. A detailed analysis of that subject awaits another volume, but I have at least sketched the course of French cultural influence on Italy in the decades just before 1200. While ultimately declaring their independence of France by reaffirming their Roman origins, Italian vernacular writers continued to draw heavily on French vernacular models, while Latin writers exploited the philological achievements of France's twelfth-century Renaissance.

To appreciate the extent of French influence is to recognize the dearth of literary culture in twelfth-century Italy. I am largely sympathetic to the medievalist position that the Renaissance did not constitute a sharp break with the Middle Ages. I maintain, however, that modern medieval scholarship has for the most part tended to base its

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In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Table of Contents *
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - The Birth of the New Aesthetic 31
  • Chapter Three - Padua and the Origins of Humanism 81
  • Chapter Four - Albertino Mussato and the Second Generation 117
  • Chapter Five - Florence and Vernacular Learning 174
  • Chapter Six - Petrarch, Father of Humanism? 230
  • Chapter Seven - Coluccio Salutati 292
  • Chapter Eight - The Revival of Oratory 338
  • Chapter Nine - Leonardo Bruni 392
  • Chapter Ten - The First Ciceronianism 443
  • Chapter Eleven - Conclusion 495
  • Appendix 509
  • Bibliography 515
  • Index of Persons 549
  • Index of Places 556
  • Index of Subjects 558
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