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Patronage and Humanist Literature in the Age of the Jagiellons: Court and Career in the Writings of Rudolf Agricola Junior, Valentin Eck, and Leonard Cox.

Patronage and Humanist Literature in the Age of the Jagiellons: Court and Career in the Writings of Rudolf Agricola Junior, Valentin Eck, and Leonard Cox. By Jacqueline Glomski. Erasmus Studies, 16. Toronto, Buffalo, and London:

University of Toronto Press, 2007. xiv + 336 pp. $75. This book focuses on the intellectual climate at the Jagiellon court in Cracow during the period from 1510 to 1530. The dates are important because these were the years in which the characteristic forms of Renaissance culture took root at Cracow. And the place matters, too, for it is here that King Sigismund I transformed the world around him, starting in Cracow but spreading out from there, through the university and the printing presses of the city, then throughout the region east of Vienna.

Glomski's thesis, quite simply, is that this transformation reflects a localized version of the same patronage process that spread throughout the rest of Europe. The taste for a literature based on imitation of the classics began in this area at the end of the fifteenth century, when Filippo Buonaccorsi and Conrad Celtis passed through Cracow. It was established between 1510 and 1530 by a second wave of humanist activity that centered on three itinerant scholar-poets and their work at the University of Cracow: Rudolf Agricola Junior (ca. 1490-1521) and Valentin Eck (ca. 1494-1556?), both originally from southern Germany, and Leonard Cox (ca. 1495-ca.1549), an Englishman. This taste was advanced by humanists like these, who used their abilities as a way to advance their own positions among the rich and powerful. They could provide what the elite wanted: not philanthropy or knowledge for its own sake, but fame, disseminated through flattering verses composed in the newest style. The literature that resulted was the product of negotiation, as patron and client found ways to make their very different agendas coincide. Glomski begins her study by examining the writers' strategies for career-building. She then examines how Agricola Junior, Eck, and Cox used the panegyrical poetry they wrote to create the image of a great man, a "humanist hero." The public image of the Polish and Hungarian kings and ecclesiastical and lay dignitaries formed by Agricola Junior and Eck in their occasional and political poetry is examined, along with the poets' role in producing propaganda that furthered the political aims of their patrons and simultaneously advanced their own positions at court.

As Glomski notes, it is curious that there has been before now no effort to produce a synthetic study of these three men and that basic bibliograpical information and even modern biographies of Agricola Junior, Eck, and Cox have only appeared recently. As she notes, her project has come up against a basic methodological issue in neo-Latin studies: should the neo Latin literature printed in Cracow be considered part of the corpus of a national literature, or part of a supranational European literature in Latin that exists separately but on the same basis as the national literatures? If the former option is preferred, into which national literature should this material be placed? Polish, one might be tempted to say--but none of the writers was Polish by birth, all of them left Cracow and did much of their work elsewhere, and Poland in the sixteenth-century did not even include the same territory as it does now. Some of these same issues come up in the article on "Central-Eastern Europe" by Jerzy Axer, with the assistance of Katarzyna Tomaszuk, in A Companion to the Classical Tradition, ed. by C. W. Kallendorf (Oxford, 2007), 132-55. Axer and Tomaszuk argue that this region is a sort of "borderland" between western Europe, where the classical tradition had a more natural home, and Russia, which received it in effect only in the nineteenth century; as such, the appearance of the classics in central-eastern Europe must always be placed carefully against the intellectual, cultural, and political background of those who were working for its importation. This is what Glomski does. Her larger reliance on the patronage model in one sense confirms what we might expect, since as she herself admits, it is the same model that prevailed elsewhere in Europe as well (4), but this is an unusually interesting local variation on the usual theme. As the 2006 Budapest congress of the International Association for Neo-Latin Studies showed, a great deal of interesting work is going on in central-eastern Europe, but much of it remains inaccessible to scholars who do not read Hungarian, Polish, etc. Glomski is thoroughly at home in both the Latin writings of her subjects and the modern vernacular scholarship on them, making this book an excellent introduction to neo-Latin studies in the region it treats. (Craig Kallendorf, Texas A&M University)
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Title Annotation:NEO-LATIN NEWS
Author:Kallendorf, Craig
Publication:Seventeenth-Century News
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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