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Rinascimento: mito e concetto.

Renzo Ragghianti and Alessandro Savorelli, eds. Rinascimento: mito e concetto.

Seminari e Convegni 2. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2005. xxviii + 301 pp. index. [euro]35. ISBN: 88-7642-159-9.

The product of two giornate di studio, one held at the University of Cagliari in December 2001, the other at the Scuola Normale Superiore at Pisa in May 2002, this collection of eight papers surveys aspects of the concept of the Renaissance from Salutati and Leonardo Bruni to Hans Baron and Martin Heidegger.

In an introduction that seeks to explain the underlying unity of the volume, Michele Ciliberto views the Renaissance as the indispensable experience in the formation of a modern European identity. In elucidating the subtitle, he finds the "myths" of the Renaissance are irreducible elements that lead to the constant redefinition of the "concept" of the Renaissance, and then examines the quest for truth in the Renaissance through an analysis of Machiavelli, Guicciardini, and Giordano Bruno.

The eight essays that follow differ not so much in quality--all are competent studies of texts, schools, or individual thinkers by Italian professors of the history of modern philosophy--as in the scope and range of each contribution. Luca D'Ascia surveys Renaissance humanism, starting with Leonardo Bruni's Dialogus ad Petrum Paulum Istrum, as a reaction against the barbarism of the Middle Ages, and ends with a consideration of Vives, Erasmus, and Bruno. Fiorella De Michelis Pintacuda discusses the relation between the Renaissance and Reformation through the prism of Erasmus's concept of Christ as a teacher of wisdom, building on earlier studies of Marcel Bataillon, Augustin Renaudet, and Roland Bainton. Francesca Maria Crasta treats the image of the Renaissance in eighteenth-century Italy, stressing the ways Enlightenment thinkers viewed Italian thought and culture as a civilizing agent in the Cinquecento. Here she contrasts local historians, such as Scipione Maffei in Verona and Pietro Giannone in Naples--who emphasized the role of their own cities in the "restoration of letters"--with Antonio Genovesi, who assigned a major role to the migration of Greek learning to Italy following the fall of Constantinople, and Carlo Denina, who followed Muratori in seeing continuity between the culture of medieval Italy and the achievements of the Renaissance.

Several essays examine aspects of the development of the concept of the Renaissance in nineteenth-century thought. Renzo Ragghianti supplies a wealth of bibliographic detail in surveying the image of the Renaissance in French writers from Victor Cousin to Jules Michelet and Ernest Renan. Gregorio Piaia discusses the role of national identity in the development of a concept of Renaissance philosophy by contrasting the writings of the obscure Trevisan abbot Jacopo Bernardi on Ermolao Barbaro and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola as heralds of the Renaissance in Italy, with the role assigned to French thinkers by Victor Cousin, Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, and Joseph-Marie De Gerando. Alessandro Savorelli exhaustively analyzes Giuseppe Ferrari's treatment of Renaissance thinkers as precursors to the modern philosophy of Descartes in his little-known treatise Discours sur l'histoire de la philosophie a l'epoque de la Renaissance (1842).

What for me are the two most authoritative and useful essays examine important moments in the definition of the Renaissance in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Cesare Vasoli analyzes two very different criticisms of Burckhardt's concept of the Renaissance by contrasting the works of the French cultural historian Emile Gebhart with Konrad Burdach's monumental attempt to document the evolution of German thought and letters from the Middle Ages to the Reformation. While Gebhart challenged Burckhardt's secular vision of Renaissance Italy by stressing the importance of religious spirituality in Saint Francis and his followers, Burdach stressed the debt of Petrarch and Cola di Rienzo to German culture. Both emphasized mysticism, prophecy, and astrology as integral elements of Renaissance culture. Andrea Orsucci details the controversy among German scholars over the meaning both in antiquity and the Renaissance of the term humanitas. After a discussion of Richard Ritzenstein's "discovery" and Theodor Mommsen's dismissal of humanitas in Cicero's works, Orsucci views Hans Baron's scholarship on Bruni's role in the rebirth of Roman Latinity (renascientia Romanitatis) as the key to our understanding of Quattrocento humanism. He concludes with an analysis of Erasmus's use of the word humanitas in the scholarship of Rudolf Pfeiffer with Martin Heidegger's Brief uber den Humanismus (1947), where it is identified with the Greek concept of paideia.

It is altogether appropriate that this volume is dedicated to the memory of Eugenio Garin, who died when it was sous presse. Several of the contributors were his pupils, and all share the diachronic approach to the history of philosophy and thought that was the hallmark of his scholarship.


Vassar College
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Author:Kohl, Benjamin G.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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