Humanist Biography in Renaissance Italy and Reformation Germany: Friendship and Rhetoric

1st Edition

James M. Weiss

Published April 28, 2010
Reference - 326 Pages
ISBN 9781409400219 - CAT# Y238468
Series: Variorum Collected Studies


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As new kinds of persons arose during the Renaissance and Reformation, writers of biography created new ways to depict them. Foremost among biographers were lay humanists who strategically blended personal memoirs and recently recaptured classical models to produce flexible new forms of biography. After an important new introduction, surveying the practice of biographical writing in Renasaince Italy and Reformation Germany, this collection begins with an analysis of Italian biographies, 1450 to 1550, from Valla through Machiavelli to Vasari. It proceeds to focus on one group in one nation: the German humanists' biographical collections and individual biographies of their humanist colleagues: pedagogues, scholars, poets and some reformers from 1480 to 1620. In addition to familiar subjects or writers like Erasmus, Melanchthon, and Luther, these essays demonstrate humanists' self-awareness of their own cultural importance across the sixteenth century and the enduring continuity of a German humanist culture that transcended religious differences. Some essays explore biographical techniques devised to depict the eccentric individuality of celebrity humanists like Beatus Rhenanus, Petrus Lotichius and Eobanus Hessus. Two essays also explore varied directions taken by pre-Reformation humanists as they re-fashioned the lives of saints, and by the earliest Lutheran reformers' new strategies along similar lines. The volume closes with a study of Erasmus's Ecclesiastes, a treatise on rhetoric, in a sense an 'ideal biography', along with a handlist of biographies discussed. This book will serve scholars of the Italian Renaissance, German humanism and the Lutheran reformation.

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