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The Intellectual World of the Italian Renaissance
Language, Philosophy, and the Search for Meaning


  • Date Published: February 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521177122

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About the Authors
  • In this book, Christopher Celenza provides an intellectual history of the Italian Renaissance during the long fifteenth century, from c.1350–1525. His book fills a bibliographic gap between Petrarch and Machiavelli and offers clear case studies of contemporary luminaries, including Leonardo Bruni, Poggio Bracciolini, Lorenzo Valla, Marsilio Ficino, Angelo Poliziano, and Pietro Bembo. Integrating sources in Italian and Latin, Celenza focuses on the linked issues of language and philosophy. He also examines the conditions in which Renaissance intellectuals operated in an era before the invention of printing, analyzing reading strategies and showing how texts were consulted, and how new ideas were generated as a result of conversations, both oral and epistolary. The result is a volume that offers a new view on both the history of philosophy and Italian Renaissance intellectual life. It will serve as a key resource for students and scholars of early modern Italian humanism and culture.

    • Proposes a new view of the history of philosophy, allowing readers clear, concise, jargon-free introduction to a new way of thinking abut philosophy in the Renaissance
    • Offers a new view of the history of Italian literature in a little-studied period, filling a century-long research gap between Petrarch and Machiavelli with clear case studies
    • Offers a new view of Italian Renaissance intellectual life by integrating sources in Italian and Latin but does not require any knowledge of those languages
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'In The Intellectual World of the Italian Renaissance, Christopher Celenza provides a priceless vademecum for the study of Italian humanism. It rolls up in a delectable ball all that has come before: Garin and Kristeller; Burckhardt, Baron, and Martines; Fubini and Vasoli; Hankins, Allen, and the others. It presents in depth and with exquisite clarity the major works of nine leading humanists from Petrarch to Poliziano (plus many others introduced in discursive 'parentheses'), culminating with the writer and critic Pietro Bembo, who translates the humanist heritage into a new language of art, a Latinized Tuscan. The lucidity of the explication de textes is matched by the precision with which Celenza profiles his cast of characters, who are presented with full dimensionality in their psychological, social, and cultural contexts: the careerist Poggio, the brawler Valla, the self-made man and Medici servitor Poliziano.' Margaret L. King, The Catholic Historical Review

    'This is an immensely learned book, written in a clear, accessible style and rich in insight and understanding. Celenza has followed the currents of language and philosophy - which he defines, as do his sources, as the love of wisdom rather than a defined discipline - as elements in the search for meaning and hence self-knowledge and shared values. It is the ideal place to begin a journey into the ideas and debates that informed the intellectual world of the Italian Renaissance.' Kenneth Bartlett, American Historical Review

    '… Celenza presents a rich analysis and narrative of what it meant to participate in Renaissance Italian intellectual life. I recommend his book - either as a whole, or individual chapters as essays - to undergraduates studying intellectual life during the Florentine Renaissance, or to graduate students and early researchers, as a robust and very clear introduction to Renaissance intellectual life and Renaissance humanism.' Barry Torch, Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme

    'The Intellectual World of the Italian Renaissance offers an accessible synthesis of intellectual history in Italy from Petrarch to Pietro Bembo … This book will become the standard introductory text to the subject for students, while specialists will also find here a well-written and thoughtful account of a topic that so often defies synthetic treatment … Historians and students of thought, culture and society, as well as literary scholars and students will all find much to ponder here.' Brian J. Maxson, H-Net reviews

    'This is an immensely learned book, written in a clear, accessible style and rich in insight and understanding.' Kenneth Bartlett, The American Historical Review

    'This is a rich and engaging study. Not a history of Renaissance philosophy as such, it is, rather, an examination of the intellectual worlds of the fifteenth century and in particular of the dominant role of Latin.' Michael J. B. Allen, Renaissance Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521177122
    • length: 454 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Beginnings
    2. Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio
    3. The Italian Renaissance takes root in Florence
    4. Florentine humanism, translation, and a new (old) philosophy
    5. Dialogues, institutions, and social exchange
    6. Who owns culture? Classicism, institutions, and the vernacular
    7. Poggio Bracciolini
    8. Lorenzo Valla
    9. The nature of the Latin language: Poggio versus Valla
    10. Valla, Latin, Christianity, culture
    11. A changing environment
    12. Florence: Marsilio Ficino, I
    13. Ficino, II
    14. The voices of culture in late fifteenth-century Florence
    15. 'We barely have time to breathe'. Poliziano, Pico, Ficino, and the beginning of the end of the Florentine Renaissance
    16. Angelo Poliziano's Lamia in context
    17. Endings and new beginnings: the language debate.

  • Author

    Christopher S. Celenza, Georgetown University, Washington DC
    Christopher Celenza is Dean of Georgetown College at Georgetown University, Washington DC, where he has a joint appointment in History and Classics. He the author of several books including the prize-winning The Lost Italian Renaissance (2005) and Machiavelli: A Portrait (2015). His work has been featured in Salon, The Huffington Post, and on radio and television. Former Director of the American Academy in Rome, he has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Harvard University Center for the Study of the Italian Renaissance (Villa I Tatti), the American Academy in Rome, and the Fulbright Foundation.

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