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date: 28 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Both the Renaissance and humanism have anachronistically taken on meanings today that betray their historical reality. Emerging from the peculiar lay professional culture of medieval Italy, humanism joined in the Renaissance with other elements of medieval Italian culture to dominate the educated world of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. The Renaissance humanists constituted, in the words of Paul Oskar Kristeller, “a characteristic phase in what may be called the rhetorical tradition in Western culture.” Renaissance humanism created not an ideology or philosophy, but a dynamic set of educated interests and methods dominated by rhetorical and literary interests and focused on imitation of classical eloquence and literature. The humanists would in time powerfully reshape European learning, education, and, ultimately, self-conception. A non-trivial residue of Renaissance humanism is our understanding of the disciplines that make up the humanities and that we view as essential to educated culture.

Keywords: humanism, Renaissance, ars dictaminis, classical tradition, rhetorical tradition, Roman script, Francis Petrarch, Poggio Bracciolini, Lorenzo Valla, Erasmus of Rotterdam

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