Historical Context

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The Renaissance
The Renaissance constituted a major shift in focus from God to the human. It started in the middle of the fourteenth century, after the Black Death (plague, 1347–1377) killed almost one-third of the population of Europe. Although the economy suffered, the remaining population earned higher wages and quickly filled in the gaps in the market. A renewed interest in classical literature, language, and philosophy fed the intellectual movement of the Renaissance: Humanism. Humanism was responsible for raising man to a level of dignity and intellectual importance that actually threatened the viability of the Church. As humanists worked to integrate pagan classical philosophy with Christian, Jewish, and gnostic theology and mysticism, they developed the notion that man can achieve redemption through his faith, independent of the grace of God. This change accompanied a growing awareness of and discomfort about the extensive corruption of the clergy. The practice of selling indulgences began to be questioned by an emerging and somewhat educated middle class that did not share the traditional values of the ruling elite. Knowledge and ideas were more widely available due to the invention of the printing press (1457–1458) and a gradual urbanization of society. The Church still maintained its political, social, and economic power, but the Protestant Reformation was questioning its theology, and a new branch of Christianity was in its formative phase. A Counter Reformation helped to refine Church procedures and reduce corruption, but the schism between competing models of individual salvation led to the formation of Protestant denominations. Although the Church sanctioned persecution of witches and instituted the Spanish Inquisition as a backlash against the Protestant Reformation, Europe was divided along religious lines, and nations such as England went back and forth between Catholocism and Protestantism until leaders were able to stabilize society and appoint a national religion or manage to incorporate a policy of religious toleration. In this hotbed of social and philosophical turbulence, a new mode of critical thinking allowed for significant discoveries in science. New respect for individual achievement, the scientific revolution that allowed open scientific inquiry, and an established wealth led to the revolutionary discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton and set the stage for innovations in art such as the application of the golden mean in architecture, the portrayal of visual perspective in drawing and painting, and the realistic modeling of musculature in human sculpture. Niccolo Machiavelli explored human psychology to develop a theory about the role of power in politics that became the basis for modern political realism. In drama, playwrights such as Shakespeare portrayed intimate psychological studies of the human mind as it undergoes a crisis. In these and other ways, the Renaissance surpassed the achievements of classical Greece and Rome that it had rediscovered.

Italian City-States
The birth of Humanism occurred in the Italian city-states during the fourteenth century, when Francesco Petrarch decided to devote himself to the study of Latin (and later, Greek) and to search for ancient lost manuscripts of classical Rome and Greece. The Italian city-states were a perfect breeding ground for a new ideology because they were not as committed to Scholasticism as were the urban areas of the rest of Europe. Whereas universities in other parts of Europe taught theology, the universities in the Italian city-states taught law and medicine. In the rest of Europe, society depended upon the clergy at the universities to educate the sons of the elite in established Christian behavior, morality, and doctrine so that they would be able to compete for positions at court. However, the Italian city-states were either self-governing (Florence and Venice) or run by...

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a patriarchal family, like the Medicis, and so needed only to teach young men how to use language and writing to conduct business and city matters. Italy was a locus of trade, which required that merchants be conversant in law and the cultures of the many merchants from other kingdoms who traveled there to trade. In Florence, no university existed until an institution was chartered in 1321. Instead, young men of elite families were trained to their trade in schools that contracted annually with a teacher to present a prearranged curriculum. This fluidity made it easier for the citystates to shift to the new humanist way of thinking, since there was not a philosophically or theologically oriented university faculty devoted to the promotion of a particular philosophy or doctrine. The practicality of a merchant trade culture demanded that students acquire an ethical foundation that would make them good businessmen. Furthermore, the city-state schools taught their students skill in politics and rhetoric, so that they could serve in the republican form of government and also make good heads of their family households.

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 brought an influx of expatriate Greek scholars to Italy. These scholars found work teaching the young elite of the wealthy merchants in the city-states, spawning interest in the study of Greek language and literature, so that studies of ancient Greek literature in the original language contributed to humanist thought.

The Reformation
The Reformation was a reaction to the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, which was raising money by selling “indulgences,” pieces of paper promising that the purchaser would have all of his earthly sins excused in heaven. The Reformation was a theological movement, led by Martin Luther, who in 1517 attached ninety-five theses, criticisms against the Church, to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. He was promptly excommunicated. However, his ideal of religious revelation through personal experience of the Bible and God through faith rather than through religious works was an idea that took hold among the growing middle class. Although scholarly humanists eventually withdrew their support from what they could see was an attack on the Church itself and not just on its corruptions, the reformist movement succeeded in creating an alternate branch of Christianity known as Protestantism. The Reformation became a political conflict as nations began to emerge from the fiefdoms of the medieval period and the leaders of these nations, such as King Henry VIII of England, saw in the Reformation potential for making inroads into the formidable power of the Church. The Church’s power to generate revenue exceeded that of the crown through money gained from services related to birth, first communion, marriage, and death. The Church also wielded authority equal to and greater than that of the crown, with its threat of excommunication, which was believed to guarantee condemnation to hell after death. The Reformation was questioning the validity of that power, in light of extensive corruption among the clergy and even within the Vatican itself. Henry VIII took advantage of the weakening of Church authority and in 1538 dissolved many of the wealthy monasteries, taking their treasuries into his own coffers. He further weakened Papal authority in England when, through his Act of Supremacy (1534), he assumed authority over the Church in England.

Johannes Gutenburg, German inventor of the printing press using movable type, produced a 1,282-page Latin Bible between 1453–1455. By 1465, two German printers had set up shop in Italy, where they produced a Latin grammar and a work of Cicero, in addition to the more popular fare of devotional books and the lives of the saints. By the middle of the fifteenth century, lost classical texts were being rediscovered by Petrarch and his disciples and Boccaccio and Salutati, among others. With the rapid proliferation of printing presses in major cities, the opportunity for a profitable business arose, and the cost of books dropped so that each student in a school could own his own Latin grammar and one or two important books instead of having to copy texts as the teacher recited them aloud. In addition, the professionalization of printing resulted in a greater reliability of the texts; not only were the texts amended by diligent humanist scholars being published, but large printing jobs reduced the number of text variants. The impact of printing on Renaissance culture was significant. New ideas spread more quickly to a populace whose literacy was increasing exponentially as schools multiplied and, due to the availability of new books, were increasingly effective.

Literary Style

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Love of Language
As the humanists discovered neglected or lost classical manuscripts and distributed them through printing, they developed a discerning taste for those classical writers who expressed their thoughts in the most elegant forms of Latin. They also discovered errors in transcription as they compared different versions of the same text. Philology, the love or study of language, grew out of the humanist desire to perfect their translations of ancient texts and to write textual commentaries on their newly discovered texts. Writing in Latin themselves, they sought to express themselves in the most elegant forms of this language. Thus, ancient Roman writers such as Cicero and Caesar became models of Latin prose, replacing the medieval Latin of scholastic Latin grammar texts. In many ways, philology lies at the heart of the humanist movement, since it engendered a focus on the historical context in which ancient texts were written as well as on textual criticism. In fact, the early humanists invented the concept of textual criticism. Philology is central to historical study because it is a valid means of authenticating records of historical events and thinking.

Rhetoric and oratory—in Latin—were important skills to the humanists. They disapproved of the scholastic style of disputation, which they considered a show of superficial knowledge as opposed to true wisdom or virtue. The scholastic method of disputation involved searching through texts to find statements to use as evidence to support a given opinion, even to the point of taking statements out of context. The scholastic method of teaching Latin and rhetoric was through rote memorization, with corporal punishment for poor performance. Students learned how to imitate the classical Latin writers but often had no idea of the meaning of the words they said. In contrast, the humanists wanted their students to follow Cicero’s three duties of the orator: to teach, to please, and to move (appeal to emotions). Humanist oration was not a recitation but a speech that considered the audience as well as the choice of material. In addition, humanists wanted their students to learn the subjects so that they would speak with authority. They followed the adage to teach students to “Grasp the subject, the words will follow.” To do so would lead students to acquire real understanding of subjects, and this knowledge would help them make good decisions and become better citizens. This method is consistent with another of Cicero’s rules, which proposes that students not try to master “absolute truth” but look to their own virtue instead. Thus the teaching of oratory was linked to character education. Erasmus wrote several works designed to help students acquire a mastery of Latin. His Adages contained thousands of worthy sentiments elegantly phrased in Latin. He also wrote a work called Formulas forFriendly Conversation (printed in 1518) to help students converse rather than simply repeat Latin sayings. Ultimately, advanced students of Latin would need to master skills of “oratorical abundance” or copia. By this was meant the ability to speak at length on a topic, to layer their speech with numerous pertinent sayings, and to choose adages that fit the occasion. The latter skill is referred to by Shakespeare’s Hamlet when he tells the troupe of actors visiting his castle to “suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” That Shakespeare echoed the humanist program of oratory is testimony to the extent to which their program of oratory and rhetoric had filtered down to public schools such as the one that Shakespeare attended in his small town of Stratford-upon-Avon in the sixteenth century.

The humanist interest in biography and autobiography stems from the father of Humanism, the Italian poet and scholar Francesco Petrarch. Petrarch deplored his own age and felt that classical Roman times and people were more virtuous than his. He became obsessed with reading works of ancient Roman writers in the original Latin. He also searched for lost manuscripts so that he could piece together a society that he felt was far superior to fourteenth-century Italian society. When he found collections of personal letters written by his favorite classical writer, Cicero, he pored over them, trying to get to know the man and the culture that produced him. Petrarch even wrote fictional letters to some of his best-loved Roman writers, in which he praised the classical period and talked about his dissatisfaction with his own time. Then Petrarch wrote a set of biographies, which he called Of Illustrious Men (De viris illustribus) (1338). These twenty-four sketches are a model of classical scholarship and insight into human behavior. His friend Boccaccio wrote a parallel work on the lives of over one hundred women, called Famous Women (De mulieribus claris) (1362). Little did either of these two scholars and literary geniuses know what impact their obsession with classical Rome and Greece would have on posterity in fostering the genre of biography, which would remain popular for centuries.

Movement Variations

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The Enlightenment Period
Some historians say that the humanist movement that began in the Renaissance did not fully flower until the Enlightenment period of the eighteenth century, also called the Age of Reason. During this period, human faith in science and rational thinking spread beyond the intellectual elite, who included most of those who espoused Humanism during the Renaissance. With a larger literate population and a booming middle class that could afford their books, the intellectual thinkers and philosophers of the eighteenth century influenced their societies with their ideas that human reason was supreme and that religion based on superstition and meaningless ritual should not dictate human behavior. Some Enlightenment thinkers were actually atheists; however, many simply eschewed formal religion in favor of the concept of a supreme being whom man could not prove definitively. A group of French thinkers known as the philosophes, including Denis Diderot (1713–1784), Charles Montesquieu (1689–1755), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), and Voltaire (1694–1778), among others, prepared an Encyclopédie (1751–1780) to contain all human knowledge, rationally arranged. Religion was notably missing and in fact was treated as superstition. In another of his essays, Voltaire made the scandalous proposition that religious differences should be tolerated: since God could not deny heaven to classical thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, and Solon, how could he deny it to men of other contemporary religions? Many of the contributors to the encyclopedia were imprisoned for their heretical views. Nevertheless, the massive Encyclopédie stood as a testimony to the doctrine of man’s essential supremacy. The Enlightenment thinkers and philosophers were also fascinated by how humans acquire knowledge and, with religion losing its authority as a moral standard, morality. Many of them wrote treatises on the human mind, including David Hume (1711–1776), who considered human feeling as the source of ethical behavior. Hume also claimed that since God existed only as an idea in the mind, he did not exist. Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) proposed that humans make ethical decisions based upon the pleasure principle: that in seeking to avoid pain, each human’s ethical decision would contribute to the common good. In Germany, Immanual Kant (1724–1804) proposed that all moral actions be measured against a kind of golden rule that said that an action was moral if it could be applied categorically to all, which was another form of locating morality in the human mind rather than in divine revelation. In America, Thomas Paine (1737–1809) accused religion of inspiring the worst moral behavior, saying that “The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.” The role of the Enlightenment period, in regard to Humanism, consists in taking the humanist faith in humanity step further—toward questioning and even rejecting organized religion. It was a period of the triumph of intellectual reasoning over over religious belief, and it grounded the idea of virtue on Earth for the sake of pleasure on Earth. In this thinking lay the seeds of the humanist work of the next century, that of social consciousness and reform.

Modern Secular Humanism
The social reformist thinking of the nineteenth century was an outgrowth of Renaissance and then Enlightenment Humanism. Belief in the Great Chain of Being with humankind firmly at the top both legitimized imperialism through the idea of “civilizing” undeveloped nations abroad and contributed to the sense of social responsibility that developed into better living and employment conditions at home, where working-class people led “lives of quiet desperation” (Thoreau, 1854). Robert Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) wrote “A Humanist Credo,” in which he defined this responsibility:

We are satisfied that there can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven. We do not expect to accomplish everything in our day; but we want to do what good we can, and to render all the service possible in the holy cause of human progress. We know that doing away with gods and supernatural persons and powers is not an end. It is a means to an end—the real end being the happiness of man.

After the fall of imperialism, humanist ideology evolved from a program that focused on social reform to one that embraced humanitarianism in general, and this form of Humanism dominated the twentieth century. According to humanist Corliss Lamont, Humanism is “A philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity in this natural world and advocating the methods of reason, science, and democracy.” Several manifestos have been written and signed by leading scholars, scientists, and writers indicating their support of a form of Humanism that eschews organized religion and embraces human responsibility for realizing human potential. This includes such ideas as opposing nuclear war, promoting pro-choice on the abortion question, promoting organ donation after death, and accepting euthanasia under certain circumstances. With such a wide range of issues to support, Humanism of the twentieth century, also called Ethical Humanism, does not advocate any particular combination of them but rather subscribes to the notion of situational ethics, of making moral decisions on a case-by-case basis following the underlying humanist principles of respect for human dignity, faith in science and technology, freedom, and respect for nature. These principles have no regard for religious mythology but instead focus on human life on Earth. Paul Kurtz explains in his Humanist Manifesto I and II that “Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stem from human interest and need . . . we strive for the good life here and now.” Secular humanists are those who are religiously devoted to the principles of Humanism. They are to be distinguished from religious humanists, such as the Quakers, who do not use this term but who are devoted to humanitarian concerns as an integral part of their religion and who eschew rituals, costumes, and dogma in their faith. There have been many notable people who claimed Humanism or Secular Humanism as their personal doctrine. These include the atheist American lawyer Clarence Darrow (1857–1938); the German-born American psychoanalyst Eric Fromm (1900–1980); British biologist and grandson of Aldous Huxley, Julian Sorrell Huxley (1887–1975); pacifist and leading English philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970); scientist and Science Fiction writer Isaac Asimov (1920–1992); French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre (1905–1980); scientist Carl Sagan (1934–1996), German-born scientist Albert Schweitzer (1875– 1965); Spanish-born philosopher George Santayana (1863–1952); Chinese-born writer Lin Ytang (1895–1976); philosopher Corliss Lamont (1902– 1995); among many others. The challenges faced by humanists of the twenty–first century, who include philosopher Paul Kurtz, feminist historian Riane Eisler, social journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, feminist Betty Friedan, feminist writer Alice Walker, science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut, United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, just to name a very few, will involve dealing with globalization and ecological concerns.

Compare and Contrast

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1100–1400: The most devout Christians, the monks and nuns, lead lives of quiet piety, cloistered away from the cares of the world.

1450–1600: Pious men begin to realize that piety can be practiced here on earth, so many humanist scholars, who are at the same time highly religious, invest themselves in making society a better place to be.

Today: Religious men and women devote themselves to the betterment of the underprivileged here on earth as do the humanists.

1100–1400: In the west, Christianity is a common aspect of life. People of other religions are sometimes treated as strangers, infidels, or unbelievers and are persecuted.

1450–1600: As Christianity splits into Catholicism and Protestantism, religious persecution continues, now between the two branches. Persecution of Jews, Muslims, and people who practice neither Catholicism nor Protestantism is also rampant.

Today: Religious tolerance is a hallmark of a liberal society. There are still places in the world that persecute people of religions other than their own, and their intolerance has become one of the key challenges of the twenty-first century.

1100–1400: Both scholars and clergy accept Christian teachings as presented by the Catholic Church.

1450–1600: Humanist scholars and clergy begin to feel skepticism about some Catholic teachings and therefore develop the ideology that people can seek revelation on their own. Their ideas are considered heretical.

Today: Secular humanist scholars flatly deny any credence to religious belief. Secular Humanism itself serves as a kind of religious belief in human dignity.

Representative Works

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Published in 1500 by Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Adages (Adagia) initially comprised more than three thousand proverbs from Greek and Roman antiquity. Erasmus added to the collection in the 1508 and 1515 editions. This befits the spirit of the Adages, for in it Erasmus speaks of the importance of the richness (copia) of using the right number of adages in speaking. The introduction gives specific advice on how to polish these gems and use them to enhance speech. He says, “And so to interweave adages deftly and appropriately is to make the language as a whole glitter with sparkles from Antiquity, please us with the art of rhetoric, gleam with jewel-like words of wisdom, and charm us with titbits of wit and humour.” The book became one of the most influential of the Renaissance period, since it both preserved the wisdom of the ancients and served as a how to book on oration.

Book of the Courtier
Published in 1528 by Italian knight, diplomat, and courtier Baldassare Castiglione, Book of the Courtier (Il Cortegiano) describes the perfect gentleman and lady. It consists of a dialogue among typical courtiers, discussing how to comport oneself with grace. A group of courtiers led by the Duchess of Urbina describes the perfect gentleman and his talents, which range from hunting, swimming, leaping, running, playing tennis, and playing music to avoiding envy. The perfect gentlewoman is also described. For both, looks are important, but the end result of one’s toilet should give no hint of effort, such as excessive plucking of hairs or too much makeup. Grace consists of “a certain recklessness,” or sprezzatura, which involves doing things gracefully without seeming to “mind it.” It means that one avoids seeming curious or angry. Talent in speaking and writing is also paramount, and the group goes into a lengthy discussion about the use of oratorical figures of speech and the need to shun antiquated sayings. The final chapter describes courtly love. Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier was soon translated into other languages for use in courts across Europe and Japan.

Book of Elegances, or Elegances of the Latin Language
Begun circa 1435 by Lorenzo Valla (an Italian humanist, philosopher, and literary critic) and published in 1444, this anthology of three thousand exemplary Latin phrases became a standard text throughout Europe for training students in Latin philology (the study of words or language). Within one hundred years of its writing, the huge and costly Book of Elegances had been printed in sixty editions.

Familiar Letters
Francesco Petrarch, over a period of many years, wrote a series of letters addressed to writers from classical Greek and Roman antiquity, such as Cicero, admiring his oratorical qualities; Homer or imitators of Homer, including the talented Virgil; and Socrates. He speaks with these figures from the past about his own critics as if he were writing to living men, personal friends. Among the letters, too, is one “To Posterity” in which he describes himself and his life and works in an early version of informal autobiography. Speaking to posterity, he refers to himself in the past tense, as in this example: “I possessed a well-balanced rather than a keen intellect, one prone to all kinds of good and wholesome study, but especially inclined to moral philosophy and the art of poetry.” Other letters were addressed to contemporaries: Giovanni Boccaccio, who was a friend; and Tomasso de Messina, a philosophical enemy and supporter of Scholasticism to whom Petrarch writes of his distaste for Artistotelian logic and preference for the works of Plato.

Oration on the Dignity of Man
In 1486, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola had completed seven years of classical education at various universities in Europe. He independently came up with the idea to formulate a universal religion comprising the essential elements of the major religions. He put together some of his ideas in nine hundred theses on a wide variety of topics that he wanted to dispute with other scholars in Rome, which did not occur because the Church claimed that some of his propositions were heretical, and Pico della Mirandola had to flee to France for safety. The opening oration to the theses, which came to be known as Oration on the Dignity of Man (published posthumously in 1496), describes man as not being constrained by the laws of nature, such that man, through free will, may determine his own limits and nature. Further, it places mankind at the center of the universe; Pico della Mirandola says that “nothing in the world can be found that is more worthy of admiration than man.” The opening oration has been called the manifesto of Humanism. Although Pico della Mirandola was not a true humanist, since he held on to the Aristotelian concept of forms, a scholastic ideology, his work galvanized humanist thinking in the way that it pulled together the best of Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian, and Arabic philosophies, expressing the intellectual freedom and dignity of humankind.

Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia while on an extended diplomatic mission to Bruges and published his work in 1516. It is the story of the mythical island called No Place (Utopia), where the people get along through their virtue, reason, and charity. The vices of greed and jealousy have been engineered out of the society by ordaining that everyone wear the same clothes and that houses be exchanged every ten years. More based his allegory of England on Plato’s Republic, among other classical (and biblical) sources. More’s Utopia is a celebration of the potential for human virtue and pleasure on Earth and thus a seminal work of humanist literature.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Baier, Annette, Postures of the Mind, University of Minnesota Press, 1984, pp. 147, 293.

Dresden, S., Humanism in the Renaissance, translated by Margaret King, World University Library, 1968, p. 11.

Edwords, Fredrick, “The Humanist Philosophy in Perspective,” in the Humanist, American Humanist Association, January–February 1984.

Fowler, Jeaneane, Humanism: Beliefs and Practices, Sussex Academic Press, 1999, p. 33.

Ingersoll, Robert Green, “A Humanist Credo,” in Humanist Anthology from Confucius to Attenborough, edited by Margaret Knight, Prometheus Books, 1995, pp. 117.

Kurtz, Paul, Humanist Manifesto I and II, Prometheus Books, 1973.

Lamont, Corliss, The Philosophy of Humanism, 7th ed., Continuum Publishing Company, 1990, pp. 12, 42.

Paine, Thomas, “Revealed Religion and Morality,” in Humanist Anthology from Confucius to Attenborough, edited by Margaret Knight, Prometheus Books, 1995, p. 75.

Radest, Howard B., The Devil and Secular Humanism: The Children of the Enlightenment, Praeger, 1990, p. 31.

Rorty, Richard, Philosophy and Social Hope, Penguin Putnam, 1999.

Werner, Michael, “Humanism and Beyond the Truth,” in Humanism Today, Vol. 13: Beyond Reason?: Essays from the Humanist Institute, North American Council for Humanism, 1999.

Further Reading
Ackroyd, Peter, The Life of Thomas More, Random House, 1999. Ackroyd provides a balanced biography of Sir Thomas More that successfully places the man in his historical context and reveals the source of his moral courage as well as his basic humanity.

Davies, Tony, Humanism, Routledge, 1997. This work is an overview of the historical context of Humanism from the Renaissance to modern times. Hale, John, The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance, Simon & Schuster, 1993. Hale offers an historical account of the transformation of Europe that occurred between 1450 and 1620 in art, literature, politics, and culture.

Knight, Margaret, Humanist Anthology from Confucius to Attenborough, Prometheus Books, 1995. Knight’s text is a compilation of short pieces, sometimes excerpted from larger works, by well-known humanists.

Kraye, Jill, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism, Cambridge University Press, 1996. Kraye’s book is a compilation of scholarly articles on aspects of Humanism, from rhetoric and philology to the humanist’s relationship to art and science.

Lamont, Corliss, The Philosophy of Humanism, 7th ed., Continuum Publishing Company, 1990. This work is a defense of modern Humanism as a philosophy with an account of its historical traditions and its ethical beliefs.

Margolin, Jean-Claude, Humanism in Europe at the Time of the Renaissance, translated by John L. Farthing, Labyrinth Press, 1981. Margolin compiles a survey of humanist literature, its proponents, and its connection to educational systems in Europe.

Nauert, Charles, Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe, Cambridge University Press, 1995. This offering is a contextual history of Humanism from its beginnings through the end of the Renaissance.

Ross, James Bruce, and Mary Martin McLaughlin, The Portable Renaissance Reader, The Viking Portable Library, 1977. This comprehensive anthology contains literature from the Renaissance, including samples from most of the key humanist thinkers.

Tracy, James D., Erasmus of the Low Countries, University of California Press, 1996. Tracy’s biography of Erasmus interprets his writings in light of his education, travels, and allies.

Trinkaus, Charles, The Poet as Philosopher: Petrarch and the Formation of Renaissance Consciousness, Yale University Press, 1979. Trinkaus provides a comprehensive biographical account of Petrarch’s life and works.


Critical Essays


Teaching Guide