Sorrow and Consolation in Italian Humanism

Sorrow and Consolation in Italian Humanism

George W. McClure
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 324
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvd53
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    Sorrow and Consolation in Italian Humanism
    Book Description:

    George McClure offers here a far-reaching analysis of the role of consolation in Italian Renaissance culture, showing how the humanists' interest in despair, and their effort to open up this realm in both social and personal terms, signaled a shift toward a heightened secularization in European thought. Analyzing works by fourteenth-and fifteenth-century writers, from Petrarch to Marsilio Ficino, McClure examines the treatment of such problems as bereavement, fear of death, illness, despair, and misfortune. These writers, who evinced a belief in the legitimacy of secular sadness, tried to forge a wisdom that in their view dealt more realistically with the art of living and dying than did the disputations of scholastic philosophy and theology.

    Arguing that consolatory concerns helped spur the revival of classical schools of psychological thought, McClure reveals that the humanists sought comfort from once-neglected troves of Stoic, Peripatetic, Epicurean, Platonic, and Christian thought. He contends that the humanists' pursuit of solace and their duty as consolers provided not only a forum but perhaps also an incentive for the articulation of prominent Renaissance themes concerning immortality, the dignity of man, and the sanctity of worldly endeavor.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6120-0
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION THE CLASSICAL AND CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS
    (pp. 3-17)

    The theory and practice of proffering consolation commanded a prominent place in humanist moral thought and literature. Reviving and furthering the tradition of the ancientconsolatio,Renaissance writers formulated solace for such problems as bereavement, fear of death, illness, despair, and misfortune. In the Trecento and Quattrocento there appeared countless consolatory letters, a wealth of funeral orations, and numerous consolatory dialogues and treatises. The coherence and importance of this consolatory tradition in Renaissance culture have not been fully recognized. By studying this tradition more closely we can learn much about the psychological functions of rhetoric and philosophy in Renaissance thought....

  6. 1 PETRARCH AS SELF-CONSOLER: THE SECRETUM
    (pp. 18-29)

    In letters to friends, in an exhortation to his cowled brother, in an interior dialogue with himself, in a manual for others, Petrarch broadly formulated for himself a special role as a consoler and rhetorical healer. His versatility in fulfilling this role makes him quite unlike his classical and medieval predecessors: his efforts as a consoler transcend genre and signify a more pervasive concern to become amedicus animorum, caring for the variety of ills besetting private and public man. By the time he completed his major consolatory treatise, theDe remediis utriusque fortune, Petrarch had achieved an integrated vision...

  7. 2 PETRARCH AS PUBLIC CONSOLER: THE LETTERS
    (pp. 30-45)

    Petrarch’s suppleness as amedicus animorumextended beyond his efforts as a self-consoler to his many endeavors as a “public” consoler, as he sought to comfort friends, patrons, and his unnamed reading public. Forever the letter-writer, he left two expansive collections: theFamiliaresand the laterSeniles.¹ In these familiar letters Petrarch cultivated the ancient role of the epistolary consoler, exhorter, and sage. He comforted acquaintances in times of bereavement, exile, sickness, absence of friends, fear of death, aging, and misfortune. Like Seneca he also assumed the role of moral adviser, writing letters to friends on such topics as adultery,...

  8. 3 PETRARCH AS UNIVERSAL CONSOLER: THE DE REMEDIIS UTRIUSQUE FORTUNE
    (pp. 46-72)

    From the particular misfortunes of friends Petrarch the epistolary consoler ventured forth to brave the universal contingency of Fortuna. Undoubtedly his most ambitious and systematic effort as amedicus animorumwas his writing of theDe remediis utriusque fortune.Its voluminous scope testifies to its purpose: to gather the many strands of healing wisdom in Petrarch’s world; to universalize this wisdom for a wide range of readers and situations; to complete Petrarch’s growth as a constructive Stoic healer. TheDe remediisnot only at times expands upon earlier consolatory themes in Petrarch’s thought but also transforms them. Moreover, Petrarch’s role...

  9. 4 CONSOLATION AND COMMUNITY: COLUCCIO SALUTATI AS FRIEND AND COMFORTER
    (pp. 73-92)

    In 1390 a physician in Faenza, Antonio Baruffaldi, took up Petrarch’s admonition that doctors not interest themselves in eloquence. Baruffaldi wrote Petrarch’s admirer, the Florentine chancellor Coluccio Salutati, asking him to address the question of whetherverecundia(shame) was a virtue or a vice. Opening his letter by referring to aSenilesletter—presumablySen.3.8—in which Petrarch dissuaded a doctor from pursuing eloquence, he expressed his hope that Salutati would not similarly lecture him on this matter, as he disavowed any claims of being eloquent. Having thus duly renounced any designs on the humanists’ turf, he then asked...

  10. 5 THE ART OF MOURNING: AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WRITINGS ON THE LOSS OF A SON
    (pp. 93-115)

    As petrarch illustrates, Renaissance consolers, like certain of their classical and Christian predecessors, wrote not only to console of others but also sometimes to comfort themselves. This literature of personal sorrow can be quite revealing, as it sometimes ventured further from the realm of genre, and closer to the reaches of individual emotional experience. In his letters andSecretum,Petrarch went far in legitimating psychological autobiography, leaving a legacy that flowered in the fifteenth century. Shorn of the highly poetic dimensions Petrarch breathed into it, the autobiographical genre gained a wider currency when it was taken up by others who,...

  11. 6 THE SCIENCE OF CONSOLING: A LITTLE-KNOWN CLERICAL MANUAL OF CONSOLATION
    (pp. 116-131)

    Though he possibly took minor orders and certainly held ecclesiastical benefices, Petrarch was, happily, not a priest and, albeit somewhat regrettably, not a monk. Salutati was proudly laic in status. Conversini, Manetti, and Filelfo were all laymen. If, in fact, lay humanists were providing a type of consolatory literature and care partly neglected by the medieval pastoral office, how did Renaissance clerical writers adapt humanist perspectives to the pastoral domain? How did more traditionally religious writers aspire to compete with or complement the efforts of their lay counterparts?¹ In a word, how did lay discussions of consolation prompt clerical responses?...

  12. 7 GRIEF AND MELANCHOLY IN MEDICEAN FLORENCE: MARSILIO FICINO AND THE PLATONIC REGIMEN
    (pp. 132-154)

    In 1462 Cosimo de’ Medici, Florence’s first citizen, provided Marsilio Ficino with a villa at Careggi and with Platonic texts. The result, well known to students of the Renaissance, was the birth of the Platonic Academy. At Careggi Ficino continued his efforts, already begun in the 1450s, of translating and commenting upon various Greek writings. By the end of his career he had translated not only the entire corpus of Platonic dialogues, but also the works of Neoplatonic figures such as Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus as well as works attributed to such pseudonymous figures as Hermes Trismegistus and Pseudo-Dionysius...

  13. CONCLUSION THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE AND BEYOND
    (pp. 155-166)

    From petrarch to Ficino, Trecento and Quattrocento literature reflects the interest in reviving consolatory genres in various rhetorical, philosophical, social, and religious contexts. This humanist flowering of consolation was of course tied to the larger revival of classical and patristic thought. But to acknowledge the mere fact of that revival, as if somehow inexorable, is not to explain it. Timely cultural motivations inspired the rise and success of humanist learning and literature generally, just as they shaped the emergence of consolatory writings specifically. To understand the cultural, spiritual, and intellectual context of this consolatory revival is to understand better the...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 167-286)
  15. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 287-300)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 301-311)