Italy Literature – Latin Humanism and Vulgar Humanism Part 1

Italy Literature - Latin Humanism and Vulgar Humanism 1

Alongside this copious literature in the vernacular, which continued in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the tradition established with the first rise of Italian literature, runs the literature of doctrine in Latin, to which Petrarch had taught the methods of reconstructing the ancient and pointed out the goal in the dream of a classical restoration. The two currents represent two stages in the progressive development of the Italian spirit: literary correlative of the municipality, generator of the lordship, the first (literature in the vernacular); the second correlative of lordship; two antithetical stages, if you like, but precisely for this reason generators of progress. The story in its fatal progress overwhelmed and overcame the antithesis, leaving to fiddle with their fetish, the Latin, those superficial observers,

Because, as has been said, the studies of antiquity had risen from the first centuries of the new millennium as a consequence of all the reinvigoration of human spiritual energies, already the first forerunners of the movement aroused by Petrarch loved to call them  studia humanitatis, that is, studies intended for the integral improvement of man, capable of forming a culture that was not only doctrine, but also morality and beauty, life in short, in its unitary fullness. And “humanist” was at first, even if the word came into use only later (perhaps towards the end of the fifteenth century), who through the studies of classicism aspired to a goal of a complete education of man for an intent of rehabilitation of the spirit, raised to the dignity of creator of life and history. Of this nature was the Ferrara school of Guarino Veronese and more the Mantuan one of Vittorino dei Rambaldoni da Feltre.

All absorbed in the contemplation of the ancient, the humanists aimed with assiduous investigations and with increasing refinement of criticism to restore its genuine features to antiquity. Due to the discoveries of Coluccio Salutati, Poggio Bracciolini, Giovanni Aurispa and many others, the Latin literary heritage grew to be what it has remained to this day. The texts, corrected in the lesson, were expertly commented with a wealth of grammatical, philological and historical observations, and in reading them the humanists educated the intellect, taste and ear to the forms and ways of classical Latin. For the arrival of Manuele Crisolora, Greek teacher in Florence in the last years of the century. XIV, Hellenistic studies also prospered and a large school of talented translators was formed, which was reinforced by successive migrations of Greeks from the East to Italy. According to, the council held in Ferrara and Florence (1438-39) for the union of the Greek church with the Latin one, was an opportunity for the studies on Greek philosophy to begin and deepen and indirectly for the formation of a Neoplatonic school (Florentine Academy) by Marsilio Ficino, to whom we owe the first attempt to philosophically arrange humanism or that science of man of which Petrarch had had an anxious presentiment.

While with the philosophical investigation, with the translations from Greek, with the interpretation of philosophical systems, the humanists struggled to give the ancient world its genuine aspect, with the original works they aspired to renew literature in the forms and language of the classics. Leonardo Bruni d’Arezzo narrated the history of Florence from its origins to 1402 with an insight into human causes and the logical connection of facts, but translating medieval facts and customs into classics to escape neologisms and respect the dignity of history. This lack of the color of time is in general the character of all humanistic stories of literary intent. Thus in the treatises on morality and politics the precepts and examples come from the ancient world, and the form, expository or dialogical, is shaped on the models of Cicero and Seneca. Few, and they are the most ancient, they feel some breath of new life, such as those of Poggio Bracciolini, who infuse them with the frenzied wave of his witty, vivid, effervescent ingenuity. He is also the happiest of the Latin epistolographs of the fifteenth century, which he had many and many, followers first of the more serious manner of Seneca, of Pliny and of Petrarch, then of the more agile one of Cicero. Empty stylistic exercises are mostly the academic orations of the humanists, while the needs of history overcame the abstract dream of classical restoration in the orations of the deliberative genre, which, even if written in Latin, had – those given by Enea Silvio Piccolomini, p. ex. – a substantial political content and a solid team of thought. Orations intended for reading and modeled on the ancient judicial prayers were the invectives, with which the humanists vented their maqlime against their adversaries, charging them with vulgar insults and atrocious slanders. The controversies between Filelfo and Valla with Poggio are famous for personal and methodological issues; and that of Poggio con Guarino disputing whether Cesare or Scipione Africano were superior.

Italy Literature - Latin Humanism and Vulgar Humanism 1