The Humanistic Tradition I

From the Ancient World to The Reformation

The Humanistic Tradition:  Study Questions.
Chapter 16: Classical Humanism in the Age of the Renaissance.

1. Define the term renaissance.  Why is it applied to the cultural and intellectual changes that took place in Italy beginning in the 14th century?  What are the major characteristics of “classical humanism”?  Discuss at least three works that represent this concept.

2. How did Italian city-states like Florence provide an economic, political, social, and psychological context for the Renaissance?  Provide specific examples.

3. Explain why Francesco Petrarch is often called the “father of humanism”?  He described himself as follows: “I am like a man standing between two worlds: I look forward and I look back.”  What did he mean by this statement?  How are some of fundamental conflicts of the Renaissance revealed in his writings?

4. Read the excerpt from Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man.  What is his main thesis about the nature of man?  How does he make his argument?  Which features of classical humanism are represented in Pico’s Oration?

5. Other writers also wrote about the new Renaissance concept of man and woman.  Describe the main features of the thought of Leon Battista Alberti, Baldassare Castiglione, Laura Cereta, Lucretia Marinella, and Niccolò Machiavelli.  Suppose these writers were all on a Renaissance “talk show”; what would the conversation be like?

6. Machiavelli’s The Prince is one of the most influential and controversial books in history.  What did he argue about the nature of politics?  Do modern nations, their rulers, and politicians operate in the manner described by Machiavelli?  What are the consequences of this behavior?

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Last Update:  23.VIII.2006

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