Literary Sources II Renaissance Research Project HI274 Powerpoint is on the website

Literary Sources II
Renaissance Research Project HI274
Powerpoint is on the website
“In the Middle Ages both sides of human
consciousness … lay dreaming or half-awake
beneath a common veil. The veil was woven of
faith, illusion and childish prepossessions, through
which the world and history were seen clad in
strange hues. Man was conscious of himself only
as a member of a race, people, party, family or
corporation – only through some general category.
In Italy this veil first melted into air…man became
a spiritual individual and recognized himself as
such.” [Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilisation of the
Renaissance in Italy]
• Literacy, record-keeping, printing
• Humanism? Shifting social terrain?
Confession? Black Death? Religious division?
Patriotism and civic pride
Giovanni Villani (c. 1276-1348)
Lack of narrative & literary style
Little interest in causation
Myths and legends
Villani: “it seems fitting to mention other
important features of our city so that our
successors in later times can be aware of
any rise or decline in the condition and
power of our city, and so that the wise and
worthy citizens who rule in future times
can advance its condition and power
through the record and example of this
Venetian Chronicles
• Written by patricians
• Founding of the city
• Progress of doges
• Chronicle of Doge Andrea
Dandolo (1306-54)
The Diary of Marin Sanudo (1466-36)
• 40,000 pages, 14961533
• Political information
• Venetian dialect
• Print, manuscript and
oral sources
• Official diarist but not
Broadsheet of a monstrous
birth in Florence, pasted
into Sanudo’s diary
• Leonardo Bruni
(c.1370-1444), History of
the Florentine People
• Classical models like Livy
• More coherent narrative
• Elegant literary genre in
• Examples, esp. of oratory
• Use of sources
Pietro Bembo (14701547), author of a
History of Venice
Niccolo Machiavelli
Francesco Guicciardini (14831540)
• Domestic diaries/account
• Property; Birth, deaths,
marriages; Political offices
• Intertwining of public and
• Buonaccorso Pitti (1354-1432)
and Gregorio Dati (1362-1435)
• Family identity and audience
Domenico Ghirlandaio, A Grandfather
and his grandson (c. 1490)
• Grubb: “Why Venetians
didn’t keep ricordanze”?
• Less need for legitimacy
• More stable political system
Paolo Veronese, A
father and son
• Group biographies
• Saints’ lives
• ancient models: Plutarch (ca. 46-120AD) and
Suetonius (ca. 69-122AD)
• Petrarch and Boccaccio: Lives of Famous Men
(and Women)
Vespasiano da Bisticci (1421-98), Lives
of Illustrious Men
“As it chanced that I myself am of this
same age, and that from time to time
I have met many illustrious men,
whom I have come to know well, I
have set down a record of these in
the form of a short commentary to
preserve their memory … that their
fame may not perish”
Giorgio Vasari (1511-74), Lives of the Most
Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (first
published 1550; expanded in 1568)
• Petrarch (1304-74): The
Secret, Letter to Posterity
• Proliferation of
autobiography (see
Benvenuto Cellini (1500-71), My Life
Cellini, Perseus, 1554
• “All men of whatsoever quality
they be, who have done
anything of excellence, or which
may properly resemble
excellence, ought, if they are
persons of truth and honesty, to
describe their life with their own
• An example of “Renaissance
Self-Fashioning”? (see
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