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Arnoud Visser

Abstract

Recent scholarship has advanced paradoxical conclusions about the relationship between Renaissance humanism and the Reformation. While humanist techniques are considered to have played an instrumental role in the development, spread, and implementation of the Reformation, the humanist community is generally regarded as a supra-confessional “Republic of Letters.” This article addresses this paradox by looking at the religious language in Latin emblem books. These highly popular works emphasized a personal, intellectual spirituality, and expressed reservations against institutionalised religion. They have often been interpreted ideologically, as a humanistic, irenical response to the religious turmoil. When read in the context of the authors' and readers' practical interests, however, they reveal a more pragmatic strategy. Rather than promoting religious ideals, they used an a-confessional language to accommodate religious pluriformity. Examples of the reception by individual readers, e.g., in alba amicorum, further exemplify how confessional silence served as a communicative strategy in the Republic of Letters.

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Joannes Sambucus and the Learned Image

The Use of the Emblem in Late-Renaissance Humanism

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Arnoud Visser

The emblem is one of the most remarkable literary inventions of Renaissance humanism. The symbolic imagery presented in these Neo-Latin emblem books constituted an important influence on many areas in early modern literature and art. This volume provides the first comprehensive study of Sambucus’ influential Emblemata (first published by Christopher Plantin, Antwerp, 1564). It reconstructs the cultural-historical contexts in which it was produced, thus reconsidering the social and commercial functions of the humanist emblem. Accompanied by a detailed analysis of individual emblems, it takes into account the emblems’ classical intertextuality and the relationship between word and image. This study shows how the emblematic practice can differ from contemporary symbol and emblem theories, which have often coloured modern interpretations of the genre.
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Arnoud Visser

Abstract

This article investigates Erasmus' edition of the collected works of Augustine of Hippo (Basel 1528–1529) as an example of the interaction between the scholarly culture of Renaissance humanism and the Reformation. It examines how Erasmus' reservations about Augustine's thought informed his presentation of the church father as a brilliant bishop but a mediocre writer. It shows how Erasmus' humanist perspective and theological agenda guided—and at times misguided—his editorial practice, such as in the assessment of authenticity. The result was an edition in which Augustine's works were framed by a highly ideological textual apparatus, which proved especially controversial in post-Tridentine Catholic circles.

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Arnoud Visser

Abstract

This article explores the ideological impact of humanist philology in the age of the European Reformation. It focuses in particular on Erasmus' significance for the textual transmission of early Christian authors. An analysis of Erasmus' editions of the church fathers reveals that the editor did not just restore ancient texts but, by means of textual criticism, also sought to emancipate patristic authority from its traditional ecclesiastical keepers. In doing so he helped to transform their intellectual status from pillars of the institutionalized church into more flexible examples of spiritual virtues. In addition, it shows how Erasmus used his explanatory material to guide the interpretation of specific texts. Finally, by rigorously assessing the authenticity of received works and thus reorganizing the patristic canon, Erasmus promoted a critical attitude to the ecclesiastical tradition. The results of this exploration suggest that the notions of emancipation, interpretative guidance, and canonization can serve as helpful criteria for gauging the ideological impact of textual criticism in other areas as well.