The Uses of Humanism

Johannes Sambucus (1531-1584), Andreas Dudith (1533-1589), and the Republic of Letters in East Central Europe

Series:

This book is a novel attempt to understand humanism as a socially meaningful cultural idiom in Late Renaissance East Central Europe. Through an exploration of geographical regions that are relatively little known to an English reading public, it argues that late sixteenth-century East Central Europe was culturally thriving and intellectually open in the period between Copernicus and Galileo. Humanism was a dominant cluster of shared intellectual practices and cultural values that brought a number of concrete benefits both to the social-climber intellectual and to the social elite. Two exemplary case studies illustrate this thesis in substantive detail, and highlight the ambivalences and difficulties court humanists routinely faced. The protagonists Johannes Sambucus and Andreas Dudith, both born in the Kingdom of Hungary, were two of the major humanists of the Habsburg court, central figures in cosmopolitan networks of men learning and characteristic representatives of an Erasmian spirit that was struggling for survival in the face of confessionalisation. Through an analysis of their careers at court and a presentation of their self-fashioning as savants and courtiers, the book explores the social and political significance of their humanist learning and intellectual strategies.
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Biographical Note

Gábor Almási, Ph.D. (2005) in history, Central European University, Budapest. He is a Magyary Zoltán postdoctoral fellow at the Eötvös Loránd University. He has published extensively on Renaissance humanism and early modern patriotism.

Review Quote

Sambucus and Dudith were internationally acknowledged heroes of the Republic of Letters [...] To draw their portraits, Alma´si mobilises and handles with ease a great quantity and variety of sources in a variety of languages, and his book will undoubtedly become the main reference on the life and times of these two humanists.
Dóra Bobori, European Review of History, Vol. 18, no. 5/6 (2012) pp. 863-865.

It is in the specificity of the chosen empirical examples that the book excels; it raises the standards of Central European historiography and continued in the best Anglo-Saxon tradition.
Lucie Storchová, Acta Comeniana, Vol. 25 (2011), pp. 298-304

"[E]ine reichhaltige und wichtige Untersuchung...eine durchweg lesenswerte Studie. Es bleibt zu hoffen, dass die vielen Untersuchungsstränge, die diese Arbeit ausmachen, auch in Zukunft weiter verfolgt werden und die von Almási eingeschlagene Richtung beibehalten." Matthias Roick, Sehepunkte Vol. 11, no. 9 (2011).

A welcome addition to our knowledge of Sambucus and Dudith...[this book] justly draws attention to the cultural and intellectual wealth of Central Europe in the Renaissance.
Demmy Verbeke, Tijdschrift voor Filosofie, Vol. 73, no. 3 (2011), pp. 556-558.

The basic issues Almási addresses have a long history. The way they are all brought together however is fresh and memorable. The author has real flair in developing his argument delivering often unexpected insights and confirming previous research, while significantly shifting the perspective in which it is viewed. This makes the book standout by virtue of its clarity, offering a reading that is difficult to ignore.
Cristina Neagu, Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 306-307

Table of contents

List of illustrations
Abbreviations
Acknowledgements
Preface
Introduction: On the uses of humanism

PART I: HUMANIST LEARNING AND NETWORKS IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE
1. Aspects of East Central European humanist learning
2. Humanist networks and the ethos of the Republic of Letters
3. The uses of humanism at the imperial court

PART II: THE CASE OF JOHANNES SAMBUCUS
4. An ornament to the imperial court?
5. The multiple identities of the humanist: “vates, medicus bonus, historicusque”

PART III: THE CASE OF ANDREAS DUDITH
6. The curious career of a heterodox humanist
7. The making of the humanist: self-fashioning through letters and treatises
Epilogue: Sambucus and Dudith encounter confessionalisation
Conclusion

Bibliography
Index

Readership

All those interested in intellectual history, Renaissance humanism, and the history of early modern East Central Europe.

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