Aging Gracefully in the Renaissance

Stories of Later Life from Petrarch to Montaigne


In Aging Gracefully in the Renaissance: Stories of Later Life from Petrarch to Montaigne Cynthia Skenazi explores a shift in attitudes towards aging and provides a historical perspective on a crucial problem of our time.
From the late fourteenth to the end of the sixteenth centuries, the elderly subject became a point of new social, medical, political, and literary attention on both sides of the Alps. A movement of secularization tended to dissociate old age from the Christian preparation for death, re-orienting the concept of aging around pragmatic matters such as health care, intergenerational relationships, and accrued insights one might wish to pass along. Such changes were accompanied by an increasing number of personal accounts of later life.

Listed by Choice magazine as one of the Outstanding Academic Titles of 2014
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Biographical Note

Cynthia Skenazi is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has published books and many articles on Renaissance literature and culture, including Le Poète architecte en France. Constructions d’un imaginaire monarchique (Champion, 2003).

Table of contents

Acknowledgments ... ix
Abbreviations ... xi
Introduction ... 1

1 A Sound Mind in a Healthy Body ... 15
Galen ... 17
Petrarch ... 22
Ficino and Zerbi ... 28
Cornaro ... 36
Erasmus ... 42
Montaigne ... 47
Conclusion ... 58

2 The Circulation of Power and Knowledge ... 61
Petrarch ... 64
Castiglione ... 79
Montaigne ... 86
Conclusion ... 95

3 Love in Old Age ... 98
Petrarch ... 100
Ronsard ... 105
Montaigne ... 111
Pasquier ... 119
Conclusion ... 136

4 Then and Now ... 138
The Care of the Aging Self ... 139
Erasmus’s Colloquium “The Old Men’s Chat” ... 142
A Way of Life and a Mode of Discourse: The Case of Montaigne ... 150
In Vino Veritas ... 165

Bibliography ... 167
Index ... 177


Historians, sociologists, social gerontologists, graduate and undergraduate students interested in Renaissance representations of the self; anyone concerned with aging studies and with Michel Foucault’s legacy.


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