As the successor to the Christian Middle Ages, the Renaissance is commonly known as a new age in which religion is dethroned and gives way to a secular outlook on the world and society. However, recent revisionary historiography makes it possible to understand this epochal transition more as a reorientation within the still essentially religious vision of certain chief architects of the Italian Renaissance beginning with Dante. Through its “humanism,” this is an epoch devoted to the utopian resurrection of a bygone past. Yet beginning with Petrarch (the “father of humanism”), it may also appear as a reworking of our relationship with the future. After considering Duns Scotus and Nicholas of Cusa, the seminar will move forward through the Italian humanistic tradition to Valla and Vico, and look back also from the perspective of De Sanctis, bringing out an alternative vision of a modernity which is not characterized by its antiquarianism but rather by its endeavor to form an enduring and transhistorical intellectual legacy.
Led by William Franke, Vanderbilt University and Rocco Rubini, University of Chicago