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Legacies of Humanism in East and West

Italian humanism has given us an idea of human being and of the dignity of human being, it formed, in ways that are still being investigated, the background for some of the most beautiful and unearthy works of art, and it has created, long before the word “philology” was introduced, the art of investigating texts and imagines that we are pursuing today. There are places and writings in which the humanist essence lays open—overwhelmingly—to any searching eye. This tempts us to reduce the idea of humanism to such places and texts and to perceives them as a phenomenon of a certain period. The humanist works and lives, however, left a legacy to all parts of Europe (and beyond) that exercised its influence over centuries. Humanism was a place of longing, it seemed incompatible with the presence, and sometimes it could grow only in a very limited sphere. The seminar is based on the assumption that humanist values and ideas can be best perceived in their longue durée. It traces the influences of the artistic and scholarly achievements of Renaissance humanists in Russian, Polish, Ukrainian and South Slavic cultures. The seminar begins with reading key humanist texts from the Renaissance to the present. It identifies poets, artists, philosophers, scholars and representatives of civic societies that saw themselves and worked in a humanist tradition. It investigates the answers that were offered by humanists to social and political crises. It looks at the transformations of the humanist ideas of beauty. We will also ask how humanist ideas have shaped the idea of scholarship in the humanities and how it has created criteria for scholarly excellence. In a case study, we will look at the largely unknown reception of Plutarch’s Lives in Slavic cultures. At least one week of the seminar will be dedicated to the phenomenon of Jewish (Hebrew) humanism in Eastern Europe and its historical roots.

A working bibliography can be found here. The bibliography will be updated throughout the summer and during the semester. Please feel free to join the zotero group in order to use the bibliography for your essay or M.A. thesis.

The module will be taught by Prof. Jörg Schulte in the winter semester 2020/21. It will be open (via zoom) to all interested students from partner universities. The semester begins on November 2, 2020, the seminar takes place at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and at 12 p.m. on Thursdays.