האגודה ללימודי ימי הביניים והרנסאנס
10 November 2011
Senate Hall, 29th Floor, Eshkol Tower
Gur Zak, Hebrew University
Humanism as a Way of Life: Forms of Self-Cultivation in the Italian Renaissance
This paper revisits the question of the nature of the humanist self. It argues that what was new about the humanist experience and conception of self was the notion that "self" is not a given presence but rather an entity that needs to be shaped and constructed by means of constant cultivation and care. In their efforts to cultivate the self, the humanists revived a variety of ancient techniques of self-care, and the central aim of this paper will be to explore two central forms of self-cultivation they developed: the primarily textual form advocated by Petrarch, and the experiential and behavioral one developed by Leon Battista Alberti. Alberti's emphasis on the value of experiential exercises, this paper will argue, was based to a large extent on his awareness of the limitations of the humanist techniques of reading and writing established by Petrarch.