Doctors, Ambassadors, Secretaries: Humanism and Professions in Renaissance Italy

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University of Chicago Press, 2002 - 224 pages
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In this book, Douglas Biow traces the role that humanists played in the development of professions and professionalism in Renaissance Italy, and vice versa. For instance, humanists were initially quite hostile to medicine, viewing it as poorly adapted to their program of study. They much preferred the secretarial profession, which they made their own throughout the Renaissance and eventually defined in treatises in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Examining a wide range of treatises, poems, and other works that humanists wrote both as and about doctors, ambassadors, and secretaries, Biow shows how interactions with these professions forced humanists to make their studies relevant to their own times, uniting theory and practice in a way that strengthened humanism. His detailed analyses of writings by familiar and lesser-known figures, from Petrarch, Machiavelli, and Tasso to Maggi, Fracastoro, and Barbaro, will especially interest students of Renaissance Italy, but also anyone concerned with the rise of professionalism during the early modern period.

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1 Petrarchs Profession and His Laurel

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Page 7 - Therefore he who wishes to be a good pupil, besides performing his tasks well, must put forth every effort to resemble his master, and, if it were possible, to transform himself into his master. And when he feels that he has made some progress, it will be very profitable to observe different men of the same calling, and governing himself with that good judgment which must ever be his guide, to go about selecting now this thing from one and that thing from another. And as the bee in the green meadows...
Page 14 - It has become clear as a result of recent investigation that the humanists of the Renaissance were the professional successors of the medieval Italian dictatores, and inherited from them the various patterns of epistolography and public oratory, all more or less determined by the customs and practical needs of later medieval society. Yet the medieval dictatores were no classical scholars and used no classical models for their compositions. It was...
Page xv - It was the novel contribution of the humanists to add the firm belief that in order to write and to speak well it was necessary to study and to imitate the ancients.

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About the author (2002)

Douglas Biow is an associate professor in the Department of French and Italian at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the author of Mirabile Dictu: Representations of the Marvelous in Medieval and Renaissance Epic.

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