Possible Lives: Authors and Saints in Renaissance Italy

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Columbia University Press, 2005 - History - 527 pages
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Possible Lives uses the saints'lives written by humanists of the Italian Renaissance to explore the intertwining of classical and religious cultures on the eve of the European Reformation. The lives of saints were among the most reproduced and widely distributed literatures of medieval and early modern Europe. During the century before the Reformation, these narratives of impossible goodness fell into the hands of classicizing intellectuals known as humanists. This study examines how the humanist authors received, criticized, and rewrote the traditional stories of exemplary virtue for patrons and audiences who were surprisingly open to their textual experiments.

Drawn from a newly constructed catalog of primary sources in manuscript and print, the cases in this book range from the lure of martyrdom as the West confronted Islam to the use of saints'lives in local politics and the rhetorician's classroom. Frazier discusses the writers'perceptions of historical sanctity, the commanding place of the mendicant friars, and one unique account of a contemporary holy woman.

Possible Lives shows that the classical Renaissance was also a saintly Renaissance, as humanists deployed their rhetorical and philological skills to "renew the persuasive force of Christian virtue" and "save the cult of the saints." Combining quantitative and anecdotal approaches in a highly readable series of case studies, Frazier reveals the contextual richness of this little-known and unexpectedly large body of Latin hagiography.

  

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Contents

INTRODUCTION Authors Saints and Texts
1
A Renaissance of Martyrs
45
The Last Medieval Legendary
101
The Teachers Saints
169
The Spectacle of a Womans Devotion
221
The Saint as Author
269
CONCLUSION
315
An Annotated List of Authors and Their Vitae Passiones and Liturgical Historiae About Saints Manuscript and Print ca 14201521
327
Manuscripts Consulted
495
People and Places
499
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Edward D. berkowitz is professor of history and public policy and public administration at George Washington University. He is the author of eight books and the editor of three collections. During the seventies he served as a staff member of the President's Commission for a National Agenda, helping President Carter plan for a second term that never came to be.

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