Augustine in Petrarch's humanism


Although Francesco Petrarca's position as the "father" of Italian Renaissance humanism has long been acknowledged, the specific meanings of his works and his legacy remain matters of controversy. Basic questions about the tension between his devotion to secular pursuits and his respect for religious withdrawal, about the authenticity of his ostensibly autobiographical writings, and about his relationship to scholasticism still provoke sustained debate. Rereading the Renaissance, a study of Petrarch's uses of Augustine, uses methods drawn from history and literary criticism to establish a framework for exploring Petrarch's humanism by approaching it through it central practices of reading and writing.
Carol Quillen argues that the essential role of Augustine's words and authority in the expression of Petrarch's humanism is best grasped through a study of the complex textual practices exemplified in the writings of both men. Petrarch's reliance on Augustine is most evident in his ways of reading and in his strategies of argument. Secondly, she maintains that Petrarch's appropriation of Augustine's words is only intelligible in light of his struggle to legitimate his cultural ideals in the face of compelling opposition. Finally, Quillen shows how Petrarch's uses of Augustine can simultaneously uphold his humanist ideals and challenge the legitimacy of the assumptions on which those ideals were founded.
Interdisciplinary in scope and method, this volume speaks to important debates that span the humanities. Scholars of literary and historical studies, as well as those in the fields of classical studies, patristics, and comparative literature, will find in Rereading the Renaissance a solid contribution to their interests.
Carol Everhart Quillen is Associate Professor of History, Rice University.

Carol Everhart Quillen is Associate Professor of History, Rice University.

"Professor Quillen has written an interesting book, one free from the deconstructionist and postmodernist jargon that is presently suffocating so much of academic prose. . . . Her controlling theme, that Petrarch as a Renaissance humanist wanted to serve as a mediator between the classical writers of the past and the readers of the present, while enhancing his own status and the moral status of his classical models, is logically developed and clearly presented. . . . As a result of this book, both Augustine and Petrarch can be seen in a different light, one that is supported by close readings of the texts, which basically means that the reader can learn something."
—Paul Strauss, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Ben Jonson Journal

- Paul Strauss, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

". . . this is a study which is well focused, intelligently constructed, and a useful companion to some of the modern debates around a perennially interesting figure."
—Stephen Minta, University of York, Renaissance Studies, Volume 14, No. 2 (2000)

- Stephen Minta, University of York

". . . Quillen herself is a direct heir to the best of humanist practice when, among other things, she counterposes an Augustine contextually understood to the versions of his thought put forth by Petrarch, a practice that contributes greatly to her important and insightful study."
—Michael L. Monheit, Univ. of South Alabama, Sixteenth Century Journal, Winter 2000

- Michael L. Monheit, Univ. of South Alabama