Christopher Celenza is one of the foremost contemporary scholars of the Renaissance. His ambitious new book focuses on the body of knowledge which we now call the humanities, charting its roots in the Italian Renaissance and exploring its development up to the Enlightenment. Beginning in the fifteenth century, the author shows how thinkers like Lorenzo Valla and Angelo Poliziano developed innovative ways to read texts closely, paying attention to historical context, developing methods to determine a text's authenticity, and taking the humanities seriously as a means of bettering human life. Alongside such novel reading practices, technology – the invention of printing with moveable type – fundamentally changed perceptions of truth. Celenza also reveals how luminaries like Descartes, Diderot, and D'Alembert – as well as many lesser-known scholars – challenged traditional ways of thinking. Celenza's authoritative narrative demonstrates above all how the work of the early modern humanist philosophers had a profound impact on the general quest for human wisdom. His magisterial volume will be essential reading for all those who value the humanities and their fascinating history.
James I. Porter - University of California, Berkeley
Ada Palmer - University of Chicago
Kristine Haugen - California Institute of Technology
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