Friendly Fire: Renaissance Humanists’ Critiques of Renaissance Humanism

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RSA 2014, New York 27-29 March
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The clarion call of “Humanities Under Attack!” is by now an academic commonplace. Much of the aggression is seen as stemming from external forces such as shrinking budgets, hostile legislature, and disappearing enrollments. However, there is also a persistent strain of self-critique among scholars working in the humanities, which challenges the intellectual system’s perceived exclusivity and alleged inability to speak to what is considered valuable in higher education today. Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine assert that the modern fields of the humanities carry the elitist baggage of their Renaissance humanist forebears. This panel recognizes that the tendency to question the inculcated virtues of humanism has always been endemic to our profession: this critical gaze is itself a product of a humanist pedagogy that has historically trained individuals to read against the grain.

Submissions should focus on how Renaissance humanists resisted the educational system that trained them. What were their grounds of contention? How did artists, chroniclers, musicians, philosophers, poets, and prose writers frame their opposition? What were the cultural, epistemological, hermeneutic, and material consequences of their antagonistic analyses? How do these early modern critiques of humanism anticipate current concerns about the humanities? Proposals from all fields are welcome.

Please send an abstract of 150 words and a one-page C.V. to Kat Lecky at by 1 June 2013.

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