Authors and Saints in Renaissance Italy
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.
"This monumental work of scholarship and labor of love succeeds admirably in rescuing humanist hagiography from undeserved obscurity." — Daniel Bornstein, Renaissance Quarterly
"A remarkable achievement." — Katherine L. Jansen, The Catholic Historical Review
"Alison Frazier opens grand vistas on a vast new continent of literature: the hundreds of works by Renaissance humanists on saints and sanctity. Her elegant case studies reveal the fascinations of these neglected and often peculiar writings, while her catalogue of authors and texts constitutes a fundamental resource for future scholarship." — Daniel Bornstein, Texas A&M University
"Professor Frazier has illuminated the unexpectedly large and relatively unstudied world of Italian humanist hagiography. She demonstrates how Italian humanists transposed late medieval hagiography into a new literary key. Her carefully nuanced study will challenge conventional wisdom on the relationship of humanism to late medieval piety." — Thomas Head, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York
"In this book Alison Frazier proposes a fresh and radical re-reading of Renaissance humanism that is both deeply learned and utterly compelling. Moving beyond the conventional definitions of humanism in terms of secular ethics or rhetorical eloquence, Frazier reclaims for our considered attention the hitherto ignored 'hagiographic renaissance'. Her nuanced and suggestive analysis of the extensive and complex engagements of Italian humanists with saints' life writing (1420-1520 ca) is complemented by an invaluable catalogue of extant authors and their (mostly unpublished works). Taken together, these elements of the book constitute a tour-de-force of scholarship and interpretation, whose implications for our understanding of this seminal period of religious and cultural history are as wide-ranging as they are profound." — Simon Ditchfield, University of York, UK
Introduction: Authors, Saints and Texts
A Renaissance of Martyrs
The Last Medieval Legendary
The Teacher's Saints
The Spectacle of a Woman's Devotion
The Saint as Author