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From Lost Laughter to Latin Philosophy: On the Beginnings of Neapolitan Humanism


The first part of this essay explores some of the reasons why Neapolitan humanism continued to have a difficult standing throughout the twentieth century, and how scholars of the Neapolitan Renaissance sought to overcome these difficulties. The principal argument will be that modern scholars have circumscribed the character of Neapolitan humanism mainly by adopting paradigms developed in the context of Northern Italian, and especially Florentine humanism. In the second part, a different approach is endorsed. As is argued, the intellectual outlook of Neapolitan humanism was molded rather by conflicts among the humanists than by a stance common to all of them. Therefore, the main question is not the Neapolitan “brand” of humanism, but the role of Neapolitan humanists within the humanist movement as a whole. This point is illustrated by sketches of some of the controversies involving the first generation of humanists at court, namely Antonio Beccadelli, known as Panormita, Bartolomeo Facio, and Lorenzo Valla. Their struggles heavily influenced the intellectual outlook and philosophical style of Giovanni Pontano, the key figure of Neapolitan humanism in the second half of the fifteenth century.

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