Self-Presentation and Social Identification

The Rhetoric and Pragmatics of Letter Writing in Early Modern Times

Edited by Toon Van Houdt, Jan Papy, Gilbert Tournoy, and Constant Matheeussen

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Monograph - paperback

More often than not, humanist, scholarly and 'scientific' correspondences from the early modern period have been analyzed from a rather narrow point of view. They were either exploited to reveal new biographical and historical evidence or assessed as literary achievements, as precious (or not so precious) pearls of artistic prose and composition. However legitimate such an outspokenly positivist and aesthetic approach may be, it does not exhaust the various possibilities for historical and literary study that early modern correspondences offer. It may, for instance, be doubted whether the traditional approach enables us to address, let alone to answer, one of the key questions that can and should be raised when dealing with letter writing in early modern times: how did the genre function as a social practice? This question can be reformulated as follows: who was writing, what, for whom, and why?

At first glance, many, if not most, of the correspondences seem to have functioned as a means to discuss business and family affairs, to express friendship (and, to a lesser extent, love), or to communicate scholarly information. If we scrutinize them more carefully, however, we will discover that epistolary exchange was far more signicifant and played a far more crucial role than this superficial enumeration of topics to be found in early modern correspondences would make us believe. It can indeed be argued that many humanists and other intellectuals wrote letters in order to define themselves as literators, scholars, or scientists. In other words, letters were used as a means of self-presentation and social identification. It is through letters that literators, scholars, and scientists presented a particular, quite often highly apologetic, self-image which they wanted to be divulged and perpetuated. It is through letters, moreover, that literators, scholars, and scientists defined themselves as belonging to a specific group of people who shared the same interests and ideals, and were engaged in similar endeavours.

Although these issues have not been entirely neglected by scholars in the past, this book brings together philologists, literary historians and historians of ideas to reflect upon the phenomenon of letter writing, and concentrates on four particular issues: the rhetoric of letter writing, friendship and patronage, criticism and libel, reputation and fame. Moreover, particular attention has been given to the functioning of letter writing as a means of self-presentation and social identification, linking together more closely text and context, literature and society.

Introduction
Toon Van Houdt & Jan Papy

PART I : The Rhetoric of Letter Writing

Judith Rice Henderson
Humanist Letter Writing: Private Conversation or Public Forum?

Charles Fantazzi
Vives versus Erasmus on the Art of Letter Writing

Christine Bénévent
Erasme en sa correspondance: conquête(s) et défaite(s) du langage

Tim Markey
Style and Tradition in Ben Jonson's Verse Epistles

Kristine Haugen
Imaginary Correspondence: Epistolary Rhetoric and the Hermeneutics of Disbelief

PART II : Friendship and Patronage

Warren V. Boutcher
Literature, Thought or Fact? Past and Present Directions in the Study of the Early Modern Letter

Jacqueline Glomski
Careerism at Cracow: The Dedicatory Letters of Rudolf Agricola Junior, Valentin Eck, and Leonard Cox (1510-1530)

Mark Morford
Lipsius' Letters of Recommendation

Elisabet Göransson
Letters, Learning and Learned Ladies. An Analysis of Otto Sperling, Jr.'s (1634-1715) Correspondence with Scandinavian Women

Part III : Exchanging Letters in the Republic of Letters

Henk J.M. Nellen
In Strict Confidence: Grotius' Correspondence with his Socinian Friends

Corinna Vermeulen
Strategies and Slander in the Protestant Part of the Republic of Letters: Image, Friendship and Patronage in Etienne de Courcelles' Correspondence

Antonio Iurilli
La crisi del sapere rinascimentale in un carteggio italiano di primo Settecento

PART IV : 'Programming', criticizing and libelling

Erika Rummel
Argumentis, non contumeliis: The Humanistic Model for Religious Debate and Erasmus' Apologetic Letters

Jane Griffiths
The Grammarian as 'Poeta' and 'Vates': Self-Presentation in the Antibossicon

Iordan Avramov
Letter Writing and the Management of Scientific Controversy: The Correspondence of Henry Oldenburg (1661-1677)

PART V : Literary Fame and Scientific Reputation

Karl A. E. Enenkel
Die Grundlegung humanistischer Selbstpräsentation im Brief-Corpus: Francesco Petrarcas Familiarium rerum libri XXIV

Lisa Jardine
Before Clarissa: Erasmus, 'Letters of Obscure Men', and Epistolary Fictions

Edward V. George
Conceal or Disclose? The Limits of Self-Representation in the Letters of Juan Luis Vives

Philip J. Ford
Self-Presentation in the Published Correspondence of George Buchanan

Adam Mosley
Tycho Brahe's Epistolae Astronomicae: A Reappraisal

Index nominum

Format: Monograph - paperback

Size: 240 × 160 mm

484 pages

ISBN: 9789058672124

Publication: May 22, 2002

Series: Supplementa Humanistica Lovaniensia 18

Languages: English

Stock item number: 46208

Gilbert Tournoy is emeritus professor of Classical, Mediaeval and Renaissance Latin at KU Leuven.
Jan Papy is research professor of Neo-Latin Literature and Renaissance Humanism at KU Leuven.