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Harvard Historical Studies 120

The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance and the Reformation

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$21.95 • £17.95 • €20.00

ISBN 9780674422513

Publication Date: 01/20/1998


6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Harvard Historical Studies


Erika Rummel’s book recasts the issue by proposing a two-stage model for the [humanist–scholastic debate]. In phase one, from the time of Petrarch until the early sixteenth century, humanists and scholastics debated the issues between them with touches of humor and an effort on both sides to present different points of view. The succeeding phase was dominated by academic turf wars focused on the claims of biblical philologists like Erasmus to speak with authority in matters of theology, and civility gave way to recrimination… [This is] a clear and persuasive argument… [T]he main line of argument here has to do with how scholastics perceived humanists to be undermining religious authority, whether by rhetorical frills not in keeping with the plain speech of a humble Christian or by proposing emendations to the Latin Vulgate. These are themes that permit Rummel to draw on her unparalleled grasp of the controversies between Erasmus and his Catholic critics and her sensitivity to the genres of classical rhetoric, including epideictic literature. This study should now be the first work consulted on the subject.—James D. Tracy, American Historical Review

Erika Rummel has written yet another outstanding volume on the relationship between humanism and scholasticism in the Renaissance and Reformation… This is a fascinating book that traces the development of the conflict… Judiciously documented and well-written, this work is a valuable contribution to the literature on the relationship between the two disciplines.—Martin I. Klauber, Calvin Theological Journal

Rummel’s account of the debate is balanced. Although her interests clearly lay with the humanists, she has skillfully sketched both points of view and noted the great amount of intellectual grave robbing, stereotyping, and shouting past one another engaged in on both sides. She has also followed the debate with a sensitivity to its changing contexts—the biggest change of context being the coming of the Reformation… Scholars interested in humanist rhetoric and the humanist movement’s interactions with other contemporary movements will find Rummel’s work valuable and worth considering.—Kurt Stadtwald, Comptes Rendus

A prolific author known for her deft work on Erasmian texts, Rummel has expanded her research by attending to the differences between humanists and scholastics from Petrarch to Ramus and Nizolius… Rummel treats her topic with an amazing command of sources and a knack for both selecting key passages and fluently paraphrasing their contexts.—Manfred Hoffmann, Religious Studies Review

[Rummel’s] breadth of scholarship is striking. Earlier studies tended to focus on either the ‘Renaissance’ or ‘Reformation’ phases of the debate; hers works across this artificial divide with masterful ease and to good purpose. An especially impressive section documents the emotional and programmatic transformation of the conflict by juxtaposing two sets of texts: the first an exchange between Pico della Mirandola and Emilio Barbaro in 1485; the second an ‘improved’ version of Barbaro’s reply, scripted by one Franz Burchard half a century later… [An] elegant and lucid work.—Robert J. Bast, Sixteenth Century Journal

The ambition of [Rummel’s] task, which is nothing less than an understanding of a controversy as it developed over more than two centuries, is great; but Rummel is entirely equal to it… Rummel leaves no stone unturned in this lively, fascinating, and convincing study. From her clear organization of the book as a whole and the individual chapters to her careful definition of terms to the detailed presentation of a variety of subjects and interpretations, this provocative and enjoyable book suggests a deep commitment to the material and sources built over the course of an ever-productive career. Reading The Humanist-Scholastic Debate enabled me to conceptualize the controversy more clearly than I have been able to do until now… Rummel’s achievement is truly scholarly, encompassing both the researcher and the educator… In short, this is an outstanding book… Besides being a fascinating topic, it is well-written, easy to follow, and hard to put down.—Kathleen M. Comerford, Yearbook 16, Erasmus of Rotterdam Society

The distinguishing quality of this study is its thorough investigation of primary sources, many of them unfamiliar to the reader of Renaissance intellectual history. Rummel has delved diligently into manuscripts and early printed books in libraries throughout the West, bringing to light texts on both sides of the debate between humanists and scholastics over philology and dialectic… The book is a pleasure to read; it is written in a clear and straightforward style and is free of any tendentious parti pris.—C. Fantazzi, Choice

The subject of this book is a central one for the history of thought in the Renaissance. Rummel has brought together a wide range of primary sources, many of them unfamiliar, and has mapped out the progress of debate and the various positions held by humanists and scholastics on the main issue. It will be impossible to return to the status quo ante as a result of her work.—James Hankins, Harvard University

Erika Rummel’s The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance and the Reformation is a distinguished and attractive original contribution to an important but neglected phase of early modern European culture. Rummel has written a great book which will have a strong influence on both Renaissance and Reformation scholars. The scholarship is superb—wide-ranging, accurate, thoughtfully interpreted, in full command.—Charles Trinkhaus, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan

Awards & Accolades

  • A Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Book of 1995, Language and Literature Category
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