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Leonardo Bruni, Italian humanism, humanism, social anthropology


The Dialogues to Pier Paolo Vergerio are a fairly brief, rather unassuming, yet much defamed work by Leonardo Bruni (c. 1370-1444), the Italian humanist from Arezzo who lived most of his life in Florence, the hub of early Renaissance civilization. Composed of two parts, the second of which is, apparently, a retraction of the first, and dating probably from a the years 1401 and 1405-06, respectively, the Dialogues constitute, because of the contradictions contained in them, a puzzling text that has elicited a variety of interpretations from critics in the historical as well as the literary fields. Although much research has been done in recent times on Bruni, his writings and his times, most notably by Hans Baron, a fresh reading of the troublesome Dialogues can be derived, perhaps, by casting on them the light of some basic truths taught by social anthropologists. This seems especially applicable now that historians are making us increasingly aware of the importance of ritual in Renaissance culture, and literary critics are finding ritual patterns in the writings of the period.