On March 10, 2016 ISI Florence will host a conference titled Humanism and Hebrew Culture in the Italian Renaissance. The conference – which is part of the Tuscan Anglo-American Festival in Florence – will be held at Palazzo Rucellai.
When they first thought of this conference over a year ago, various reasons led Prof. Stefano U. Baldassarri (Director, ISI Florence) and his colleague Prof. Fabrizio Lelli (Università del Salento) to consider this a fitting topic for the upcoming festival. Suffice it to say that ever since the nineteenth century research has demonstrated the crucial role of the Jews as intellectual mediators in Western Europe, especially during the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Along the way, scholars have tended to emphasize the unilateral transmission of Jewish cultural materials (primarily biblical exegesis) and Greek and Arabic thought.
In fact, the contribution of erudite Jews was considerably more complex than this. Not merely mediators, they integrated, adapted, and commented on diverse sources of both Eastern and Western origin, including these in their extensive and varied writings. In this way, they shared the conclusions of their investigations with non-Jewish colleagues and discussed topics of mutual interest while embodying a range of interpretive methods.
The main goal of the ISI Florence conference is to shed light on several features of this intricate intellectual context, focusing in particular on literary, philosophical, and religious texts from late medieval and Renaissance Italy. In their talks, participants will display an interdisciplinary approach, covering the full range of topics considered crucial by writers and thinkers from fourteenth-century pre-humanism to the late Cinquecento. These topics will include poetry, music, biblical exegesis, apologetics, philosophy, and Kabbalah.