Inventing the Good Life
: 18/10/2018
: 20/10/2018
Inventing the Good Life, How Italy Shaped Early Modern Moral Culture

An Exploration of the Ethica Section in Wolfenbüttel

Italy had an immense influence on the social and cultural life of early modern Europe. There is little acknowledgement, however, of the strong moral imprint of this influence. Quips on superficiality, frivolity and moral corruption of the ‘South’, common both to the early modern period and to contemporary discourse, have overshadowed the impact the evolving “forms of life” (Quondam) on the Italian peninsula had on early modernity. From the thirteenth century onward, new social classes in the burgeoning cities and towns in Italy developed new social and cultural values. A new “urban life-style” (Ruggiero) redefined the notions of what it means to live a good life, with an emphasis on the right use of wealth, refined manners and grace, and on the importance of learning. Based on ancient ethical models, the concept of virtuebecame a mainstay of early modern culture and the most important ingredient for the good life, both in terms of rational self-control and creative power. Not confined to the urban centres of Northern and Central Italy, the new ideas on the good life had a huge impact on the aristocratic and courtly societies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and spread throughout Europe.

The conference will look at the influence of Italian models on early modern moral culture through a special lens: theEthicasection in Wolfenbüttel.

Part ofthe book collection of Duke August the Younger (1579-1666), preserved at today’s Herzog August Bibliothek, the Ethica section offers us a ‘window’ onto the varied landscape of early modern ethics and the wealth of literature on ethics. Not only does it contain philosophical treatises and disputations, but also novels, novellas, theatrical texts, collections of proverbs, emblem books, and conduct books.The section allows us to chart the trajectories of European literature towards the middle of the seventeenth century and to measure the influence Italian literature had on it. In fact, many of the works in the section are written in or translated from the Italian language, stem from Italian authors, or were printed in Italy, bearing witness to the significance of Italy as a force of cultural and moral innovation.

The conference would like to discuss the section’s wealth of literature on ethics and its Italian influence along three lines of argument.



Welcome and Introduction

9.15 am

Morning Lecture

10.00 am – 11.00 am

FRANÇOIS LECERCLE (Paris), Cento Giochi di Innocenzo Ringhieri, A: 9 Eth.


Coffee Break

Session 1

11.30 am – 12.30 am

John Butcher (Sansepolcro), Fifteenth-century Italian Humanist Ethics in the Herzog August Bibliothek Miscellany A: 12 Eth. – Valla’s De voluptate ac vero bono, Pontano’s De prudentia and Bosso’s De veris et salutaribus animi gaudiis

Danilo Facca (Warswaw), La semiotica degli affetti latenti di Scipione Chiaramonti nell’interpretazione di Hermann Conring


Session 2

2.30 pm –  4 pm

Francesco Giusti (Berlin), Quale etica per la lirica? Presenze e assenze della poesia lirica nella biblioteca del Duca Augusto il Giovane

Patrizia Piredda (Roma), La funzione etica e retorica della metafora nel Cannocchiale Aristotelico di Tesauro

Franziska Meier (Göttingen), "Petrarch's Triumphi as an Ethica Section? Remarks on A German Translation Published in 1643 "

Session 3

4.30 pm – 6 pm

Bettina Full (Bochum), 'era veder insieme comedia e tragedia'. Zeitkritik, ethische Verwandlung und spekulativer Weltentwurf in Giordano Brunos 'Candelaio'

Bryan Brazeau (Warwick), “Sperare di poter filosofando aprir la prigione”: Representations of Heroic Virtue in Late Sixteenth-Century Italy

Sara Ferrilli (Zürich), Il Medioevo italiano della HAB tra etica, letteratura ed enciclopedismo


Morning Lecture

9.30-10.30 am

Matteo Residori (Paris), L’ingratitudine nel Rinascimento italiano: riflessioni su un dibattito etico dimenticato

Session 4

10.30 am – 11.30 am

Enrica Zanin (Strasbourg), La Fleur de toutes les nouvelles (1547) e le raccolte di novelle conservate nella sezione ETHICA

Maiko Favaro (Fribourg), Trasmettere la virtù da una generazione all’altra: la Lettera di Erasmo di Valvasone al nipote Cesare

Coffee Break

Session 5

12 am – 1 pm

Valentina Lepri (Warsaw), Contemplando la varietà umana. Le Hore di ricreatione di Lodovico Guicciardini nel contesto  della cultura morale nella prima età moderna

Claudia Rossignoli (St. Andrews), Translating Ethics: The Italian Sendebar


Session 6

3 pm – 4 pm

GIJS VERSTEEGEN (Madrid), Antonio de Guevara as preacher and entertainer: contemptus mundi and wit in his Relox de Príncipes

Diana Campóo (Madrid), Dance and the virtue of eutrapelia in Seventeenth century Spain: Alonso de Castillo Solórzano’s Noches de placer and its Italian sources

Coffee Break

Session 7

4.30 pm – 5.30 pm

Jason Rosenholtz-Witt (Evenston/Chicago), Music Partbooks and Emblems: Traces of Italian Print Culture in Seventeenth-Century German Manuscripts

Jacomien Prins (Warwick), Music and Love in Early Modern Conceptions of the Good Life




Morning Lecture

9.30-10.30 am

Gianni Paganini (Vercelli), Shifts in the Renaissance Ethics of Conversation. Castiglione, Guazzo, Bodin and the Dialogues on Religions

Final Discussion

11 am – 1 pm

AMEDEO QUONDAM (Roma), Conclusive Remarks



The conference is organized by Matthias Roick (Göttingen/Wolfenbüttel), together with Franziska Meier (Göttingen), Enrica Zanin (Strasbourg), and Claudia Rossignoli (St. Andrews) and takes place in the framework of the Freigeist project “The Ways of Virtue. The Ethica section in Wolfenbüttel and the History of Ethics in Early Modern Europe”. It will take place at the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel.
: Matthias Roick, Enrica Zanin