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Sperone Speroni (1500-1588) and the Rebirth of Sophistry in the Italian Renaissance

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SPERONI (Sperone Speroni (1500-1588) and the Rebirth of Sophistry in the Italian Renaissance)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-08-31

This two-year research project aimed to analyze the works of Sperone Speroni degli Alvarotti (Padua 1500–1588), his re-evaluation of ancient sophistic perspectives and his legacy in the early modern age. Speroni was one of the most important protagonists of the Renaissance debate on language and logic as well as civil and speculative philosophy. Educated as an Aristotelian, he eventually developed a distinctive philosophy and was the first to challenge Plato’s (327-447 BCE) condemnation of sophists. Despite the fact that Speroni was a central figure of Renaissance philosophy and literature in the vernacular, he is one of the most neglected authors in scholarly production. Furthermore, scholars have considered Speroni’s interest in ancient sophists as a marginal aspect of his philosophy and have disregarded the paramount role of the period’s vernacular writing on sophistry that began with his works and spread throughout sixteenth-century Italy. This project not only contributed to the research on vernacular Aristotelianism funded by an ERC Starting Grant 2013 (ARISTOTLE – 335949) and led by Marco Sgarbi but also filled the gap in international studies with a comprehensive analysis of the subject. Teodoro Katinis, an Experienced Researcher educated in European institutions and at Johns Hopkins University (U.S.A.) presented a research proposal whose ground-breaking findings can revolutionize the traditional scholarly approach to a crucial period of the history of Western culture. Thanks to the results achieved and the training received during his research project at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Katinis acquired new skills and build fruitful relations with European institutions and scholars. The training, network and publication of the project’s outcomes have plaid a fundamental role in his academic career.
"The overall objective of Katinis’ MSC research was to fill the gap in international studies through a complete analysis of the rebirth of ancient sophists in Speroni’s oeuvre and the debate over sophistry in his milieu among philosophers and writers. This project had 4 specific objectives.

Due to the early termination of the project, Katinis could not completely achieve all the specific objectives. In particular, objectives 1 and 2 were completely achieved, whereas objectives 3 and 4 were partially achieved. The achievements will play an important part in Katinis' monograph currently under contract (see section ""publications""). The projects and its result were constantly disseminated and communicated by several activities. See below the most relevant:

The Sophistic Renaissance: Authors, Texts, Interpretations. International Conference at Ca’ Foscari University Venice. Organizer: T. Katinis. Keynote speakers: E. MacPhail (Indiana University Bloomington); Marc van der Poel (Radboud University Nijmegen). September 26th, 2016.

Platonism and Its Enemies in the Political Philosophy of the Italian Renaissance. Workshop: ""New perspectives on the political thought of medieval and Renaissance Italy"". Organized by Prof. Takashi Jinno. ""Institute for European Medieval and Renaissance Studies"", Waseda University (Tokyo, Japan). Co-hosted by “MEXT – Supported Program for the Strategic Research Foundation at Private Universities” of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. September 17th, 2016.

Aristotelianisms and the Quarrel on Dante’s poetry in the Late Italian Renaissance: Sperone Speroni, Jacopo Mazzoni, Belisario Bulgarini. Einführung: Prof. Dr. Bernhard Huß. In englischer Sprache. Italienzentrum in Kooperation mit dem Aristotelismus-Zentrum Berlin. Freie Universität Berlin (June 23rd, 2016).

Debating on Latin and Vernacular: Lazzaro Bonamico and Sperone Speroni. Conference: ""Texts & Contexts VII: The Influence of Vernacular Discourses on Neo-Latin Literature"". Organised by F. Schaffenrath and A. Winkler. L. Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies (Innsbruck, Austria) April 21st-23th, 2016.

The Sophistic Italian Renaissance: An Overview for a Research Project. Panel: “Aristotle in the Vernacular: Rethinking Intellectual History in Renaissance Italy IV” organized by M. Sgarbi at the RSA Annual Meeting (Boston, March-April, 2016).

Presentation: ""Archeologia del testo e creazioni di idea"" at the event VenetoNight (within the European Researchers’ Night Events) at the University Ca’ Foscari of Venice (September 25th, 2015).

Sofistica e aristotelismo nel Cinquecento: Speroni, Tasso, Mazzoni. Conference “Il volgare: idee, testi e contesti” organized by M. Sgarbi (September 21st-22nd, 2015, Venice).

Furthermore, Katinis presented a successful long-term research project to be accomplished at Ghent University in the next years in his new position of Research Professor of Italian Literature in the Department of Literary Studies. This fundamental career achievement of his was possible also thanks to the MSC training activities."
"Italian studies scholars have addressed the Renaissance debate about the relationship between sophistry and other arts, but their contributions still lack an appropriate contextualization in a broader overview. Evidence of this is the absence of Speroni in their articles. In general, scholars coming from the fields of philosophy and literature have mostly missed the opportunity to collaborate for an extensive understanding of the subject.
European institutions and research teams are beginning to promote international studies on Speroni, which is reflected in significant publications, such as Marco Sgarbi’s recent book. Nevertheless, no monograph on the author has been published since the book of Fournel, no volume completely dedicated to Speroni and his influence has yet been published in English, and no complete study on the rebirth of sophistic perspective in early modern Italian philosophy and literature has been provided.

The project had an early termination and, therefore, the progress beyond the state of the art has been partially accomplished, but we believe that the outcomes and dissemination activities of the project will encourage other scholars to pursue the study of Speroni's work and of the rebirth of ancient sophists in the Renaissance.

The most important outcome of this project is the first draft of Katinis' monograph ""Sperone Speroni and the Debate over Sophistry in the Italian Renaissance."" (Brill's Studies in Intellectual History Series, under contract) that will be published after revision and addition of important original parts, following the suggestions resulted from the peer-reviewing evaluation.

Katinis’ findings will shed new light on the Italian Renaissance, in particular Speroni's work, and lead scholars to reconsider its ground-breaking position in the history of philosophy. The monograph in English that will result from Katinis’ research will be the first study ever published in the field and will possibly have an impact on the international scholarship in the future. The monograph is suitable for both undergraduate and graduate students."
"Flyer of the International Conference ""The Sophistic Renaissance"" (Venice, 26 September 2016)"