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The academic humanities trace their origins to the Renaissance. Yet recent discussions of the
humanities despite their profusion and visibility, have ignored recent scholarship on Renaissance
humanism, which challenges long-held ideas about the humanities’ historical origins and meanings.
This essay surveys both bodies of work, asking what recent scholarship on Renaissance humanism
can offer our current understanding of the humanities, their purposes and functions, and their
Over the last decade, a growing body of scholarship has been re-examining the origins
and meanings of Renaissance humanism. Scholarship on Renaissance humanism is always part institutional autobiography, and it tends to intensify in moments of crisis or uncertainty in the academy, particularly within its humanistic wing.
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