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NB: This session will be online only.

Tim Kircher (Guilford College): 'Writing Letters in the Renaissance: Humanist Care and Culture'

My book project focuses on the following questions at a moment when we confront a “crisis of care” in our lives and our world. What is the significance of Renaissance humanist letter-writing, in particular the writing of personal letters? What emotional themes emerge from a reading of these exchanges between friends? What changes in these themes can we see, based on time, place, and idiom? Last but not least, how does this type of investigation deepen our understanding of “humanism,” and, by extension, “the humanities”? My talk outlines the state of my engagement with these questions and describes the scope and method of my investigation. At the center of the project stand two meanings of Renaissance humanitas: care and kindness on the one hand, and culture and learning on the other. Studying the interplay of these two meanings sheds new light on the import of epistolary humanism, then and now. 

Tim Kircher is the H. Curt ’56 and Patricia S. ’57 Hege Professor of History at Guilford College and current chair for Associate Organizations and International Cooperation for the Renaissance Society of America. He is also a past president of the American Boccaccio Association. He is the author of The Poet's Wisdom: The Humanists, the Church, and the Formation of Philosophy in the Early Renaissance (Leiden, 2006), Living Well in Renaissance Italy: The Virtues of Humanism and the Irony of Leon Battista Alberti (Tempe, 2012), and articles in Renaissance history. His most recent book Before Enlightenment: Play and Illusion in Renaissance Humanism (Leiden, 2021) examines the contributions of Renaissance humanists to the fields of philosophy and literature. He also explores the relation of the humanities to the sciences and other fields through his website Humanities Watch (

The Work in Progress seminar explores the variety of subjects studied and researched at the Warburg Institute. Papers are given by invited international scholars, research fellows studying at the Institute, and third-year PhD students.


image: Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, Epistolae seculares, MS Vatican City, BAV Urb. Lat.402 (sec. xv), f.6r.