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Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies

Victoria University in the University of Toronto

Friendship in Premodern Europe (1300-1700)

An interdisciplinary colloquium at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies
Victoria College, University of Toronto

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14-15 October 2011


In the past decade, there has been a virtual explosion of interest on friendship in early modern Europe. A rich array of monographs, articles, and collections has inquired into the idea and practice of friendship in pre-modern European society. In particular, friendship has been seen as a fundamental element of humanist intellectual discussion, as a figure for more intimate same-sex relationships, as a bond that united individuals who shared similar interests or living arrangements, as an alternative to marriage and as marriage itself, as an important element of knowledge networks, professional associations, personal relationships. In short, it seems that friendship could serve to signify fellowship, companionship, accord, unity, brotherhood, association, alliance, harmony, and many other crucial elements of human existence.

The vast amount of correspondence produced in early modern Europe points clearly to the emotional, intellectual, or spiritual bonds that joined individuals in friendship, but so also do the art, literature, court records, and even funerary monuments of the time. The friendship that joined individuals such as Montaigne and La Boétie, Sir Philip Sydney and Fulke Greville, Marguerite de Navarre and Anne de Montmorency, Niccolò Machiavelli and Francesco Vettori, Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo, Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe, clearly points to the rich variety and assorted nuances present in the term  “friend”. This interdisciplinary colloquium will continue this examination of early modern friendship in its all its diversity of forms and  multiplicity of meanings.

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