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Research Questions

As they considered the religious, cultural, political, philosophical and scientific disagreements of their day (as well as the day-to-day occurences of social upheavals, student riots and physical violence), Renaissance figures responded in several ways. These included attempts to:

• contain the occurences of conflict and rivalries, for instance through the development of a set of laws imposing fines and other punishments upon those who transgressed against the rules of social and political order. Often this approach involved a reaffirmation of the legitimacy and power of the sovereign.

• settle differences by violence, repression, censorship or war so that the one ‘true’ perspective would prevail over the others; this theme might include treatment of heretics, witches, social revolutionaries, or others, as well as the development of significant war machines within and outside of Europe.

• downplay the severity of the presumed differences, thus disposing of the need for argument. This approach (typical, for instance, of Erasmus’ irenicism) required the identification of a common ground on which the parties concerned could agree; however, it collided against the continuing presence of deeply divisive issues, such as how to understand the Eucharist.

• reconcile the tensions between different systems (e.g., Platonism and Aristotelianism) through the use of a meta-principle such as Christianity. In philosophical terms, Francesco Piccolomini is a good example of this trend, with his insistence that both eyes (Plato and Aristotle) were necessary for a clear vision in philosophical matters.

• make sustained use of religious or political means of propaganda, including preaching, orations, broadsides, satires, etc.

• use diplomatic means so as to overcome conflict or to ensure that differences were confined to particular geographical areas. The principle of ‘cuius regio, eius religio’ in certain parts of Europe expressed the belief that society could not survive if fundamental differences (e.g., in religious allegiance) remained; it thus showed that tolerance was not yet widely accepted as an option.

• determine how in the course of a conflict (ethical) rules and principles of good conduct are assumed/proposed/discussed, in other words how in the course of a conflict a normative context is set up (implicitly or explicitly) between the parties involved.

• quieten one’s own soul (and that of one’s neighbours) through recourse either to religious contemplation or to the fortitude deriving from Stoic philosophy, or both (as exemplified by Justus Lipsius and others).

• escape from the reality of a divided society through travel, the imagination, an anachronistic hankering after the peacefulness of another era, humour, utopias ...

• describe how a conflict is staged before a (reading) public, in other words the (literary) mise-en-scène of a conflict, and, therefore, the role and function of the third party involved (observer, supporter, mediator, judge,...), alongside the antagonists.

• establish if and how literature (and especially poetry) can help to manage and / or resolve real conflicts, as in the case of Lorenzo de’ Medici and the Pazzi’s conspiracy.

Papers will explore these and other strategies employed to confront the challenges of a Europe riven by conflict and rivalries and will evaluate how successful they were in containing or resolving the underlying problems.