Virtue and Sociability. Teaching Friendship in Early Modern Schools and Universities, 1518-1648

My project aims to provide a first in-depth study of an aspect that has largely been neglected in the literature on the topic: academic philosophical discussions on friendship in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It will examine how two fundamental texts, Aristotle’s treatment in ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ VIII-IX and Cicero’s dialogue ‘Laelius sive De amicitia’, were studied in schools and universities. How did early modern teachers and students conceptualize friendship, and in which ways did they revisit, rethink, and revitalize its classical notions? The focus of the project is on the German lands and the Polish- Lithuanian Commonwealth from the Reformation to the Thirty Years’ War. The chosen period raises the question how notions of friendship changed in an age of religious conflict and confessionalization, with the selected regions offering two alternative models of how to shape post-Reformation society and its discontents. Two hypotheses underlie the project. First, early modern academic discussions on friendship were based on the notions of virtue and sociability; second, both notions came under attack in an age of reformation and confessional conflict. The objective of the project is to bring to light the complex historical dynamics that resulted from the tension between traditional approaches to friendship, represented in the works of Aristotle and Cicero, and the drastic transformations that subverted established ways of life in early modern society. The project intends to approach its textual materials by employing innovative forms of online editing, together with a crowd- sourcing effort and will proactively seek to implement contemporary research in the humanities and sciences into its historical analysis.