More’s Utopia: Humanist Literature and Political Thought

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Folger Institute Late Spring Seminar

May 19 to June 17, 2016

Cathy Curtis

University of Queensland

Each of the seminar topics draws on large fields of interdisciplinary scholarship in a necessarily introductory way. Guidance will be given as to essential reading, helpful background reading and more exploratory material, depending on the interests of the group. This is a provisional outline of our themes, and there is considerable scope for adjusting these lists as we progress in our discussions. Each theme will find application in the interpretation of Utopia and other Morean writings.

Week 1: Pedagogy, Rhetoric and Political Thought

The seminars of the first week consider the intellectual formation of the humanist, particularly early Tudor, civic magistrate and diplomat. What is the value of an education in the humanist encyclopedia of learning? And more specifically, how does a grounding in the arts of rhetoric, as employed across many literary, and at times hybrid, genres (declamation, satire, epigram, history, dialogue) serve More’s public life and political thought?

Thursday: Education in Virtue: the Renaissance liberal arts and sciences

Primary Sources:

• More’s Utopia, various editions. CUP, eds. George Logan, Robert Adams, Clarence Miller, preferred.

• More’s Letter to Oxford, and Letter to Dorp, in various editions.

• Selections from Richard Pace’s De fructu qui ex doctrina percipitur, ed. and trans. Frank Manley and Richard S. Sylvester, (Renaissance Society of America, 1967).

• Selections from Erasmus’ educational writings, such as De copia.

Secondary Sources: • Jonathan Woolfson, ed., Reassessing Tudor Humanism, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). • Jonathan Woolfson, Padua and the Tudors: English Students in Italy, 1485-1603, (James Clarke and Co, 1998). • Bradin Cormack, A Power to Do Justice: Jurisdiction, English Literature, and the Rise of Common Law, (Chicago University Press, 2007), chap. 2.

Friday: Rhetoric and genre

Secondary Sources:

• Elizabeth McCutcheon, ‘More’s Rhetoric,’ The Cambridge Companion to Thomas More, pp. 46-68; and McCutcheon, My Dear Peter: The ‘Ars Poetica’ and Hermeneutics for More’s ‘Utopia’, (Angers, 1983).

• Quentin Skinner, ‘Classical Eloquence in Renaissance England’, Part I, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, (CUP, 1996), 19-211.

• Andrew McLean, ‘Thomas More’s Utopia as Dialogue and City Encomium’, Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Guelpherbytani, 1989, ed. Stella Revard, Fidel Radle and Mario Di Cesare (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies: Binghamton, N,Y.: 1988).

• R. Bracht Branham, ‘Utopian Laughter: Lucian and Thomas More’, Moreana 86, (1985), 23-43.

• George M. Logan, ‘More on Tyranny: The History of King Richard the Third’, in Cambridge Companion to Thomas More, ed. Logan, pp. 168-90.

Further reading:

• Virginia Cox, The Renaissance Dialogue (CUP, 1992).

• Robert Morstein-Marx, Mass Oratory and Political Power in the Late Roman Republic (CUP, 2004).

• Daniel Kapust, Republicanism, Rhetoric and Roman Political Thought: Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus (CUP, 2011).

• Mary Beard, Laughter in Ancient Rome, (UC Press, 2014), especially Chap. 5, ‘The Orator’.

• Jeol C. Relihan, Ancient Menippean Satire, (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1993).


Week 2: Peace-making in a Warring World

The Thursday seminar this week approaches Utopia and the years of its early editions from the perspective of diplomacy, treaty-making and the ius gentium. The aim is to understand more fully Utopia within the context of the diplomatic endeavors of More and his English and European colleagues. This encompasses interstate European relations and those with the Islamic world and the New World. This exploration will extend into the seminars of the following weeks.

Primary sources:

• Selections of diplomatic correspondence.

• Excerpts from Erasmus, Complaint of Peace, Education of a Christian Prince, (both in CWE, vol. 27) and adages (for example, Dulce bellum inexpertus).

• Richard Pace, Oratio de pace, (STC 19081a), English translation in Appendix A, ‘Richard Pace’s oration’, trans. D.A. Russell, in J.G. Russell’s Peacemaking in the Renaissance, (London: Duckworth, 1986) pp. 234-241.

Julius exclusus, excerpts.

Secondary sources:

• Edward Surtz, ‘St. Thomas More and his Utopian Embassy of 1515’, Catholic Historical Review, 39 (1953), 272-97.

• Timothy Hampton, Fictions of Embassy, (Cornell University Press, 2009), Introduction, and chaps. 1 and 2.

• Joycelyne G. Russell, Peacemaking in the Renaissance, (Duckworth, 1986), Part I, chap. 3, ‘Peacemaking: the conventions and the machinery’.

• José Fernández-Santamaría, The State, War and Peace: Spanish Political Thought in the Renaissance 1516-1559 (CUP, 1997), pp. 49-57.

• Edward Surtz, The Praise of Wisdom, chaps. ‘Just War’, 270-85; the ‘Conduct of War’, p. 286-307

• Philip C. Dust, Three Renaissance Pacificists: Essays in the Theories of Erasmus, More, and Vives, (Peter Lang, 1987). • Robert P. Adams, The Better Part of Valour: More, Erasmus, Colet,and Vives on Humanism, War and Peace, 1496-1535 (Seattle, Univ. of Washington Press, 1962.

• Richard Tuck, The Rights of War and Peace, (1999), chaps 1 and 2.

• David Weil Baker, ‘Ruin and Utopia’, Moreana, 40, 155 (2003), 49-66.

• Philip C. Dust, ‘Gentili’s Commentaries on Utopian War’, Moreana 37 (1973) 31-40.

• John M. Headley, ‘The Problem of Counsel Revisited once more: Budé’s De asse (1515) and Utopia (1516) in Defining a Political Moment’, Humanism and Creativity in the Renaissance: Essays in Honor of Ronald G. Witt, eds. Christopher Celenza and Kenneth Gouwens, (Brill: Leiden and Boston, 2006), pp. 141-168.

• Garrett Mattingly, “An Early Non-Aggression Pact’, The Journal of Modern History, 10, 1 (1938) pp.1-30

• Randall Lesaffer, “Amicitia in Renaissance Peace and Alliance Treaties”, Journal of the History of International Law, 4, 1, (2002), 77-99.

• Lesaffer, ‘The Westphalia Peace Treaties and the Development of the Tradition of the Great Peace Settlements Prior to 1648’, Grotiana, 18 (1997), 71-95.

• Lesaffer, ‘The Medieval Canon Law of Contract and Early-Modern Treaty Law’, Journal of the History of International Law, 2 (2000), 178-98.

Friday May 27 - panel discussion on Utopia with Bradin Cormack, Stephen Duncombe and David Norbrook.


Week 3: Enclosure and occupation: property, slavery and colonialism

In the early age of European exploration, what was More doing in his comments in Utopia on property, slavery, and colonization? What debates were then taking place about the pursuit of empire through wars of expansion?

Secondary sources:

• Andrew Fitzmaurice, ‘Discovery, Conquest, and Occupation of Territory’, The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law, eds. Bardo Fassbender and Anne Peters, (2012).

• Hannah Chapelle Wojciehowski, Group Identity in the Renaissance World, (Cambridge University Press, 2011), chap. 3.

• Edward Surtz, The Praise of Wisdom, chap. 16, ‘Slavery’.

• David Armitage, ‘England, Scotland and Ireland c. 1542-1612,’ in The Ideological Origins of the British Empire, (CUP, 2000), pp. 24-60.

• D. B. Quinn, ‘Renaissance Influences in English Colonization’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 26 (1976), 73-92.

• Annabel Brett, Changes of State: Nature and the Limits of the City in Early Modern Natural Law, (Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2010).

• Shlomo Avineri, ‘War and Slavery in More’s Utopia’, International Review of Social History, 7 (1962), 260-290.

• James Muldoon, ‘The Conquest of the Americas’, in Canon Law, the Expansion of Europe, and the World Order, (Ashgate, 1998), 65-85.

• Kathy Eden, Friends Hold All Things in Common, (Yale University Press, 2008), esp. chap. 4.

• Christopher Ferns, Narrating Utopia: Ideal, Gender, Form in Utopian Literature, (Liverpool University Press, 1999), Chap. 2.

• Dominic Baker-Smith, More’s Utopia, (HarperCollins, 1991), chaps. 5 and 7.


Week 4: Tyranny and Liberty

Thursday: Tyranny, monarchy and republicanism

Our seminar will consider representations of tyranny and republicanism in More’s Utopia, epigrams and excerpts from Juan Luis Vives’s Sullan Declamations.

Primary sources:

• J. L. Vives: Declamationes Sullanae, (Brill, 1989 and 2012).

• More, Latin poems, CW 3: Part II.

Secondary sources:

• Dermot Fenlon, ‘Thomas More and Tyranny,’ Journal of Ecclesiastical History 32 (1981), 453-76.

• Edward George, ‘The Declamationes Sullanae of Juan Luis Vives: Sources and Departures’, Humanistica Lovaniensia, vol. 38, (1989), 124-153 and Introduction and notes to volumes I and II of his edition and translation of the declamations

• Quentin Skinner, ‘Thomas More’s Utopia and the virtue of true nobility,’ in his Visions of Politics, 3 vols. (CUP, 2002), vol. 2, pp. 213-44.

• Eric Nelson, ‘Greek Nonsense in More’s Utopia’, The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought, (CUP, 2004), pp. 19-48.

Gerard B. Wegemer, Young Thomas More and the Arts of Liberty, (Cambridge, 2011).

Friday: Islam and Morean humanism

The seminar is concerned with aspects of More’s rhetorical approach, and the depiction of the ‘Turkish’ treat to Christendom in the context of Protestant reform and Islamic military incursions into Europe.

Primary sources:

A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation.

• Selection of diplomatic dispatches and letters in More-Erasmus circle.

Secondary sources:

• Andrew Taylor, ‘In stede of harme inestimable good’: A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation’, in CCTM, pp. 216-38.

• R. J. Schoeck, ‘Thomas More’s ‘Dialogue of Comfort’ and the problem of the real Grand Turk’, English Miscellany 20 (1969), 23-37.

• Edward V. George, ‘Juan Luis Vives’ De Europea dissidiis et bello Turcico: Its Place in the 1526 Ensemble’, Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Bariensis, eds. J.F. Alcina et al., (Tempe, AZ: MRTS Press, 1998), 259-266.

• C. A. Patrides, ‘“The Bloody and Cruell Turke”: the background of a Renaissance Commonplace’, Studies in the Renaissance 10 (1963), 125-35.

• Romuald I. Lakowski, ‘Thomas More, Protestants, and Turks: persecution and martyrdom in A Dialogue of Comfort’, Ben Jonson Journal 7 (2000), 199-223.

• Thomas Betteridge, Writing Faith and Telling Tales: Literature, Politics, and Religion in the Work of Thomas More, (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013).

• Richard Rex, ‘Thomas More and the Heretics: Statesman or Fanatic?’ The Cambridge Comanion to Thomas More, 93-115.

• Joan Curbet, ‘Lutheranism and the Limits of Humanist Dialogue: Erasmus, Alfonso de Valdés and Thomas More, 1524-1529,’ Literature and Theology, 17 (2003), 265-80, p. 274.

Week 5: Freedom of Speech and its Constraints

Thursday: Parrhesia, Print and Defamation

It has long troubled scholars that the ‘More’ who composed one of the greatest imaginative and free-ranging texts of political thought seems so at odds with the ‘More’ who pursued heretics and heretical writings so energetically. Rather than approaching More as either saint or fanatic, the aim here is to direct attention to the complex and nuanced attitude of More and members of his humanist circle to the ethics of, and limits to, liberty of speech at a time of rapid socio-political and religious change.

Secondary sources:

• Ian Maclean, Interpretation and Meaning in the Renaissance: The Case of Law, (CUP: Cambridge, 1992).

• R. H. Helmholz, Select Cases on Defamation to 1600, (London: 1985).

• Peter Beitenholz, ‘Ethics and Early Printing: Erasmus’ Rules for the Proper Conduct of Authors’, Humanities Association Review (Canada) 26 (Summer 1975), 180-95.

• Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, ed., The Unruly Tongue in Early Modern England: Three Treatises, (2012), Introduction.

• Deborah Shuger, Censorship and Cultural Sensibilities: the Regulation of Language in Tudor-Stuart England, (University of Penn. Press, 2006).

• Antonia Szabari, Less Rightly Said: Scandals and Readers in 16th Century France, (Stanford University Press, 2009).

• David Weil Baker, ‘Heresy and Utopia’ in Divulging Utopia: Radical Humanism in Sixteenth-Century England, (1999), pp. 48-75.

• William J. Rogers, ‘Thomas More’s Polemical Poetics’, English Literary Renaissance, 38 (2008), 387-407.

• James Simpson, Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and its Reformation Opponents, (Harvard University Press, 2007).

Friday: Political Thought After Utopia

The final Friday seminar will either continue discussion from the previous seminars if there is an overrun and bring together our discussions, or draw on suggestions from the participants for a conversation on the Utopian legacy in political thought.