Past Event

Columbia University Seminar in the Renaissance- Shulamit Furstenberg-Levi (International Studies Institute of Florence)

November 12, 2019
5:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Columbia University Faculty House

The Missing Names:

Links between Jewish Intellectuals and the ‘Accademia Pontaniana’ in Naples during the Renaissance

In my recent study titled The Accademia Pontaniana: A Model of a Humanist Network (Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, 2016), I reconstruct the humanist academy which developed around the fifteenth century humanist Pontano in Naples and investigate the networks of intellectuals linked to this humanist circle. Given that the humanists’ networks are often documented in the form of lists, one of the central sources of this study were lists of humanists found in various forms. A perusal of these lists will show that they do not include any Jewish intellectuals, as Fabrizio Lelli has pointed out in his article, in which he responds to both Brian Ogren’s and my recent books (“Intellettuali ebrei e Accademia Pontaniana: alcune considerazioni alla luce di due recenti pubblicazioni”, Sefer yuhasin 5, 2017:159-169). This finding is not at all obvious if we take into consideration the presence of prominent Jewish intellectuals in Naples, during the same years in which the Accademia Pontaniana was active, such as Judah Messer Leon, Isaac Abravanel and Leone Ebreo, as well as signs of reciprocal cultural connections that have been detected in Christian and Jewish texts produced in Italy during that period. (See, for example a collection of such cases in: Hebraic Aspects of the Renaissance: Sources and Encounters, eds. I. Zinguer, A. Melamed & Z. Shalev).

How should the absence of Jewish names on the lists be interpreted? Does their absence reflect an actual disconnectedness of the Jewish intellectuals from the humanist circles, or should it be interpreted as an expression of their being viewed as “others” and therefore not being included on these lists, such as in the case of the lists of names in the Bible in which women, who definitely belong on a list, are not named? In fact, we find that women intellectuals in Naples who were certainly in close connection with the Accademia Pontaniana members are also missing from these lists. (See my forthcoming article on Vittoria Colonna: “The D’Avalos-Colonna Literary Circle: A Renewed Parnassus”, in: Vittoria Colonna: Poetry, Religion, Art, Impact, eds. Virginia Cox & Shannon McHugh, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019).


The event will be held in Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive. As usual, social hour will be from 5-6, dinner 6-7, and the talk 7-8:30. The cost for dinner, payable by check only, is $30.  When you RSVP please indicate whether or not you plan to come to dinner; please give 10 days advance notice.