Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Romance Languages

First Advisor

Fabio Finotti


The research investigates the relationship between humanism and education, not merely from a pedagogical point of view, but also from a historical, political, cultural and anthropological perspective. The main focus is to explore the crucial role played by the court as an ideal environment for experimenting with new pedagogical ideas. In this way, the dissertation challenges the classic point of view proposed by the famous Italian scholar Eugenio Garin, which interprets humanist pedagogy as a product of the civic humanism that developed in the republican Florence. This critical perspective is still prevalent both in Italy and in the United States. Instead, I suggest that the court represented the ideal context to practice new ideas. In fact, Pier Paolo Vergerio (1370-1444), the author of the first humanist educational treatise, was at the Carrarese court in Padua, as well as his teacher, Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna (1343-1408); Vittorino da Feltre (1373 or 1378-1446), one of the most famous masters of the Italian Renaissance, created and directed his school (the Casa Giocosa) in Mantua, at the Gonzaga court, from 1423 to 1446; Guarino Veronese (1374-1460), another important humanist teacher, taught in Ferrara, at the Estense court, for thirty years. Therefore, the "corti padane" of the fourteenth and fifteenth century - Padua, Mantua, and Ferrara - were laboratories that produced a new image of the prince and the aristocracy. By theorizing and practicing education, humanists such as Conversini, Vergerio, Vittorino, and Guarino not only proposed a new pedagogy, but also created a new anthropology, both social and political. They placed the individual at the center of the stage, not in an abstract sense but by considering the prince and the scena cortigiana which surrounded him. In this way, these authors presented crucial examples of the dynamic and dialectical relationship between the prince and the intellectual, and its influence on education as well as culture and politics. This influence crossed the Italian borders and continued to operate outside the country in a European context for a long period of time, as demonstrated by authors such as Erasmus of Rotterdam, Michel de Montaigne, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.