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The Uses of the Past in Quattrocento Florence: A Reading of Leonardo Bruni's Dialogues

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Abstract

Although Leonardo Bruni's Dialogi ad Petrum Paulum Histrum have long occupied a central place in the study of Italian Renaissance humanism, scholarly interpretations of them differ markedly. Such differences attest to the formal complexity of this text, the uncertainty about its date of composition, and the obvious contradictions between the arguments offered at different times by its main interlocutor. This essay first briefly describes the scholarly debates that have surrounded Bruni's Dialogues, particularly as these illustrate competing definitions of Florentine humanism. I then argue that the text juxtaposes citation to chronological narration as it explores one central theme in Bruni's humanism, how best to represent the past in and for the present.

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