Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Google
Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Wiki Commons
Wikiquote
Wikisource
YouTube
Shop


Featured:
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Enlarge
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum (i. e. Letters of Obscure Men) was a celebrated collection of satirical Latin letters which appeared in the 16th century in Germany. They support the German Humanist scholar Johann Reuchlin and they mock the doctrines and modes of living of the scholastics and monks, mainly by pretending to be letters from fanatic Christian theologians discussing whether all Jewish books should be burned as un-Christian or not. The modern term obscurantism derives from the title of this work. As the theologians in the book intended to burn "un-Christian" works, Enlightenment philosophers used the term for conservative, especially religious enemies of progressive Enlightenment and its concept of the liberal spread of knowledge.

Contents

Background

The work was based upon the real-life public dispute between German humanist Johann Reuchlin and certain Dominican monks, especially the formerly Jewish convert Johannes Pfefferkorn who had obtained Imperial authority from Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I to burn all known copies of the Talmud in 1509. The title is an obvious reference to Reuchlin's 1511 Epistolae clarorum virorum ("Letters of famous/bright men") providing a collection of letters on scholarly and intellectual matters from eminent German humanists such as Ulrich von Hutten, Johann Crotus, Konrad Mutian, Helius Eobanus Hessus, and others. The Latin adjective obscurus ("dark, hidden, obscure") is the opposite of clarus ("bright, famous, obvious") used in the title of Reuchlin's book.

Structure and presumptive authors

Most of the letters found in Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum are addressed to Hardwin von Grätz and contain mock accusations against him, such as allegation that he had been intimate with Johannes Pfefferkorn's wife (Letter XII) and that Gratius had defecated his pants in public (letter XL). It was written in large part by the humanists Crotus Rubeanus a.k.a. Johannes Jäger and Ulrich von Hutten, who contributed mainly to the second volume, although the collection was published anonymously. The work is credited with hastening the Protestant Reformation.

Bans and papal excommunication

The book was banned in many places, and in regard of the rise of Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation, Pope Leo X excommunicated the authors, readers, and disseminators of the Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum in 1517, by citing the fact that the discussed matter of burning all Jewish books, especially the Talmud, had never been held as a majority view among Christian scholars.

Legacy

The modern term obscurantism derives from the title of this work. As the theologians in the book intended to burn "un-Christian" works, Enlightenment philosophers used the term for conservative, especially religious enemies of progressive Enlightenment and its concept of the liberal spread of knowledge.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools