When Elites Were Elites | UB

That element is the “Republic of Letters,” which, Fumaroli explains, is today often a sort of jibe or ironic self-parody of the pompous and barely hidden commercial and professional competition of the literary world. The term, however, once meant something very different. It referred to a pan-European “society of literary and solitary savants,” with an overwhelming focus on the wisdom of antiquity. They studied the ancient world, engaged in a reading, rereading, and reinterpreting of its wisdom, and applied it to scholarly debates and European affairs. Their work did not render the original thinkers obsolete; this enterprise was viewed as a communion with the thinkers of old in a similar way that Christians honored and prayed to the saints. The Republic of Letters formed a “society within another society, a contemplative society within an active society, and a society united by letters, beyond death and distance in the same intellectual adventure.”
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