2013 Town and Gown Lecture and Reception
Edward Muir, Clarence L. Ver Steeg Professor in the Arts and Sciences and Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, will speak on "The 'People Who Believe in Nothing:' Intolerable Thoughts in Late Renaissance Italy."
During the 17th century the Republic of Venice and its satellite university town of Padua remained a relatively free-thinking island in the Catholic world. Due to the intermingling of ideas from Catholic skeptics, Jewish philosophers, and various heterodox foreigners, who constituted what was perhaps the most diverse population in Western Europe, Venice was unusually cosmopolitan. Padua was the only university in Italy where Protestants and Jews could actually study alongside Catholics despite the Council of Trent's prohibition of non-Catholics taking degrees. Venice had the largest publishing industry in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. Especially after the epic confrontation between Venice and Rome when Pope Paul V placed the Republic under Interdict (1606-1607), the Republic tolerated and sometimes even encouraged unconventional religious speculation and rabid anti-papal polemics.
Muir is an acclaimed scholar of Italian social and cultural history of the Renaissance. A past president of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, he is currently the president of the Renaissance Society of America. Among his many distinctions, he has been recognized with Guggenheim and NEH fellowships, and he has been a fellow at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti, the Institute for Advanced Study, the National Humanities Center, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Newberry Library. He has edited three volumes of translated essays from the prominent Italian historical journal Quaderni Storici, is a general editor of the book series "Palgrave Early Modern History: Culture and Society," and is the series editor of the "I Tatti Italian Renaissance History" monograph series with Harvard University Press. He has served on the Board of Editors of The American Historical Review and The Journal of Interdisciplinary History. Muir is the author of "Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice," winner of both the Herbert Baxter Adams and Howard R. Marraro Prizes; "Mad Blood Stirring: Vendetta and Factions in Friuli during the Renaissance," which also won the Marraro Prize; "Ritual in Early Modern Europe;" and "The Culture Wars of the Late Renaissance: Skeptics, Libertines, and Opera." He is the coauthor of the textbook "The West: Encounters and Transformations," and is currently writing "The Fragile Sinews of Trust: The Italian Renaissance, 1350-1650." In 2010 he received the Distinguished Achievement Award of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and in 2011 was elected a member of the Academia Europaea.