The Importance of Literary Study

Leonardo Bruni, de Studiis et Libris:

“On the whole, that excellence about which I speak does not come about without understanding of many various things. As such, it is only proper to have seen and read many things and to have applied a fair deal of work reading the philosophers, the poets, the orators, the historians, and all other writers. There results from this something full and sufficient in itself, so that we seem well-endowed, various, decorated, and we never appear vacuous or uncultured in any matter. A serious understanding of literature should always be offered up, and never condemned. These two things aid and serve each other in turn, since literature without knowledge of the world is sterile and empty, but knowledge of the world – however extensive – seems recondite and obscure if it lacks the shining polish of literature. What good is it to know many beautiful things if you cannot speak about them with dignity or put them into writing without appearing foolish? Thus, in a certain way, literary skill and knowledge of the world are conjoined. In conjunction, these two things brought those ancients whose names we revere to nominal celebrity and glory: Plato, Democritus, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Varro, Cicero, Seneca, Augustine, Jerome, and Lactantius. Indeed, it is hard to tell whether these authors were endowed more with knowledge of the world or literary skill.”

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One response

  1. I feel like the following articulates what I have always assumed without knowing it:

    “These two things aid and serve each other in turn, since literature without knowledge of the world is sterile and empty, but knowledge of the world – however extensive – seems recondite and obscure if it lacks the shining polish of literature. “

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