- Ottavio Di Camillo's El humanismo castellano del siglo XV, Thirty-Five Years later:An Introduction
Every now and then, and in all areas of intellectual activity, there are scholarly contributions that, for a variety of reasons, become landmarks in the development of our knowledge in a particular field. In some cases, they change our views by adopting a new approach that alters our appreciation and evaluation of that field; in other cases, they have a groundbreaking effect, attracting our attention toward previously neglected facts, periods, cultural developments or intellectual constructs. In July 1976, almost thirty-five years ago, a book that in the field of medieval Hispanic literary studies can be labeled as one of these landmarks was published in Valencia under the imprint of Fernando Torres Editor. It was the work of a young untenured Italian professor based in the United States: his name, Ottavio Di Camillo; the book's title, El humanismo castellano del siglo XV. Professor Di Camillo's recent retirement from his professorship in the Graduate Center of the City [End Page 5] University of New York seems to be an excellent occasion to revisit different aspects associated with the study of humanism in fifteenth-century Castile and to pay homage to his work on this field, and to its repercussions. That is the purpose of this collection of studies.
Di Camillo's book, El humanismo castellano, is the published result of his Yale Ph.D. dissertation, "Spanish Humanism in the Fifteenth Century", which was supervised by Manuel Durán and which Di Camillo submitted and defended in 1972. The book is a revision, expansion and translation of the dissertation, but the structure of both is essentially the same, as a comparison of their tables of contents clearly shows.1 The chronology of these works indicates when exactly Di Camillo carried forward his reassessment of Castilian humanism, mostly in the late sixties and the early seventies. El humanismo castellano is the first book-length monograph to explore the presence of Italian humanism in the Iberian Peninsula. Of course, this does not mean that before the publication of Di Camillo's book no critical attention was paid to the presence and evolution of humanistic concepts, themes and texts in the Iberian Peninsula. For a detailed survey of earlier studies of Iberian humanism, I recommend Di Camillo's contribution to this cluster; I will only cite a few significant studies here, for example those of José Antonio Maravall, [End Page 6] María Rosa Lida de Malkiel, Nicholas G. Round ("Renaissance Culture"), and Peter E. Russell ("Arms versus letters", "Las armas contra las letras"). None of these studies analyzed the presence and influence of the main tenets of Italian humanism in Castile in a comprehensive and exhaustive manner; in contrast, Di Camillo did so in his book. He identified ample signs of their presence in Castile, mainly in the works of an author that he considers the champion of early Castilian humanism, Alonso de Cartagena, an author almost entirely ignored by literary scholars until Di Camillo shed light on him.2 The pioneering nature of Di Camillo's book is undeniable.
As a reflection of the originality of the scope and the topic of Di Camillo's study, a good number of reviews greeted its publication. Interestingly enough, very few of them are in Spanish journals: we only know of one, published in Ínsula (Ares Montes). These reviews for the most part judge the book favorably: "This provocative treatise is sure to raise many eyebrows as it challenges the current state of knowledge about Renaissance Spain" (Stern 544); "There is no doubt that Di C[amillo] pleads a persuasive case for the presence of Humanism in 15th-c. Spain" (Stern 548); "Parecerá un tópico decir que este libro viene a llenar un vacío, pero creo que es una apreciación justa. Di Camillo ha trabajado con entusiasmo y seriedad" (Ares Montes 9d), "The entire study is thoroughly researched; the notes are extensive and scholarly and in many cases include enlightening commentaries on the nature of the work being consulted" (Espantoso de Foley 241); "the excellence of Professor Di Camillo's study...