“What is Europe?” is a question that is as relevant and urgent now as it was in the Renaissance. Studying Europe’s multifaceted past allows us to view the present in a more informed and nuanced light. By looking at cartography and literature, this talk shows that defining Europe was much more complex than we typically think.
By exploring Europe’s borders through the interdisciplinary lens of cartography, philology, and translation—disciplines that emerged contemporaneously as humanistic building blocks—this talk problematizes the question of Europe’s continental boundaries from 1480 to 1580. How did Renaissance humanists—both writers and mapmakers—think about Europe and trace continental boundaries? How did the “discovery” of new territories, both to the east and to the west of Europe, and the translation of ancient geographic texts, such as Ptolemy’s Geography, complicate the question of continental divisions? This talk attempts to propose an answer by charting new itineraries across Europe and by bridging languages and literatures rarely analyzed together: German, Polish, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. By incorporating new documents, the aim of this talk is to offer a more inclusive and balanced view of Renaissance Europe and to open up new spaces to think about humanism—and the Humanities.
Katharina Piechocki is an assistant professor in the Comparative Literature Department at Harvard University and currently IFK_Research Fellow.