The dialogue of ingenuous students: Early printed textbooks at Paris

Richard J. Oosterhoff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Dialogues and the “dialogic” often hold a privileged place in accounts of the Renaissance and early modern learning. University textbooks therefore are presented as a site of social control, imposing fixed formulas rather than stimulating independent judgment. This essay shows how the program of printed textbooks by the Renaissance Paris arts master Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (c. 1455–1536) and his circle were intended to support dynamic mental habits, in which students were expected to embody real knowledge. These university textbooks respond not only to a humanist fashion for dialogue, but also to a medieval tradition of “outsider” knowledge which sought to ensure that university habits answered broader social needs. This matters for understanding early modern universities, because Lefèvre’s deepest influence on early modern intellectual culture was less on high humanist polemic and more on the thousands of students who used his textbooks as their path through the BA cursus, and on those writers who modelled their textbooks on his.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching Philosophy in Early Modern Europe
Subtitle of host publicationText and Image
EditorsSusanna Berger, Daniel Garber
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783030846213
ISBN (Print)9783030846206, 9783030846220
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2022

Publication series

ISSN (Print)1385-0180


  • dialogue
  • Lefèvre d’Étaples
  • textbooks
  • typography
  • print
  • virtue
  • character difficulty
  • labour
  • genius
  • ingenuous


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