Posted: October 21, 2008
When Angelo Mazzocco was a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley, researching his dissertation on the Renaissance humanist Biondo Flavio, little did he know his subject would serve as the bookends of his own career.
After three decades of studying and teaching medieval and Renaissance literature, Mazzocco--now a professor emeritus of Spanish and Italian--has been awarded a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship to complete work on his new book, Biondo Flavio and Renaissance Thought. His award marks the first time a member of the Mount Holyoke faculty has won this prestigious fellowship.
According to Mazzocco, Biondo Flavio (1392-1463)--also known as Flavio Biondo and generally referred to simply as Biondo--was among the most prolific and influential humanists of his era. He produced seminal studies in historiography, antiquarianism, and historical geography, as well as treatises on education, jurisprudence, and the origin of the Italian vernacular language. A deeply religious man, he also served as secretary to three popes--and even wrote four pieces advocating for a crusade against the Turks.
"Biondo wrote extensively, and some of his works were among the first to be printed in the second half of the fifteenth century," Mazzocco said. "The breadth of his work earned him much popularity among his contemporaries. Indeed, he exercised a profound influence on the whole European world of learning.
"Studying Biondo all these years has given me an opportunity not only to appreciate his works in their own right, but to realize how fundamental his thought is to the cultural life of Renaissance Italy and Europe," he added.
In his book, Mazzocco will present "a thorough investigation of Biondo's literary contributions and a cohesive argument of the evolution of his thought." He will also examine his influence on writers such as the distinguished Spanish historian Pedro Mexia, the British antiquarian and historical geographer William Camden, the eminent German humanist Conrad Celtis, and "above all, the British historian Edward Gibbon-- whose Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is in many ways a reincarnation of Biondo's famous history The Decades."
Mazzocco, who taught at MHC from 1975 until his retirement in 2003, is an internationally renowned scholar of medieval and Renaissance culture and has published widely on Dante, historical linguistics, Renaissance humanism, and the influence of ancient Rome on Renaissance thought. His most recent book, Interpretations of Renaissance Humanism(EJ Brill, 2006), provides an overview of the various modes of critical inquiry that have characterized the study of Renaissance humanism in the last half century. The Mellon project will allow Mazzocco to focus on both Biondo and important intellectual trends in the European Renaissance.
MHC president Joanne V. Creighton said she was "delighted to have the opportunity, for the first time, to nominate one of our faculty" for the Mellon Fellowship.
"This project struck all of us as most deserving of support," she said. "Angelo has been a teacher of distinction, rigor, and warmth, admired and beloved by generations of Mount Holyoke students.… We believe this will be the culminating scholarly achievement in his distinguished career."
The Mellon award provides $35,000 to Mazzocco for travel to Italy and other European countries, as well as to several U.S. libraries, to complete his research for the book. It includes an additional $20,000 for the College to purchase library resources, such as the print and digitized materials he will need.
Mazzocco has held a number of prestigious fellowships, in addition to the newly awarded Mellon. In 2006 he was a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome; prior to that he was a Fellow in Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study at Indiana University, Bloomington. He was twice awarded research grants by the Gladys Kreible Delmas Foundation for study in Venice. He has also won grants for study at the Vatican Library in Rome and from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the American Council of Learned Societies, and Pew Charitable Trusts.
The Mellon Foundation invites nominations for its emeritus fellowship from a revolving list of universities and colleges, and this was the first time Mount Holyoke has been asked to submit a nomination. The fellowship supports the scholarly activities of outstanding faculty in the humanities and humanistic social sciences who, although retired, continue to be active and productive in their fields.