Date of Award
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n this thesis, I use the Treny, a late 16th century collection of nineteen poems by the Polish humanist Jan Kochanowski, as a basis from which to reconstruct a historical narrative of his attempt at self-consolation over the death of his daughter and, in the process, reconsider our current understanding of the Renaissance in Europe. Until fairly recently, scholars have tended to view the Renaissance as a primarily Italian or western European phenomenon. Eastern Europe receives little mention in current academic discussions of the Renaissance. This thesis, however, will show that the Treny does offer compelling evidence that this view is mistaken, and that Jan Kochanowski is indeed an outstanding representative of cosmopolitan European culture in Poland. It is not an easy matter to reconstruct Kochanowski's life. Few records concerning his daily life remain, outside his numerous poetic works. Yet in joining the intellectual ranks of the humanists, Kochanowski obviously devoted much of his early life to the study of the languages and literatures of Greco-Roman antiquity, the results of which echoed throughout the works of his maturity. Similarly, he knew and interacted with many of the same philosophical and religious movements that flourished throughout Renaissance Europe. Thus, my task in this thesis is primarily to use poetry as a biographical source; and my method is to develop historical contexts that help explain the sorts of sentiments and ideas that Kochanowski expressed in the Treny. In the preface, I examine Kochanowski's response to the death of his daughter and his subsequent grief as recorded in the first part of the Treny. In chapter one, I reconstruct a glimpse of his humanist education in Krakow, Konigsberg, and Padua, thereby providing a context for comparison; with chapter two, I examine the influence of the humanist consolatory tradition on Kochanowski and the Treny, focusing on the roles that the writings of Cicero and Petrarch played within the work. With next two chapters, I look at Kochanowski's reaction to and eventual rejection of humanist consolation in the Treny, specifically against the Classical philosophical concepts of wisdom and virtue. In the last chapter, I focus on Kochanowski's virulent critique of Cicero, philosophy, and human knowledge and pride in the last part of the Treny for their roles in aggravating his grief. Finally in the epilogue, I consider Kochanowski's eventual decision to reject his humanism and find consolation in blind obedience to the divine will of his now more reformed and sterner Christian God and faith, and elucidate the significance of Kochanowski's story of personal grief within the larger picture of European Humanism.
Tworek, Michael, "Orszula's Death: Grief and Consolation in the Renaissance--The Treny of Jan Kochanowski" (2004). History Honors Theses. 2.