Freie Universitaet Berlin
Christina Schaefer is a postdoctoral research and teaching assistant for French and Italian Literatures at Freie Universität Berlin. She received her doctoral degree in Romance literatures in 2011 with a book on the epistemological aspects of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Nouveau Roman. In her current research, she investigates Italian Renaissance dialogues on the art of household management with a special focus on the texts as literary artifacts and aspects of knowledge transfer.
Provide for the Future! Merchants Dealing with Money, Time, and Fortune in 15th Century Italy
This seminar investigates the concepts of the future by which two major texts of the Italian Renaissance are informed: Leon Battista Alberti, The Books on the Family (I libri della famiglia, 1433-41) and Benedetto Cotrugli, The Book on the Art of Trade (Libro de l’arte della mercatura, 1458). A closer look at these texts will give us an idea of how late medieval merchants were struggling with both the experience of contingency and the accusation of committing usury by making money with time, which was supposed to belong to God alone. We will see how the authors conceived of men’s agency in a universe that was considered to be influenced by extraterrestrial forces like fortune, celestial constellations or divine providence. And we will examine what they recommend to do in order to prevent the strokes of fate and to grant the merchant’s prosperity, be it in this life or a life hereafter.