The Palace of Secrets: Beroalde de Verville and Renaissance Conceptions of Knowledge

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During the Renaissance, very divergent conceptions of knowledge were debated. Dominant among these was encyclopedism, which treated knowledge as an ordered and unified circle of learning in which branches were logically related to each other. By contrast, writers like Montaigne saw human knowledge as an inherently unsystematic and subjective flux. The Palace of Secrets explores the tension between these two views by examining specific areas such as theories of knowledge, uses of genre, and the role of fiction in philosophical texts. Examples are drawn from numerous sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts but focus particularly on the polymath Beroalde de Verville, whose work graphically illustrates these two competing conceptions of knowledge, since he gradually abandoned encyclopedism. Hitherto Beroalde has been mainly known for the extraordinary and notorious Moyen de parvenir; this is the first detailed study of the whole range of his work, both fictional and learned. The book straddles literary and intellectual history, and indeed it demonstrates that the division between the two has little meaning in Renaissance terms. The intellectual conflicts which it explores have significance for the history of thought right up to the Enlightenment.

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Oxford University Press
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