Juan Luis Vives as the "Second Quintilian": Transforming Liberal Arts Learning into Christian Piety

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For centuries, Christian teachers have looked to the ancient Roman rhetorician Quintilian (35–96 CE) for instructional guidance concerning the liberal arts, reading his Institutio Oratoria for its recognized wisdom. Given its all-embracing system of formative instruction, emphasizing the creation of the “vir bonus dicendi peritus,” Quintilian’s opus attracted the interest of Christians committed to virtue, regardless of the incongruities between pagan and religious ideals; and from the fifth century until the Renaissance, the educational views and methods of the Institutio greatly influenced Western thinking. As W. Martin Bloomer perceptively declares, “The treatise has an unrivaled importance for the legacy of educational thinking.” One of the most notable Renaissance scholars to be inspired by this ancient proponent of liberal learning and pedagogy was Juan Luis Vives (1492–1540), who became one of the leading humanists of Northern Europe. Quintilian’s sway upon Vives’s own thinking and writing proved to be so prominent and consequential that his contemporaries described him as “the second Quintilian.” Vives adapted many of the educational concepts and practices of his Roman guide for a distinctly Christian purpose, namely the cultivation of piety; and his innovative didactic appropriations, largely overlooked, warrant further consideration.

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