Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

V is for Juan Luis Vives

Juan Luis Vives (Latin: Ioannes Lodovicus Vives; Catalan: Joan Lluís Vives i March; Dutch: Jan Ludovicus Vives; 6 March 1493 – 6 May 1540) was a Valencian scholar and humanist who spent most of his adult life in the Southern Netherlands.Vives was born in Valencia to a family which had converted from Judaism to Christianity. As a child, he saw his father, grandmother and great-grandfather, as well as members of their wider family, executed as Judaizers at the behest of the Spanish Inquisition; his mother was acquitted but died of the plague when he was 15 years old. Shortly thereafter, he left Spain never to return.

Vives studied at the University of Paris from 1509 to 1512, and in 1519 was appointed professor of humanities at the University of Leuven. At the insistence of his friend Erasmus, he prepared an elaborate commentary on Augustine’s De Civitate Dei, which was published in 1522 with a dedication to Henry VIII of England. Soon afterwards, Henry invited him to England as tutor to the Princess Mary, for whose use he wrote De Institutione Feminae Christianae, on the education of girls. He dedicated the latter book to Henry’s queen Catherine of Aragon, which is ironic considering that the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, who were Catherine of Aragon’s parents, were also leaders of the Spanish Inquisition that executed Vives’ relatives.

In De Institutione Feminae Christianae, Vives details the necessary attributes of a married woman. She must be loyal, dedicated, and obedient to her spouse; she must dress appropriately, covering her face in public; she must not allow any man into her house without her husband’s permission. While a wife’s obedience and dedication to her spouse determined her honor, a husband’s honor stemmed from his ability to control his wife and ensure she remained virtuous.

While in England, he resided at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where his friend Erasmus had strong ties. Having declared himself against the annulment of the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Vives lost royal favour and was confined to his house for six weeks. On his release, he withdrew to Bruges, where he devoted the rest of his life to the composition of numerous works, chiefly directed against the scholastic philosophy and the preponderant unquestioning authority of Aristotle.

Vives, Juan Luis,1492-1540. The education of a Christian woman : a sixteenth-century manual. Edited and translated by Charles Fantazzi. University of Chicago Press, 2000.

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