Piero Del Negro

«Leggere a mente senza portare scritti o carta d'alcuna sorte ». The peculiarities of university teaching in modern-age Padua

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The title of this paper is taken from a phrase used by a Paduan professor, Paolo Beni, and included in a memorandum redacted in 1620 (circa) and addressed to the Riformatori dello Studio, the Venetian magistracy superintending the University. «Leggere a mente» was a regulation prescribed by the Riformatori and Venetian Senate in 1592 in order to stop the practice of dictation by University of Padua teaching staff following an interdiction on the practice of «lezioni scritte» introduced the previous year. Both measures may be considered side-effects of the anti-Jesuit battle: even though the Paduan Antistudio of the Society had been closed, it was decided that university teaching had to radically distinguish itself from that of colleges, prioritizing «absolute» orality rather than dictation as adopted by the Jesuits. In spite of the most evident limitations of such a teaching methodology («le lezioni si riducono ad una veramente vana e insussistente pompa di memoria») and the clear failure by students to achieve «results» through private lessons, textbooks were only introduced in a reform introduced in 1771, which relegated the «declamazione di discorsi in latino a memoria» to the attic.


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