History | Christians & Pagans-Renaissance
E104 | 0080 | Field


This lecture course, which includes discussion sections, will
explore the often-uneasy relationship between pagan or classical
culture and Christianity in the Renaissance.  While focusing on the
Renaissance, we will begin with early Christian society and the
Middle Ages.  From the few explicit references of Paul of Tarsus to
pagan philosophy in his own day, we will move to the early Christian
theologians or Church Fathers, who very often pointed to the dangers
of classical learning.  After a survey of Medieval teachings, we
will explore in depth Francis Petrarch’s efforts, in the fourteenth
century, to balance classical and Christian ideals.  Humanist
thinking of the fifteenth century will be examined around several
themes: (1) the critique of monastic culture, (2) attitudes toward
papal and sacramental claims of the Catholic Church, (3) Biblical
scholarship, and (4) theories of education.  Sources will range from
rather serious treatises to Renaissance joke books.  Finally we will
turn to the so-called Paganism of the Neoplatonic culture,
the “Christian humanism” of Erasmus and Thomas More, and the
implications of the work of Machiavelli for traditional Christian
morality.  Finally we will examine the Protestant Reformers and
their attitudes toward classical antiquity.  The course will require
weekly readings in primary sources, a few quizzes, a midterm and
final, and a research paper exploring in depth a subject of the
student’s choosing.