French and Italian | Power and Imagination in Renaissance Italy
M334 | 25796 | Bondanella, Julia

"It is but in our own day that men dare boast that they see the dawn
of better things.... Now indeed, may every thoughtful mind thank God
that he has been permitted to be born in this new age, so full of
hope and promise." (Matteo Palmieri, Treatise on the Civil

Some contemporary scholars argue that an economic “rebirth” occurred
during the medieval period, claiming that the Renaissance was an
extension of the medieval world. Yet the Renaissance marked the time
of a conscious and deliberate attempt to change the way people
thought and acted in the world. This revolution grew out of a
particularly Italian view of the past and present, and Italy served
as the crucible for the formation of new ideals and values as well
as a new understanding of how human life could be lived. The writers
and thinkers of the Renaissance in Italy saw themselves as sharing
an outlook with classical antiquity: they thought of themselves as
different and special. Florentines took the lead in creating this
new age, and one of them, Giorgio Vasari, an artist and biographer,
coined the term rinascità (rebirth).

Home to some of the most outstanding artists and writers the world
has known, Renaissance Italy, with its energizing memories of Roman
greatness, gave birth to one of the world’s vital cultural
revolutions. This course will introduce you to some of Renaissance
Italy’s most famous citizens: find out why Vasari called this period
the “rebirth”; why Boccaccio’s Decameron was kept locked up
in some libraries even in the mid twentieth century; why
Michelangelo wore dogskin boots; why Machiavelli is sometimes called
the first political scientist; why Renaissance historians avoided
beginning their histories with the story of creation; why Petrarch’s
love of gardening and mountain climbing was controversial in his
times; why modern songwriters still depict love as “fire”
and “burning”; why Boccaccio put a story about Giotto in his
Decameron; why an architect wrote a book on the family; why
Cellini claims the Pope said that artists were “above the law”; why
they painted fig leaves on nudes in Michelangelo’s Last
Judgment; how Italy ‘civilized’ Europe; who invented the fork;
who inspired Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well; and so
on. The emphasis will focus upon epoch-making writers and artists,
including Alberti, Boccaccio, Castiglione, Cellini, Galileo, Giotto,
Guicciardini, Leonardo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Petrarch.
Topics to be explored will include the economic basis of the
Renaissance, the rise of naturalism, the rebirth of classical
antiquity, the role of power, authority and religion in Renaissance
life, new theories of politics and statecraft, family and society,
the art of love, a sexual revolution, the invention of new art, the
changing concept of the artist, a new way of writing history. Joint-
offered with HON H303.

This is an INTENSIVE WRITING COURSE, and 3-4 short essays will be
assigned along with some in-class writing. Rewriting essays is
encouraged. The course will be devoted to reading and discussing the
assigned texts. Attendance is expected. For more information,
contact the instructor: Julia Bondanella (