French and Italian | Topics in Italian Culture: Laughter, Humor and Wit in the Italian Renaissance
M222 | 7794 | Scalabrini, Massimo


Renaissance artists and writers were as committed to advocating the
dignity of humankind and its central place in the universe as they
were committed to making fun of or laughing at themselves and each
other. This course will focus on the comic literature of the Italian
Renaissance. We will explore the nature and various expressions of
comedy in genres such as the short story, the facetia (‘witty
anecdote’), the apologue, the comic play, the epic and satiric poem
and the treatise. In doing so we will address the following questions,
among others: What is the relation of laughter and ignorance, error,
moral and physical deformity? Does laughter bring people together or
does it set them apart? How does comedy articulate the ethical
concepts of innocence and guilt? How are conflicts dealt with in comic
texts? We will read works by Boccaccio, Ariosto, Machiavelli, Aretino
and Castiglione, among others, and we will also discuss a selection of
relevant historical and critical materials. Students will write three
short essays, take five quizzes and a final exam.