College Of Arts And Sciences | Christians and Pagans in the Renaissance
E104 | 9103 | 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.