English 217: Shakespeare

Instructor: Professor David Landreth

An introduction to the study of Shakespeare at the graduate level. We'll examine a range of contemporary approaches to Shakespeare's plays and poems, and consider how they emerge from longstanding preoccupations across four hundred years of critical reception. I've ordered the Norton Shakespeare at the bookstore, but you may use any recent edition of the texts.

English 250: Representing Non-Human Life in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Britain

Instructor: Professor Joanna Picciotto

We will explore techniques developed by scientists, theologians, and poets to represent other life forms. Contexts we’ll investigate include encounters with new-world flora and fauna, the invention of the microscope, and contemporary debates over reproduction and the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Alongside questions related to medium and genre, we’ll consider when the representation of other creatures becomes representation in an almost political sense, casting the animal as a voiceless subject on whose behalf (and from whose “place”) the author tries to speak. We will also track how new approaches to the physical investigation of animals and plants affected their traditional status as natural symbols (of various vices and virtues, for example). Finally, we will consider the special challenges and opportunities posed by representing creatures that continued to elude empirical study, such as angels.

French 245A: Early Modern Studies — 17th and 18th Century Theater

Instructor: Professor Susan Maslan

Theater was France’s pre-eminent art form from the seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries. Theater was also a public, collective social experience as well as a cultural institution often in contention with other institutions—religious and political. We will study some major plays of the 17th and 18th centuries (Corneille, Racine, Moliere, Marivaux, Voltaire, Beaumarchais). We will seek to understand some of the important literary and aesthetic stakes of these works, as well as to investigate the social and political history of the theater (organization of theater troupes, audiences and their social composition, censorship practices, etc.). We will think about the role and the effects of genre (tragedy vs. comedy; the rise of “drame”). We will study contemporary debates about the theater and trace theater’s importance as a crucible for the formation and expression of public opinion.

History 280B: The Forms of European Intellectual Culture, 1450-1700

Instructor: Professor Jonathan Sheehan

This course provides an intensive introduction to early modern European intellectual culture. It focuses both on the questions that animated intellectual inquiry and the frameworks inside of which this inquiry was pursued. Major topics will include: humanism and the humanities, politics and political thought, practices of theological inquiry, philology and the historical sciences, genre and the history of the book, the topography of intellectual life (universities, networks, academies), and the sciences of culture in an age of discovery. Many weeks will engage a substantial primary text. Authors may include: Valla, Machiavelli, Erasmus, Acosta, Luther, Calvin, Teresa of Avila, Bodin, Lipsius, Grotius, Bacon, Hobbes, and others.

History of Art 290: Insiders and Outsiders in the Age of Pieter Bruegel

Instructor: Professors Elizabeth Honig

This seminar considers how group identification was formed, and what defined exclusion from those groups, in northern Europe of the early- to mid-16th century. We will focus in particular on two questions integral to a renaissance conception of social belonging: the normative body and physical othering (deportment, disability, the racially other), and dwelling vs. a state of placelessness (vagrants, beggars, itinerant artists, other sorts of travelers). We will put pressure on the paintings of Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel as the testimony of an artist thinking deeply about what it meant to belong, or not, in renaissance Europe, and we will read English and Flemish primary texts and documents about the disabled, vagrants, and soldiers; travel literature and 'underworld' texts; and modern theories of community, dwelling, embodiment and disability. No foreign language reading will be necessary.

This is a graduate/undergraduate seminar. Permission of the instructor is required; if possible, please contact me at elizahonig@yahoo.com by mid-August as there will be assigned readings for the first meeting. This class may be taken for 2 units (without research component) or for 4.

Italian Studies 215: Seminar in Renaissance Literature and Culture: Petrarch’s Old Age

Instructor: Professor Albert R. Ascoli

Francis Petrarch has, more than any other single figure, served the emblematic purposes of those attempting to define the Renaissance. If it is no longer possible to think of him (or anyone) as the “first modern man person,” we cannot deny his initiating role in both Renaissance lyric poetry in the vernacular and the Latin Humanist reclamation project, not to mention his early, influential contributions to characteristic early modern forms of representation (the sonnet sequence, the Triumph, the pastoral, the diatribe, both biography and autobiography, and, perhaps most notably of all, the epistolary collection). This course will take as its loose focal point Petrarch’s lesser-known late gathering of letters, the Seniles, or Letters of Old Age, as we explore Renaissance conceptions of the human life span as these interact with the construction of cultural histories. As is well known, the medieval-early modern concept of the shape of a human life differs considerably from our own. From Dante’s “New Life” to Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man.” From this perspective, Petrarch offers an exemplary “case” as he filters available classical (Cicero, De Senectute) and Christian (the Pauline “homo vetus”) discourses on old age, while grappling with the existential crisis represented by his own deterioriating body, the failures of contemporary medicine, and the struggle to find a life after death in the fame he hopes his works will bring him (as in the famous closing entry in the collection, his Letter to Posterity. In closing we will look at works from the later Renaissance that ring changes on the theme of old age, including Montaigne’s Essais and Shakespeare’s King Lear.