Italian 215: Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture: The Renaissance of Faith

Instructor: Professor Albert R. Ascoli

The polysemous word-concept, “faith,” usually studied in its separate religious, moral, political, economic, textual, and other acceptations, constitutes an unusually potent means for examining the subtending ideological structures of early modern Italy, and of European culture more generally, as well as the transformative pressures on these during the sixteenth century. “Fede” is at once the name given to blind trust in unprovable truth and to blind commitment in institutional and personal relationships. It is, in other words, the name explicitly given in this period to the general principle that once shapes the social order, binding individuals to and within it, and effaces what lies, unseen and unsaid, beneath it. Drawing on recent historical scholarship, I will demonstrate the pervasiveness of “fede” as the pivotal concept in the range of key discursive domains, indicate the homologies among them, and analyze their interactions in some symptomatic texts of the period. These texts, ranging across the late medieval and early modern period from Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, to Machiavelli and Ariosto to Tasso and Guarino, with reference to such as key European figures as Luther, Rabelais, Montaigne, and Shakespeare, typically bring together multiple strands of the discourse of “fede,” at once revealing its systemic function and pointing to a pervasive crisis within it that opens on to what we are accustomed to call “modernity.”

French 201: History of the French Language

Instructor: Professor Mairi McLaughlin

This course covers the history of the French language from its Latin roots through to contemporary usage. Both internal and external history will be considered so that students acquire a firm grounding in the linguistic evolution of the language, coupled with an understanding of its development in relation to a range of social and cultural phenomena. The course will be structured around our analysis of the wide range of texts from different genres presented by Ayres-Bennett (1996) and which date from 842 CE to the present day. We will use the relatively new historical sociolinguistic approach to try to capture what Anthony Lodge (2009) has called “une image multidimensionnelle de la langue du passé”.

French 240: The Literary Construction of Human Rights in France

Instructor: Professor Susan Maslan

In 1789 the revolutionary French National Assembly drafted and promulgated the world’s first formal declaration of Human Rights. In this course we will think about the status of literature in an era before the category of human rights had emerged, when, that is, rather than representing violations of human rights, literature plays a crucial role in the development of human rights thinking. We are accustomed, in the age of trauma studies, to think that the role of fiction is to make readers feel the suffering of others, and this is no doubt true. But I want to explore to what extent literature has a more fundamental role in the establishment of the categories that make Human Rights thinkable. I want to explore whether and in what ways literature may create the mental habits and the conceptual categories required for a culture of rights. In other words, we are not considering a question of reflection but of production.

German 205 or Comp Lit 215: Mysticism and Modernity

Instructor: Professor Niklaus Largier

So-called ‘mystical’ forms of thought and experience have played a major role in the history of modern philosophy and literature from Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Schopenhauer to Lukàcs, Heidegger, Bataille, Benjamin, and Derrida; and from Novalis to Musil, Kafka, Celan, Bachmann, Klossowski, and Cage (to name just a few). In this seminar we will read and discuss key texts written by some of the most significant medieval figures in this tradition. We will focus on forms and styles of writing; problems of negative and affirmative theology; and configurations of speculative, affective, and sensual moments. During a second phase of the seminar we will turn our attention to baroque mysticism (Angelus Silesius and Jacob Böhme). Based on the class discussion and on individual student interests, we will then explore the ways how these texts have been read by 19th and 20th century authors and how they allow us to think about the formation and transformation of modern concepts of the sacred, subjectivity, affect, critique, and agency. Depending on student interests, we will decide on a final version of the syllabus at the first meeting of class. All texts will be available in original languages and in English translation.

Philosophy 290: Spinoza’s Ethics

Instructor: Professor Kristin Primus

This course will be an in-depth study of Parts I, II, and V of Spinoza’s Ethics. Topics will include the mode-substance relation, the nature of causation, the doctrine of the “parallelism” of ideas and bodies, epistemic certainty, finite human minds’ relation to the infinite intellect, intellectual love of God, and blessedness. Although our focus will be on Spinoza’s text, we will also attend to influential works by Spinoza’s predecessors, including Descartes, Hobbes, Maimonides, and Gersonides.

History of Art 200: Graduate Proseminar in History of Art

Instructor: Professors Todd Olson

This seminar is intended to introduce graduate students to a range of critical perspectives, theoretical issues, and methodologies that constitute the practice of art history. The seminar is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of the history of the discipline. The selected topics and readings are in no way entirely inclusive of present day practitioners and their respective fields. Once we have set aside the disclaimers and apologies, the seminar can pursue an archaeology of the discipline with an eye to the useful and the latent. While good art historical work generously draws on the theory and methodology of other disciplines, the seminar will attempt to understand the discipline’s particular (if not peculiar) history, accretions, inheritances and possibilities. Stress will be placed on close reading of illustrated texts, which entails attention to the visual evidence as well as the rhetorical strategies of the writers.

History of Art 290 / Spanish 280, section 2: Cal Conversations: Object Histories + Critical Concepts + Curatorial Practicum in Latin American Art / The Long Sixteenth-Century: Colonization and its Aftermath

Instructor: Professors Todd Olson and Ivonne del Valle, and Lynne Kimura (BAMPFA)

Starting in the late fifteenth-century the world began to become “global.” This process had many implications in all areas, starting with the economy, religious beliefs and practices, daily life and cultural and artistic practices. Among these some would gradually disappear because they were considered mistaken and therefore dangerous, or be radically transformed (the production of codices, and the building of indigenous temples for example), while others emerged. In a way, the encounter between Europe and the Americas promoted homogenization, and with it, the suppression of practices that had previously been essential. It was probably the rapid and unprecedented decline in the indigenous population what allowed the continent to become a “New World”: America. Even though the world is now a very different place, there has been a widespread resurgence of long-ago disavowed practices—that go from particular relations to land and nature to artistic practices.