English 203: Erotic Renaissance

Instructor: Professor James Grantham Turner

A sampling of sixteenth-century discourses of sexuality, theories of Eros, artworks and writings about the erotic in art, from major male and female authors in Italy, France and England. The aim is to test the hypothesis of my recent research – that an “erotic revolution” transformed Italian art and art writing – and to explore how far it applies to other literatures. For a brief period, after 1500 and before the Counter-Reformation, arousal could be interpreted as a positive experience that yielded new ways of seeing and producing art, at the center rather than the margins of the culture. Some of the texts we will read are openly libertine or obscenely explicit, others develop the amorous sonnet and the philosophical love-treatise in more elevated language, but all manifest the “corporeal turn” away from strict Petrarchanism and Neoplatonism. Authors include Pietro Aretino, Marsilio Ficino, Antonio Vignali, Baldessare Castiglione, Tullia d’Aragona, Veronica Franca, François Rabelais, Louise Labé, Michel de Montaigne, Pierre de Brantôme, Philip Sidney, Thomas Nashe and John Donne.

Italian Studies 212: Seminar in Dante, Authority in Person: The Commedia and Beyond

Instructor: Professor Albert R. Ascoli

This course will be devoted to a study of the latter half of Dante’s career, particular the Divina Commedia (read in its entirety, but with selective emphases), but also the Latin works (letters; Monarchia; Eclogues) of the later years. Our focus will be on the problematics of poetic authorship (and readership) and political/ecclesiastical authority that emerge full-blown in the period. This course is, ideally, the continuation of the fall semester seminar on Dante before the Commedia, but may be taken on its own. Dante’s works will be viewed through the filter of a series of pertinent late medieval contexts: including the emergence of a romance vernacular canon; proto-humanistic valorization of classical Latin literature; the rhetorical, philosophical and theological traditions; the shifting macro- and micro-politico-social order.

French 245A and Italian 215: Authors, Readers and Censors in Early Modern Europe: From the Printing of Books to the Management of Information (1450-1800)

Instructor: Professors Déborah Blocker and Diego Pirillo

This seminar introduces students to the fundamentals of book history (the invention of the printing press, the material forms of the book, and the development and control of the book market), but also to what in the field is now called scribal culture, that is the continued circulation of manuscripts during the age of the printing press and, more generally, the lasting and constant competition between books and manuscripts in the high culture of early modern Europe. The class mainly investigates the development of the book and manuscript markets in light of the larger question of how the Renaissance and the early modern period came to terms with the ‘overload of information’ that marked the early age of print, adopting new strategies to gather, store and appropriate knowledge. Particular attention will be dedicated to examining how information (mundane, political, literary and artistic, scientific, etc.) was produced and circulated, the guises under which it travelled, the ways in which it was policed and how it was received.

English 246D: Seventeenth-Century English Literature

Instructor: Professor Victoria Kahn

An introduction to one of the great ages of English literature, focusing on works by Francis Bacon, John Donne, Ben Jonson, George Herbert, Thomas Hobbes, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Hobbes, John Milton, Robert Herrick, Lucy Hutchinson, Anne Halkett. We will discuss the relationship between literature and the court of James I, the explosion of pamphlet literature during the English civil war, the controversy over gender roles, the texts surrounding the regicide of Charles I, and the political, religious, and sexual radicalism of dissenting literary culture. We will also take up the question of the different ways in which Renaissance humanism and the literary culture of the Reformation contributed to the flowering of vernacular literature in seventeenth-century England. Secondary reading in Fish, Patterson, Cummings, Braden, Hutson, Lewalski, Strier, Whigham, Hill et al.