Italian Studies 212: Seminar in Dante: Dante Lector

Instructor: Professor Albert R. Ascoli

In one of the most famous episodes in Western literature, Francesca da Rimini blames her adulterous love of her husband’s brother, Paolo, for both her violent death and eternal damnation, on an act of reading, solicited by a book and its author (“Galeotto fu il libro e chi lo scrisse” [A pander was the book and he who wrote it]). This episode, however, is just one of the many, many ways that the critical representation of readers and acts of reading, including his own, pervade the Dantean corpus from beginning to end. Our focus in this course, then, will be on Dante’s dialectical construction and reconfiguration of medieval practices of reading in relation to his emerging concept of his own “authoriality.”  Specifically  we will follow an itinerary that leads from the first of Dante’s major “hybrid” prose and poetry works, the Vita Nova, through the unfinished treatises of his early exile (Convivio and De Vulgari Eloquentia), to selections from the three canticles of the Commedia. In addition to examining “scenes of reading” like Inferno 5 and Dante’s textual definitions of and engagement with his own readers, we will consider questions concerning the intersections between authorial intentionality and readerly understanding; the self-reading mode of auto-commentary; appropriations and transformations of Scholastic models of lectio; the gender and social standing of implied readers; and others still. Though our primary focus will be on Dante’s texts, we will take into consideration the circulation of those works around the time of their composition, as well as the first generation of the Commedia’s readers.

History 280B: “Year Books” and Global Early Modern History

Instructor: Professor Peter Sahlins

This course takes seriously the conceit of academic and popular historical writing that makes use of the unit of the year – annus mirabilus – as a moment or “event” of structural transformation and/or as revelatory of some large-scale historical processes and narrative claims, including globalization itself. This course focuses on “year books” (books about particular years) written about the Early Modern period, from the 15th to the end of the 18th century. It is organized around canonical years (eg, 1492, 1789) and unexpected ones (eg, 1536,1668). We will use these monographs – some less scholarly than others – to reflect on event, process, and structure in a global perspective, and on historical writing more broadly.

Italian Studies 215: The Italian Romance Epic: Boiardo, Ariosto, Tasso

Instructor: Professor Albert Russell Ascoli

This course will offer an advanced introduction to the 15th and 16th century Italian Romance-Epic tradition, focusing principally on the “Ferrarese” tradition extending from Matteo Maria Boiardo through Ludovico Ariosto to Torquato Tasso. The focus of the course will be on the place each of the poems assumes in key literary and political-cultural histories. In addition to selections from the poems themselves we will spend some time on the early theoretical works devoted to the generic identity of the Italian long poem, including Giambattista Pigna, I romanzi; Tasso’s Discorsi sopra l’arte poetica; and the Ariosto vs. Tasso debate, as well as on the late 16th century chivalric epic, Floridoro, of Moderata Fonte. Students whose interests focus on English, Spanish, French or other traditions that respond to the Italians may find the course useful and would be encouraged to present and write on such responses.

Comp Lit 215/English 250: Milton and the English Civil War

Instructor: Professor Vicky Kahn

An introduction to the literature of the English civil war and following decades, focusing on the work of John Milton, but including the work of Henry Parker, Thomas Hobbes, Andrew Marvell, Margaret Cavendish, Katherine Phillips, Lucy Hutchinson, and Anne Halkett. We will also address 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.

History of Art 236: Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art

Instructor: Professor Sugata Ray

Nuclear disasters. Acid rain. The mass extinction of animal and plant species. The devastating environmental crisis that the planet faces today has fundamentally transformed the way we perceive human interaction with the natural environment. New forms of thinking such as postcolonial ecophilosophy, actor-network theory, new materialisms, and posthumanism have challenged Enlightenment distinctions between natural and human history. Can art history, a discipline primarily engaged in the study of human creativity, also breach the natural/human history binary? What, this seminar asks, would such a history of art and architecture look like?

Law 229.5: Constitutionalism before the Constitution

Instructor: Professor Kinch Hoekstra

This is a seminar in the history of political and legal theory. We will explore the idea of fundamental law, illegal laws, mixed government and divided sovereignty, the development of checks and balances, and the very idea of a constitution. We will touch briefly on the Athenian and Roman constitutions, and will read texts by Aquinas, Dante, Francisco Suarez, Johannes Althusius, Edward Coke, Charles I, William Prynne, James Harrington, Locke, and Montesquieu, and documents including Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, and the Answer to the 19 Propositions.

Political Science 212B: The State, Sovereignty, and the Sovereign State

Instructor: Professor Daniel Lee

The central organizing theme of this graduate seminar on early modern political thought concerns the sovereign state.  The course begins by investigating major accounts explaining how and why, once largely independent, concepts of statehood and sovereignty were ‘fused’ together to form a narrow hybrid-concept of the ‘sovereign state,’ one that has become the indispensably central unit of analysis in modern state-centric politics.