Week The Political, Social and Economic Landscape of the Renaissance

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6.3 Readings, Core-Module Seminars

Term 1

Section 1: Mapping the Renaissance

week 1. The Political, Social and Economic Landscape of the Renaissance

No preparation needed

Week 2. Humanism in the Italian Renaissance: From Petrarch to Machiavelli


The following questions intend to provide you with an overview of key figures, important concepts and themes, and main scholarly debates on Renaissance thought. Please prepare notes on some of the following questions, with reference to relevant secondary sources:

-Why is the period 1300-1600 called ‘The Renaissance’, and who were the first to use this terminology of ‘rebirth’?

-What is ‘humanism’?

-How were ancient Greek authors (e.g. Homer, Plato) transmitted in Renaissance Italy?

-What was the contribution and role of Petrarch, and how far can we call him ‘the father of humanism’?

-In what ways do Leonardo Bruni and Lorenzo Valla symbolise what we call ‘Renaissance humanism’?

-Identify Angelo Poliziano, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino and situate them in the context of the Medici’s patronage and politics.

-What is the ‘Baron thesis’?

-Discuss Machiavelli’s contribution to political thought. How ‘machiavellian’ was Machiavelli?

-Discuss the ways in which ‘humanism’ has been defined by the two founding fathers of Renaissance studies (Eugenio Garin and Paul Oskar Kristeller) and reflect on the various ways in which one can combine both approaches (see Celenza).


R. Black, Renaissance Thought. A Reader (London: Routledge, 2001) [Key articles on ‘The Renaissance’ by anglo-saxon scholars. Several important articles by Kristeller, one of the founding fathers of Renaissance studies]

C. Celenza, The Lost Italian Renaissance: Humanists, Historians and Latin’s Legacy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004) [includes an interesting chapter on Garin vs. Kristeller]

R. Fubbini, Humanism and secularization: from Petrarch to Valla, translated by Martha King (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003)

E. Garin, Italian Humanism: Philosophy and Civic Life in the Renaissance, translated by

Peter Munz (Wesport, Conn: Greenwood, 1975) [The other founding father of Renaissance studies]

P. Godman, From Poliziano to Machiavelli: Florentine Humanism in the High Renaissance (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1998) [a good synthesis of the topic]

J. Hankins (ed), Renaissance Civic Humanism: Reappraisals and Reflections (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) [A good reappraisal of the Baron thesis]

J. Kraye, The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

A. Mazzocco (ed), Interpretations of Renaissance Humanism (Leiden: Brill, 2006)

Q. Skinner, ‘Political philosophy’, in C. B. Schmitt and Q. Skinner (eds), The Cambridge History of Renaissance Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), esp. pp. 408-442 [useful introduction on Machiavelli]

N. Wilson, From Byzantium to Italy. Greek studies in the Italian Renaissance (London: Duckworth, 1992) [excellent account of the revival of Greek culture in 15th-century Italy]

R. B. Witt, In the Footsteps of the Ancients: the Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni (Leiden: Brill, 2000)

Week 3. Renaissance Art

Seminar Questions

1. What kind of art history does Vasari construct? Who does it privilege and why?

2. What challenges to this model are laid down by Welch, Burke and Harrison?

3. How else might we study the art of the Renaissance?

4. Is 'Renaissance' a valid term?



Compulsory Reading

Evelyn Welch, 'Engendering Italian Renaissance Art - A Bibliographic Review', Papers of the British School at Rome 68 (2000), pp. 201-216 (Arts Periodicals).


Giorgio Vasari, Prefaces to The Lives of the Artists (2nd edition, 1568) http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25326

Available online but there are also numberous copies in the Library and the Learning Grid.


Jill Burke, 'Florentine art and the public good', in Viewing Renaissance Art, K. Woods, C. M. Richardson and Angeliki Lymberopoulou (The Open University Press, 2007) (N6370.W655)

Charles Harrison, 'Giotto and the Rise of Painting', in Siena, Florence and Padua: art, society and religion, 1280-1400, vol. 1, ed. Diana Norman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 73-95 (N6931.S44)


Further Reading

 On Renaissance Art:

Evelyn Welch, Art in Renaissance Italy (Oxford University Press, 2000) (N6915.W3)

William Hood, 'The State of Research in Italian Renaissance Art', The Art Bulletin 69 (1987), pp. 174-186 (Art Periodicals) 

Luba Freedman, The Revival of the Olympian Gods in Renaissance Art (Cambridge University Press, 2003) (N6915.F7)

Larry Silveer, 'The State of Research in Northern European Renaissance Art', The Art Bulletin 68 (1986), pp. 518-35 (Arts Periodicals)

Susie Nash, Northern Renaissance Art (Oxford University Press, 2008) (N6370.N2)

Jeffrey Chipps Smith, The Northern Renaissance (Phaidon, 2004) (N6370.55)


On Art History Methodology:

Michael Hatt and Charlotte Klonk, Art History. A Critical Introduction to its Methods (Manchester University Press, 2006) (N7480.H2)

Donald Preziosi, The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology (Oxford University Press, 1998) (online through library) (2009 edition, N7475.A7)

Eric Fernie, Art History and its Methods: A Critical Anthology (Phaidon, 2003) (N85.F3)

Week 4. Religious upheavals in the 16th century

Seminar Questions

To what extent were sixteenth-century calls for reform of the Catholic Church new?

What links/similarities were there between the different reform movements: Christian humanism; Lutheranism; Calvinism/Reformed; Catholic Reformation?

What role did the state play in the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century?

Which reform movement do you consider to have been the most successful and why?


Primary Texts (most available on the web)

Jan Hus, 'Final Declaration' (1415)

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (c.1418-27)

Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (1509), esp. chaps. on 'Great Illuminated Divines' and 'Monks'

Martin Luther, Ninety-Five Theses (1517)

Martin Luther, Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (1520)

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536-59)

Theodore Beza, Supralapsarianism: The Fall of Man Was Both Necessary and Wonderful (1558)

Theodore Beza, On the Rights of Magistrates (1574)

D.M. Luebke (ed.), The Counter-Reformation: Essential Readings (1999)

Secondary sources

There are many general texts on the Reformations as you can see below.  Please look at two or three of these.

R. Birely, The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700 (1999)

J. Bossy, Christianity in the West (1985)

E. Cameron, The European Reformation (1991)

P. Collinson, The Reformation (2003)

N. Davidson, The Counter Reformation (1987)

E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (1992)

H. J. Goertz, The Anabaptists (1996)

B. S. Gregory, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (1999)

K. von Greyerz, Religion and Culture in Early Modern Europe (2008)  

R. Hsia (ed), Cambridge History of Christianity Volume 6: Reform and Expansion 1500-1660 (2007)

B. Kaplan, Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (2007)

B. Kümin (ed.), The European World (2009), part 3: 'Religion'

D. MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700 (2003)

P. Marshall, The Reformation: A Very Short Introduction (2009)

A. McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction (1988; second edn 1992)

J.W. O’Malley, Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era (2000)

A. Pettegree (ed.), The Reformation World (2000)

A. Pettegree, Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion (2005)

U. Rublack, Reformation Europe (2005)

A. Ryrie (ed), Palgrave Advances in the European Reformations (2006)

R. Scribner et al. (eds), The Reformation in National Context (1994)

J. D. Tracy, Europe’s Reformations 1450-1650 (1999)

P. G. Wallace, The Long European Reformation (2004)

Specialised Reading


On some of the key figures:


M.A. Mullett, Martin Luther (2004)

H.A. Oberman, Luther: Man between God and Devil (1990)


B. Cottret, Calvin: a Biography (2000)

B. Gordon, Calvin (2009)


Week 5. The ‘Scientific Renaissance’ and the ‘scientific Revolution’

This session offers an introduction into a period, referred to by historians of science and medicine as the ‘Scientific Renaissance and/or the 'Scientific Revolution'. The terms refer to a period stretching roughly from 1500 to 1700 and its beginning is generally associated with the works of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1474-1543) and the anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). It ends with the English experimental philosopher Isaac Newton (1643-1727). While the precise nature of developments is a matter of debate, all scholars agree that the ‘Scientific Renaissance’ and the ‘Scientific Revolution’ is a key moments when a specific way of looking at the natural world - what we call 'modern science' - began to take shape. This session introduces us to the some of the central elements that began to look different in the investigation of nature.


Compulsory Reading:

Dear, Peter, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500-1700 (Basingstoke, 2001), introduction; chapter 1 and 2 (more if you like of course)

Shapin, Steven, The Scientific Revolution (Chicago, 1998)

 Further readings:

Grant, Edward, 'Aristotle and Aristotelianism', in Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. by Gary B. Ferngren (Baltimore, 2002), pp. 33-46

Lindberg, David C., The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B.C. to A. D. 1450 (Chicago, 1992), chapter 3

Siraisi, Nancy, Medieval & Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledge and Practice (Chicago, 1990), chapter: Physiology and anatomy

Wear, Andrew/French, Roger K/Lonie, I.M., (eds.), The Medical Renaissance of the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1985)

Week 6. reading week [no classes]

Section 2: Renaissance Literary Culture

Week 7. Reading and writing in the Renaissance


1. How and for what purposes was the language of rebirth used in relation to literature (especially Dante and Petrarch)? [see McLaughlin]

2. What styles of reading were practiced in the Renaissance? [See Grafton and Kallendorf]

3. How did print culture affect the author-reader relationship? [See Chartier, Richardson]

4. In what ways was the vernacular literature of Dante reinterpreted in Renaissance Florence? (See set text, part 3; Garin, Grayson, Parker)

Set Text (for point 4)

Images of Quattrocento Florence: Selected Writings in Literature, History and Art, ed. and trans. Stefano Ugo Baldassarri and Arielle Saiber (New Haven-London, 2000)


Roger Chartier, The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Cambridge, 1994)

Roger Chartier, The Culture of Print: Power and the Uses of Print in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1989)

Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 2 vols. (Cambridge-New York, 1979)

Nicola Gardini, Rinascimento (Turin: Einaudi, 2010)

Eugenio Garin, ‘Dante nel Rinascimento’, Rinascimento, 2ser./7 (1967), 3-28; English translation in The Three Crowns of Florence: Humanist Assessments of Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio (London, 1972)

Simon Gilson, Dante and Renaissance Florence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Anthony Grafton, Commerce with the Classics: Ancient Books and Renaissance Readers (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997)

Anthony Grafton, ‘Renaissance Readers and Ancient Texts: Comments on Some Commentaries’, Renaissance Quarterly 38 (1988), 615–49

Cecil Grayson, ‘Dante and the Renaissance', in Italian Studies presented to E.R. Vincent (Cambridge: Heffer, 1962), pp. 57-75

Craig Kallendorf, Virgil and the Myth of the Renaissance: Books and Readers in the Italian Renaissance (Oxford, 1999)

Martin L. McLaughlin, ‘Humanist Concepts of Renaissance and Middle Age in the Tre- and Quattrocento’, Renaissance Studies 2:2 (1988), 131–42

Walter Ong, Orality and literacy : the technologizing of the word (London: Methuen, 1982)

Deborah Parker, Commentary and Ideology: Dante in the Renaissance (Durham-London: Duke University Press, 1993) [with chapter on Landino's commentary]

Brian Richardson, Print Culture in Renaissance Italy. The Editor and the Vernacular Text, 1470-1600 (Cambridge, 1994)

Brian Richardson, Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge, 1999)

Week 8. Grammar Between Babel and Utopia: The Understanding of Language in the Renaissance


to identify and examine the nature of humanist ideas of language and the role of grammar; 

to consider their central place in Renaissance thought; 

to assess the practical advantages of these ideas; 

to debate their questionable consequences for culture in Europe and in the new world.  

Seminar questions

You will each be expected to have formulated responses to all of the following questions which are designed to elicit your own opinions rather than correct or specific 'answers'. By all means give more attention and time to the questions that interest you most [with the obvious exception of c) which is very straightforward]

a) What is your impression of the general role of grammar in Renaissance thought? Why was it important? [see e.g. Dante, Johnson, Jensen, Percival]

b) To what extent was Latin identified with grammatica  or grammar itself, and why? [see e.g. Dante]

c) How was Grammar depicted visually? What are the reasons for the images that were customary in artistic representations? [see Wittkower]

d) In what ways do you think Renaissance attitudes to grammar and language may be distinguished from those in the middle ages? [see e.g. Jensen, Percival]

e) Can a universal language and universal grammar be distinguished from each other? How? What in your opinion was the significance of the biblical story of Babel? [see e.g. Genesis, Dante, Eco]

f) What might be the specific problems with the application Renaissance ideas of language/grammar to non-European languages in the New World? Did the process have any advantages? [see e.g. Mignolo]


Primary texts: 

Genesis 11: Babel. 

Dante De vulgari eloquentia Book 1 chapters 1-9 This is online e.g. http://alighieri.scarian.net/translate_english/alighieri_dante_de_vulgari_eloquentia.html]

Perotti, Rudimenta grammatices. Please look at this as an example of a late 15th c. Renaissance grammar in Latin, to get a general idea of the layout:


Does it make any sense at all to a student who knows no Latin?

Secondary literature (*asterisked items are attached as pdfs)

The reading will be more accessible if approached in this order:

(1) Johnson and (2) Jensen provides general introduction of role of Latin/grammar in Renaissance humanism; compare art historical treatment in (3) Wittkower [attached].  (4) Percival's articles are more detailed but authoritative and important. (5) Eco explains ideas of universal/ pre-Adamic language. (6) Mignolo attempts to highlight deficiencies of Renaissance thinking about language in the Americas. 

Umberto Eco The Search for the Perfect Language [book] Oxford 1995, chapters 3 and 5 (on Dante and on the 'Monogenetic hypothesis' respectively )

* Kristian Jensen The humanist reform of Latin and Latin teaching, [chapter] in: The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism ed. Jill Kraye, 63-81

Paul Johnson The Renaissance in Literature and Scholarship [chapter] in: The Renaissance- A short history New York 2002, 23-60

*Walter Mignolo The Darker Side of the Renaissance [book]: chapter 1 Nebrija in the New World: Renaissance Philosophy of Language and the Spread of Western Literacy; ch 2. – and/or: *On the Colonization of Amerindian Languages and Memories [article], in: Comparative Studies in Society and History  34.2: 301-330

W. Keith Percival, Studies in Renaissance Grammar, Ashgate, Aldershot 2004, reproduces the following authoritative chapters (references given to the publications in which they first appeared):

I. "The Grammatical Tradition and the Rise of the Vernaculars," Current Trends in Linguistics, ed. Thomas A. Sebeok, vol. 13: Historiography of Linguistics (The Hague: Mouton, 1975), pp. 231-275.

II. "Grammar and Rhetoric in the Renaissance," Renaissance Eloquence: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Renaissance Rhetoric, ed. James J. Murphy (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983), pp. 303-330.

III. "Renaissance Grammar," Renaissance Humanism: Foundations, Forms, and Legacy, ed. Albert Rabil, Jr., vol. 3: Humanism and the Disciplines, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), pp. 67-83.

IV. "Renaissance Grammar, Rebellion or Evolution?" Interrogativi dell'Umanesimo, vol. 2: Etica, estetica, teatro, onoranze a Niccolò Copernico = Atti del X Convegno internazionale del Centro di studi umanistici, Montepulciano, Palazzo Tarugi, 1973, ed. Giovannangiola Tarugi (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1976), pp. 73-90.

*Rudolph Wittkower, 'Grammatica' from Martianus Capella to Hogarth [article], in: Journal of the Warburg Institute 2.1 1938: 82-4

Week 9. Shakespeare and renaissance drama

[It would be helpful if you could use the editions of the plays provided below, as others may be based on different copy-texts and line(s) and/or line number(s) may vary.]


Compulsory Readings

William Shakespeare, King Lear, ed. R. A. Foakes (London: Arden, 1997).

R. L. Colie, ‘Reason and Need: King Lear and the “Crisis” of the Aristocracy’, in Some Facets of King Lear: Essays in Prismatic Criticism, ed. R. L. Colie and F. T. Flahiff (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), 185-220.

James Turner, ‘The Tragic Romances of Feudalism: 6. King Lear’, in Shakespeare: The Play of History, ed. G. Holderness, N. Potter and J. Turner (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988), 89-118.

J. W. Draper, ‘The Occasion of King Lear’, Studies in Philology 34 (1937), 176-85.

Further/Optional Readings

Paul Delany, ‘King Lear and the Decline of Feudalism’, PMLA 92 (1977), 429-40.

Susan Snyder, ‘King Lear and the Prodigal Son’, Shakespeare Quarterly 17 (1966), 361-9.

Richard Halpern, ‘Historica Passio: King Lear’s Fall into Feudalism’, in The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 215-69.

E. H. Kantorowicz, ‘The King Never Dies’, in The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology (Princeton: Princeton University press, [1957] 1997), 314-450 [314-82].


Compulsory Readings

Ben Jonson, Volpone, ed. B. Parker and D. Bevington (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999).

Brian Parker, ‘Jonson’s Venice’, in Theatre of the English and Italian Renaissance, ed. J. R. Mulryne and M. Shewring (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), 95-113.

R. H. Perkinson, ‘Volpone and the Reputation of Venetian Justice’, The Modern Language Review 35 (1940), 11-18.

C. J. Gianakaris, ‘Identifying Ethical Values in Volpone’, Huntington Library Quarterly 32 (1968), 45-57.

Alexander W. Lyle, ‘Volpone’s Two Worlds’, The Yearbook of English Studies 4 (1974), 70-6.

Further/Optional Readings

Douglas Bruster, ‘“City Comedy” and the Materialist Vision’, in Drama and the Market in the Age of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 29-46.

Roberta Mullini, ‘Streets, Squares and Courts: Venice as a Stage in Shakespeare and Ben Jonson’, in Shakespeare’s Italy: Functions of Italian Locations in Renaissance Drama, ed. M. Marrapodi, et al. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), 158-70.

Richard Dutton, ‘Volpone and Beast Fable: Early Modern Analogic Reading’, Huntington Library Quarterly 67 (2004), 347-70.

Winifred Smith, ‘The Commedia dell’Arte in Elizabethan and Jacobean England’, in The Commedia dell’Arte: A Study in Italian Popular Comedy (Ithaca: Columbia University Press, 1912), 170-99.


  1. What is the relationship of King Lear and Volpone to their potential inheritors? How do potential inheritors behave in the two plays?

  2. Both in King Lear and in Volpone a son is disinherited and accused of plotting parricide. Could you discuss the causes, similarities and differences?

  3. In the light of the secondary reading and of the discussion on the previous two questions, how does the situation in King Lear relate to the passage in King James I’s Basilikon Doron? And that in Volpone? (if it does)

  4. Can you discuss the view King Lear and Volpone have of their own goods? How do King Lear and Volpone feel when faced with the possibility that their goods could be taken away from them?

PASSAGES FOR DISCUSSION (with first and last lines)


King Lear

LEAR: Meanwhile we shall express our darkest purpose…

As thou my sometimes daughter. (I.i.35121)


VOLPONE: Call forth my dwarf [Mosca], my eunuch, and my fool…

And draw it by their mouths, and back again— (I.i.68-90)

VOLPONE: […] Now, now my clients…

I am not for ’em yet. (I.ii.87-91)

MOSCA: [to Voltore] You still are what you were, sir…

Cannot but come most grateful. (I.iii.1-7)

VOLPONE: You are too munificent…

I pray you see me often. (I.iii.19-23)

VOLTORE: [to Mosca] But am I his sole heir?...

[MOSCA:] I know no second cause. (I.iii.44-9)


King Lear

GLOUCESTER: ‘This policy and reverence of age…

[GLOUCESTER]: …apprehend him. Abominable villain, where is he? (I.ii.46-78)

GLOUCESTER: These late eclipses in the sun and moon…

[EDMUND:] …bastardizing. (i.ii.103-33)

EDMUND: Fled this way, sir, when by no means he could—

[GLOUCESTER:] To make thee capable. (II.i.42-85)


MOSCA: [to Corbaccio] Now, would I counsel you, make home with speed…

But out of conscience and mere gratitude— (I.iv.93-7, 104-8)

CORVINO: Has he [Volpone] children?...

[MOSCA:] In all save me; but he has giv’n ’em nothing. (I.v.43-9)

MOSCA: Your son [Bonario], I know not by what accident…

[CORBACCIO:] Here is the will. (III.ix.2-8)

VOLTORE: [to the Avocatori] But, as I said, my honored sires, his father…

It was to murder him! (IV.v.63-76)


From James I’s Basilikon Doron, or His Majesties Instructions to His Dearest Sonne, Henry the Prince (1599), in The Political Works of James I, ed. C. H. McIlwain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1918), 3-52: 37.

“If God send you succession, be carefull for their vertuous education: loue them as ye ought, but let them know as much of it, as the gentlenesse of their nature will deserue; contayning them euer in a reuerent loue and feare of you. And in case it please God to prouide you to all these three Kingdomes, make your eldest sonne Isaac, leauing him all your kingdomes; and prouide the rest with private possessions: Otherwayes by deuiding your kingdomes, yee shall leaue the seed of diuision and discord among your posteritie; as befell to this Ile, by the diuision and assignement thereof, to the three sonnes of Brutus, Locrine, Albanact, and Camber. But if God giue you not succession, defraud neuer the nearest by right, what-soeuer conceit yee haue of the person: For Kingdomes are euer at Gods disposition, and in that case we are but liue-rentars, lying no more in the Kings, nor peoples hands to dispossesse the righteous heire.”


King Lear

LEAR: No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse…

Wherein I thee endowed. (II.ii.359-69)

GONERIL: Hear me, my lord:…

[LEAR:] Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But for true need— (II.ii.449-59)


MOSCA: And what he will, sir. Riches are in fortune…

Your pleasure allows maint’nance. (I.i.28-65)

Week 10. women, spirituality and poetry in England


Primary Sources

Aemelia Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611); see Women Writers Online

Elizabeth Melville, Ane Godlie Dreame (1603); see Women Writers Online

Secondary Sources

Erica Longfellow, Women and Religious Writing in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2004), Introduction & Ch. 1

Helen Wilcox, ‘ "My Hart Is Full, My Soul Dos Ouer Flow": Women's Devotional Poetry in Seventeenth- Century England’, The Huntington Library Quarterly, 63. 4 (2000), pp. 447-466

Gary Kuchar, The Poetry of Religious Sorrow in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2008), Ch. 4

Section 3: Renaissance Thought, science and art

Week 1. Greek Literature in the Renaissance


In the course of all your reading, you might like to consider the following issues:

  • All of these renaissance writers make assumptions about what it is valuable to know. What are these assumptions, and are they still valid?

  • What was the role of translation in the renaissance classroom?

  • How useful is the distinction between translations made 'ad sensum' and those made 'ad verbum'?

  • The account of the Septuagint translation in the Letter of Aristeas is now regarded as a myth. Do you think it was regarded as a myth in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries? How would we know?

  • Try to identify some Greek author or authors which you are particularly interested in. We may be able to talk about their fortunes during the period in the class.


The class will be divided into two parts. The first will look at educational practices in the renaissance generally, and at the teaching of Greek specifically. The second will examine the ideas about translation during the period, with particular emphasis on translations of Greek authors.

Primary sources

Pier Paolo Vergerio, De ingenuis moribus (pp. 93-118 in Woodward's translation; pp. 2-91 in Kallendorf's Latin-English text),

Battista Guarino, De ordine docendi et studendi (Woodward, pp. 159-78; Kallendorf, pp. 260-309).

Aristeas, The letter of Aristeas, tr. H. Thackeray, London, 1917. This is available to read and download at: http://www.archive.org/details/theletterofarist00unknuoft

John Donne’s translation of this work (1633) is available to read via Early English Books Online.

James Hankins' translations of Leonardo Bruni, Selected writings on education and on translation in Griffiths, Hankins, and Thompson, The Humanism of Leonardo Bruni, pp. 197-254.

Secondary sources

The bibliography below is suggested (not required) reading. Everything here is good, and it's all available in the University Library. Don't worry too much about the Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum: I'll talk a little about it in class.

Botley, Paul. Renaissance Latin Translations: Leonardo Bruni, Giannozzo Manetti and Desiderius Erasmus. Cambridge, 2004 (paperback 2008).

Botley, Paul. Learning Greek in Western Europe, 1396-1529: Grammars, Lexica, and Student Texts. Philadelphia, 2011.

Copeland, Rita. ‘The Fortunes of ‘Non Verbum pro Verbo’: Or, Why Jerome is Not a Ciceronian’, in The Medieval Translator: The Theory and Practice of Translation in the Middle Ages, ed. Roger Ellis (Cambridge, 1989) pp. 15-35.

Geanakoplos, Deno John. Greek Scholars in Venice: Studies in the Dissemination of Greek Learning from Byzantium to Western Europe. Cambridge MA, 1962.

Grendler, Paul. Schooling in Renaissance Italy: Literacy and Learning 1300-1600. Baltimore, 1989.

Griffiths, Gordon, James Hankins, and David Thompson, eds. The Humanism of Leonardo Bruni: Selected Texts. Binghamton, New York, 1987.

For an overview of Bruni's work, the prefaces to each section are a good place to start.

Kallendorf, Craig. ed. and tr. Humanist Educational Treatises. I Tatti Renaissance Library.

Cambridge MA and London, 2002.

Includes parallel Latin-English texts of Vergerio's and Guarino's treatises (pp. 2-91; 260-309).

Kelly, Louis. The True Interpreter: A History of Translation Theory and Practice in the West.

Oxford, 1979.

Kristeller, Paul O., et al., eds. Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum: Medieval and Renaissance Latin Translations and Commentaries. 8 vols to date. Washington D.C., 1960-2003.

Norton, Glyn P. The Ideology and Language of Translation in Renaissance France and their Humanist Antecedents. Geneva, 1984.

Schwarz, Werner. Principles and Problems of Biblical Translation. Cambridge, 1955.

Short, clear and to the point.

Weiss, Roberto. ‘Learning and Education in Western Europe from 1470-1520’, in New Cambridge Modern History, vol. I: The Renaissance, 1493-1520. Cambridge, 1957.

Wilson, Nigel. From Byzantium to Italy: Greek Studies in the Italian Renaissance. London, 1992 [Written from the perspective of a classicist, but very readable].

Woodward, William H. Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators, Cambridge, 1897. Reprinted Cambridge, 1905, 1912, 1921; New York, 1970; Toronto, 1996. (http://www.archive.org/details/vittorinodafelt00woodgoog)



Primary source

More’s Utopia (any edition will do, though there is an especially good and cheap one by David Wootton and I have ordered some of these for the bookshop). Please ensure that you have read the text before the seminar.

Secondary sources

Historical/cultural background

Amy Boesky, Founding Fictions: Utopias in Early Modern England (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996)

Burns and Goldie (eds), The Cambridge History of Political Thought, 1450-1700 (1991)

P. A. Fideler and T.F. Mayer, Political Thought and the Tudor Commonwealth: Deep Structure, Discourse and Disguise (1992)

A. Fox, Politics and Literature in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII (1989)

S. Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (1980)

J. Guy, Tudor England (OUP 1988)

A. Hadfield, Literature, Politics and National Identity : Reformation to Renaissance (1994)

P. C. Herman, Rethinking the Henrician Era: Essays on Early Tudor Texts and Contexts (1994)

D. MacCulloch, The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy and Piety.

J. McConica, English Humanists and Reformation Politics under Henry VIII and Edward VI (1965)

J. Pocock (ed), The Varities of English Political Thought 1500-1800 (1993)

Q. Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought vols 1 (Renaissance) and 2 (Age of Reformation) (1978)

G. Walker, Persuasive Fictions: Faction, Faith and Popular Culture in the Reign of Henry VIII (1995)

On More/Utopia specifically

Brendan Bradshaw, 'More on Utopia', Historical Journal, 24 (1981), 1-27

R. W. Chambers, Thomas More (1935)

J. C. Davis, Utopia and the Ideal Society: A Study of English Utopian Writing, 1516-1700 (1981), chapter 2.

G. R. Elton, ‘The Real Thomas More’ in Reformation Principles and Practice ed. by P. Brooks (1980)

D. Fenlon, ‘England and Europe: Utopia and Its Aftermath’ Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (1975)

A. Fox, Thomas More: History and Providence (1982)

Carlo Ginzburg, No Island is an Island: Four Glances at English Literature in a World Perspective, trans. by John Tedeschi, Italian Academy Lectures (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), ch. 1

J. Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (1980)

J. Hexter, Introduction to Yale edition of Utopia (vol 4 of the Complete Works)

More’s ‘Utopia’ (1952)

The Vision of Politics on the Eve of the Reformation (1973)

A. Kenny, Thomas More

J. Levine, ‘Thomas More and the English Renaissance: History and Fiction in Utopia’ in The Historical Imagination in Early Modern Britain, ed D. Kelley and D. Harris Sacks (1997)

G. Logan, The Meaning of More's 'Utopia' (1983)

A. L. Morton, The English Utopia (1969)

F. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World

F. Manuel (ed) Utopias and Utopian Thought

R. Marius, Thomas More (1984)

E. Reynolds, The Field is Won: The Life and Death of Saint Thomas More (1968)

Q. Skinner, Section in Foundations of Modern Political Thought (1978)

Q.Skinner, ‘Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and the Language of Renaissance Humanism’ in A. Pagden (ed) The Languages of Political Theory in Early Modern Europe (1987)

R. Sylvester (ed), Essential Articles for the Study of Thomas More (1977)

Thomas White, 'Pride and the Public Good: Thomas More's Use of Plato in Utopia', Journal of the History of Philosophy, 20 (1982), 329-54

David Wootton, 'Friendship Portrayed: A New Account of Utopia', History Workshop Journal, 45 (1998), 29-47

If you are interested in Utopianism more generally see

http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/rws1001/utopia/default.htm, where you will also find a very extensive bibliography on More.

Week 3: The Rise of the Image in Western Science

In today’s world of the natural sciences images are of vital importance to support arguments and disseminate one’s findings. It is therefore difficult to believe that in the Renaissance images enjoyed a marginal epistemological function in the production of scientific knowledge. Back then, medical learning and teaching, for example, still relied almost exclusively on the interpretation of ancient texts. We are going to explore the ‘problem’ of images for the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge in the Renaissance by having a closer look at famous humanist and anatomist Andreas Vesalius and his lavishly illustrated masterpiece, De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) published in 1543. De Fabrica showed for the first time in the history of medicine, the human body in a realistic way. However, what function did Vesalius attributed to them?


a) Primary source:

Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica (1543)


b) Secondary reading:

Cunningham, Andrew, The Anatomical Renaissance: The Resurrection of the Anatomical Projects of the Ancients (Aldershot, 1997).

French, Roger K., Dissection and Vivisection in the European Renaissance (Aldershot, 1999)

Kusukawa, Sachiko, 'The Uses of Pictures in the Formation of Learned Knowledge: the Cases of Leonhard Fuchs and Andreas Vesalius', in Sachiko Kusukawa and Ian Maclean (eds), Transmitting Knowledge: Words, Images, and Instruments in Early Modern Europe (2006), pp. 76-77

Park, Katharine, Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (New York, 2007)

Swaday, Jonathan, The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (London: Routledge, 1995)

Week 4. Collecting in the renaissance: Libraries and Museums
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Week The Political, Social and Economic Landscape of the Renaissance iconThe course is designed to provide you with a thorough grounding in and advanced understanding of Russia’s social, political and economic history in the period under review and to prepare you for the exam

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