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Renaissance Culture


Block 1: Re Meyer Evitt and Rebecca Tucker

Block 2: Susan Ashley and Michael Grace

This course fulfills the Critical Perspectives: The West in Time requirement, and serves as an entry-level course for Classics-History-Politics and by petition for History.

"Renaissance Culture" offers an introduction to the history, literature, philosophy, and arts that shaped the European tradition. This course explores the ways Europeans from the late thirteenth through the early seventeenth century viewed their place in the divine, the natural, and the social orders. It aims to illuminate how the Renaissance shaped Western culture and continues to inform the modern world. Students will develop critical and analytical skills through reading primary texts, studying music, history, literature, and art and through frequent writing assignments. The class seeks to provoke wide-ranging and thoughtful reassessment of this vibrant and tumultuous period, as well as to prepare students for further study of the liberal disciplines at CC.

In the first block we will discuss why art and literature flourished so dramatically in this particular period. What makes the work of artists and writers of this period important now? Why should we care about the Renaissance today? This block examines how major works in the Western canon at once frame and destabilize the cultural norms of the period in Europe. Key themes considered in Renaissance visual and literary culture include: the relationship between politics and culture; the impact of revolutions in religion; the legacy of the past. The second block addresses musical and philosophical conceptions of nature and the cosmos. Building on the first block of the course, we will explore the different ways music, philosophy, art, and literature express similar ideas about human possibility.

The two blocks of this course draw on readings from thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Pico della Mirandola, Luther, and Galileo, as well as writers such as Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Chaucer, and Shakespeare. Artists and architects discussed include Giotto, Brunelleschi, Leonardo, Dürer, Michelangelo, and Bruegel. In music, we will study Plainchant, 14th-Century polyphony, Josquin and the High Renaissance, and Claudio Monteverdi. 

A two-block course with two instructors in both blocks.


• There may be occasional afternoon course meetings but no long-term afternoon commitment.