Courses 2017-18

The Civilization of Renaissance Europe
Professor Ken Bartlett
T 11-1

Welcome to VIC240. This course is an introduction to Europe in the Renaissance, a course in the history of culture and ideas. We will begin in Italy to investigate the rise of a mercantile economy within the various city states of the peninsula, leading to social mobility, a new sense of civic responsibility and the desire to develop new ideas to inform these changes. The role of Petrarch and the structure of the republic of Florence will be used as models of how this new value structure produced humanism, the central cultural expression of the Renaissance. The example of classical antiquity, represented by cultured statesmen like Cicero, provided a model for a new personal and collective ideology. 

The desire to define the community in secular terms and the creation of the autonomous individual drove Italians to define new forms of literature, art and architecture, all in a desire to know themselves and their fellows. Linear perspective, correct anatomy and portraiture all reflected the imperative to share experience and reproduce what the individual eye sees. Architecture conformed to ancient principles to recreate the intent of classical buildings and their significance to the community; and patronage of art and architecture became indicators of social and economic success, as well as an individual’s level of cultivation. The result was a transformation of the European mentality, known as the Renaissance.

In second term we will take these ideas and see how they developed north of the Alps, where a Christian perspective remained strong and monarchical governments predominated. Humanism was reinterpreted as Christian Humanism and the texts to be studied were not just the works of pagan authors but the fathers of the Church and even the Bible. Consequently, Northern Humanism manifested itself differently but still owed much to its Italian roots.

To pursue these themes, weekly readings will come from primary sources, reinforced by a text book on the Italian Renaissance. The lectures and written assignments will be interdisciplinary to encourage students to employ evidence from various traditions to construct a mosaic of the experience of the past. This is not a traditional History course, but a cultural study of a phenomenon: the Renaissance in Europe.

Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1), Society and its Institutions (3)

Women and Writing in the Renaissance
Professor Manuela Scarci
W 2-4

Focusing on writers from various geographical areas, the course examines a variety of texts by early modern women (for example, treatises, letters, and poetry) so as to explore the female experience in a literate society, with particular attention to how women constructed a gendered identity for themselves against the backdrop of the cultural debates of the time.

Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

Sex and Gender
Professors Konrad Eisenbichler (Fall) and Manuela Scarci (Winter)
M 2-4

An interdisciplinary approach to questions of gender and sexuality in early modern Europe, with special focus on the representations of the sexual drive, the gender roles of men and women, and varieties of sexual experience in the literature and art of the period.

Exclusion: VIC343H1
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Society and its Institutions (3), Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)

Renaissance Narrative
Professor Gregoire Holtz
W 2-4

Welcome to a world of fiction ! This course is a perfect introduction to discover the wonders of Renaissance fictionnal experiments and theoretical discourses about narratives. Did you know that before their rewritings as tragedies, Romeo and Juliet as Othello were some short stories ? Did you know that Rabelais as Cervantes or Boccacio create some polyphonic rhetorical devices to seduce the reader ?  While comparing some English, Italian, Spanish and French narratives, this course will give you an overall view about the archeology of novel during the Renaissance.

Exclusion: VIC242H1
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

Media and Communications in the Early Modern Era
Professor Konrad Eisenbichler
Lecture: T 10-12
Tutorial: W 4-5

This course examines the various media (printing press, representational art, music, preaching) and social and political forces (family and political networks, censorship, education, etc.) that conditioned the communication of ideas in early modern society.

Distribution Requirement:
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

Studies in Renaissance Performance
Professor TBA

Studies in the development of new forms in music, drama and dance in the Renaissance. The course will consist of seminars and lectures, and may incorporate live performances taking place in Toronto in addition to recordings.

Recommended Preparation: VIC240Y1, or another course in Renaissance Studies.
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

Florence and the Renaissance
Professors Ken Bartlett (Fall) and Nick Terpstra (Winter)
T 2-4

Welcome to VIC 440. This senior seminar studies the relationship between Humanism and republican freedom in Florence during the last century of the republic. Using weekly readings from primary sources and student presentations we will investigate in depth how the mature ideology of civic humanism developed in Florence in a unique way, linked to its republican form of government and challenging experience during the fifteenth century. 

We will see how Leonardo Bruni defined the ideological, propagandistic model of republican humanism and the conception of Florence as the new Rome. We will see how the social, family and economic foundations of the guild republic disadvantaged women but encouraged social mobility. And we will follow the rise of the Medici and their manipulation of the republican constitution after 1434. Finally, we will end the term with a discussion of Savonarola in an attempt to explain this moment of apocalyptic theocracy at the end of the century, following so many years of humanist culture and Medici rule.

In the first term almost all weekly readings will be from primary sources. Each student will present a seminar during the term, either individually or as part of a team. The approach will be very interdisciplinary, with visual evidence used as much as written material. The final paper at the end of term will be based on each student’s presentation. And participation and engagement in our weekly discussions will be assessed as part of the grade for this seminar.

Prerequisite: VIC240Y1 or permission of the instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1), Society and its Institutions (3)

Advanced Seminar in the Renaissance: Exhibiting the Renaissance Book: Special Collections of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies
Professor Shaun Ross
R 2-4

Focus on European religious reformations,science, and humanism through print culture, ca. 1500-1700. Students engage directly with early, rare books to explore both the influential concepts propagated through these texts and images, as well as their material production and reception.  Final projects include constructing both a digital and library exhibit.


Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

Current Students