Courses 2014-2015

V IC240Y1 Y  
The Civilization of Renaissance Europe
Professor Ken Bartlett
T 11-1

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 the 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.

VIC240Y1Y Syllabus [PDF]

Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities course
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1) + Society and its Institutions (3)


VIC342H1 F
Women and Writing in the Renaissance
Professor Manuela Scarci
W 10-12

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 Status: This is a Humanities course
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)


VIC343Y1 S 
Sex and Gender
Professor Konrad Eisenbichler
MR 3-5

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.

VIC343Y1S Syllabus [PDF]

Exclusion: VIC343H1
Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities course
Breadth Requirement: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2) + Society and its Institutions (3)


VIC346H1 S
The Idea of the Renaissance
Professor Matt Kavaler
T 1-3

This course examines the changing views of the Renaissance over the past six centuries. We will pay particular attention to the idea of the Renaissance as an aesthetic, social, political, gendered, and global phenomenon. We will study the ways past historians reflected their own cultural and political values in their interpretations—and the way we do much the same today. We will pay particular attention to the manner in which art, literature, and statecraft have shaped our understanding of the period. We will look at the notion of the Renaissance when applied to Northern Europe and, indeed, to non-western societies. We will examine the growing role of women in treatments of the Renaissance. Petrarch and Vasari will be called as witnesses; Jan van Eyck and Michelangelo will make an appearance—but this is not a course primarily about art or literature. It is a consideration of a key historical period that has been shaped and transformed according to changing social interests. We will begin with two classic cultural histories: Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy and Johan Huizinga’s The Autumn of the Middle Ages. We will then supplement these works with a variety of readings that address the Renaissance from different perspectives.

Prerequisite: Completion of 6.0 FCEs
Recommended Preparation: At least one half course in the art, literature, history, or philosophy of fifteenth or sixteenth century Europe
Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities course
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)


VIC348Y1 Y
The Renaissance in the City: Rome
Professor Ken Bartlett
R 11-1

This interdisciplinary course will investigate in detail the manifestation of Renaissance culture in the city of Rome. As the capital of a great empire in ancient times and subsequently the centre of Christian Europe and the papacy, Rome played a unique role in the development of Renaissance culture, creating its own vocabulary in art, architecture and urban planning. We will begin with the ancient city to see how the memory of the republican and imperial capital was sustained. Then, we will move to early Christian and medieval Rome to understand how the greatest city in the world, with a population of over one million in ancient times, shrank to a small town in a malarial swamp, despite the maintenance of the huge Aurelian walls and the evidence of the ruins of the ancient city to serve as indicators of past greatness. The period of the Babylonian Captivity will give way to the return of a united papacy in 1420, characterized by popes intent on restoring the glory and authority of Rome. The main lectures of the course will then focus on the building of the Renaissance city, with specific lectures on subjects such as churches, palaces, villas, piazzas and fountains, all in the context of that Renaissance vocabulary of humanism and antiquity. The course will end with an evaluation of the effect on Rome of the Reformation, the Council of Trent and the imperial papacy, leading to the baroque.

This lecture course will consist of weekly two hour illustrated lectures on Rome, supported by a textbook on the city. Students in their written work will have an opportunity to explore in detail the aspects of the city - or its builders or rulers – that most interest them.

Recommended Preparation: VIC240Y1, or another course in Renaissance Studies.
Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities course
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1) + Society and its Institutions (3)

VIC392H1 / Y1
Renaissance Studies Independent Study

This course provides an opportunity to design an interdisciplinary course of study, not otherwise available within the Faculty, with the intent of addressing specific topics in Renaissance studies. Written application (detailed proposal, reading list and a letter of support from a Victoria College faculty member who is prepared to supervise) must be submitted for approval on behalf of Victoria College. For application procedures visit the Victoria College website.

Prerequisite: A minimum CGPA of 3.0 and have completed 10 FCEs and permission of College Program Director.
Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities course
Breadth Requirement: None 

Renaissance Studies Independent Study Application


VIC440Y1 Y
Florence in the Renaissance
Professors Ken Bartlett (Fall) and Konrad Eisenbichler (Spring)
T 3-5

An interdisciplinary seminar on Florence in the 15th and 16th centuries: humanism, culture and society in the republican period, the rise of the Medici, Florentine neoplatonism, the establishment of the Medici principate, culture, society and religion.

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 Status: This is a Humanities course
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1) + Society and its Institutions (3)


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