2017 Spring

Comp Lit 215: The Baroque: Genealogy and Topography

Instructor: Professor Timothy Hampton

Baroque culture is the first instance in the West of a "global" cultural movement. It also offers the first example of an artistic moment that is truly interdisciplinary. In this seminar we will study the emergence and development of Baroque literature and thought, beginning at the end of the sixteenth century, from Rome to Mexico. Our approach will have two aspects. On the one hand, we will want to identify and study certain key features of Baroque culture, across languages, continents, and media, working out, as it were, a kind of topography of culture and politics. We will focus on such themes as the theatricalization of power, the role of allegory, the question of a Baroque "style," imperial and urban experience, and the intersection of arts and disciplines. At the same time, however, we will be interested in the curious history of the "Baroque" in modern critical thought, from the appearance of the term in Art Historical writing at the end of the 19th century (Wöfflin, Burkhardt), through the various nationalist Baroques of the mid-twentieth, the neo-Baroque of certain post-War novelists (Carpentier, Simon), to the critical redemption of Baroque culture for our own moment by the work of Walter Benjamin and Gilles Deleuze. [more]

English 246C: English Renaissance

Instructor: Professor David Marno

In this survey, we follow how authors from Francesco Petrarca and Thomas More to John Donne participated in the grand cultural project of the Renaissance, ostensibly defined by the belief that consuming and producing culture would elevate human beings above their natural state. Many of our authors supported the project; some opposed it fervently. But willingly or not, everyone we read during the semester contributed to it, if only by virtue of recording their impressions, thoughts, feelings, and fancies in writing. In addition to the works of Petrarca, Wyatt, Philip and Mary Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Donne, among others, we will also explore how scholarly views about the Renaissance as a cultural project have changed and developed from Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy to New Historicism and beyond. [more]

English 250 : Idols and Ideology

Instructor: Professor Vicki Kahn

The history of Western literary theory is often told in terms of the concept of mimesis. But there is another, equally powerful, anti-mimetic strand to this history, and that is the critique of mimesis as a form of idolatry. In this course, we will explore this critique from the prohibition against images in the Hebrew bible up through modern attacks on mimesis as inherently ideological. Our main literary texts in the first half of the semester will be taken from Reformation England, when there was a fierce debate about the harmful power of images and the necessity of iconoclasm. We will focus on works by Calvin, Luther, Marlowe, Bacon, Shakespeare, and Milton. In the second half of the semester, we will discuss the afterlife of iconoclasm in Marx, Freud, Althusser, Zizek, Adorno, Terry Eagleton, and Isobel Armstrong. Students whose interests lie primarily in national literatures other than English are welcome, and may write their final papers on primary texts and literatures not discussed in class, though they must engage the theoretical texts assigned for the seminar. [more]

French 245B: Spirituality, Literature and Politics in Early Modern France (1550-1750)

Instructor: Professor Déborah Blocker

In 1598, the Edict of Nantes puts an end to France’s wars of religion. In its wake, Catholicism is revivified, via the founding of a number of Counter-Reformation orders and movements, all competing to rekindle the Catholic faith. These attempts to re-evangelize France hinged on preaching, but were also increasingly dependent on printed works. They were aimed at a lay and even mundane readership, which was increasingly avid of literary works, such as plays, short stories and novels. This seminar examines how Counter-Reformation evangelism shaped France’s emerging literary market, studying how spirituality and literature were thereby configured as separate yet tightly connected practices. [more]

History 275B : Early Modern Europe

Instructor: Professor Ethan Shagan

History 275 is the foundational course for graduate students in the history of early modern Europe from the Renaissance to the French Revolution. This year, rather than surveying disconnected subjects, I have decided to organize the syllabus around the theme “Forms and Functions of Early Modern Politics.” This is capacious enough to include a wide range of interconnected topics: state formation; empire; gender and power; popular politics; the general crisis of the seventeenth century; political culture; church-state relations; and much else besides. Readings will consist of secondary scholarship covering many different parts of (mostly Western) Europe from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, supplemented by primary sources in political theory from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. [more]

History of Art 270: Ornament and Alterity

Instructor: Professor Todd Olson

This seminar will explore the early modern origins of three closely interrelated stylistic categories, the Gothic, grotesque, and arabesque, and the ways in which they engage with the perceived alterity of ornament. Both the Gothic and grotesque were defined in terms of bodily deformity, femininity, perverse hybridity, and lack of regulation and control, and used to characterize the foreignness of the arabesque, and vice versa. This course will interrogate the anxieties (and perhaps latent desires) underlying the formation and perception of these categories, including xenophobia, misogyny, and fear of the irrational and exotic. We will closely examine illustrated books, prints, and buildings of the early modern world (e.g. France, Italy, colonial Latin America, South Asia). The seminar will draw from other fields (such as anthropology and ethnomathematics) to consider the persistence of these categories in the uncontrollable reproduction and dissemination of ornament. [more]

Italian Studies 204: Shakespeare’s Italy: Books and Readers in the Anglo-Italian Renaissance

Instructor: Professor Diego Pirillo

‘Inglese italianato è un diavolo incarnato’ (an Italianate Englishman is a devil incarnate), Roger Ascham famously said in the Schoolmaster (1570), blaming the ‘Italianate Englishmen’ for spending their time reading Petrarch and Machiavelli rather than the Bible. Despite Ascham’s attack on the ‘Italianate Englishmen’, the influence of Renaissance Italy in early modern England remained wide and persistent, as is clear to any reader of the Merchant of Venice or Romeo and Juliet. This seminar will not simply look at Shakespeare’s Italian sources but will investigate more broadly the Tudor and Stuart encounter with Renaissance Italy, examining its cultural, religious and political implications. Special attention will be given not only to canonical authors (Shake-speare, Sidney, Bacon, Machiavelli, Castiglione, Ariosto, Bruno, Montaigne and others) but also to the system through which books were disseminated and received, bringing to light the crucial role played by publishers, translators, readers, censors and other cultural go-betweens. The entire seminar will be hosted by the Bancroft Library and will give students the opportunity to access its collections and to learn new methodologies for the study of books as material objects. [more]

Spanish 280: Christianity and Capitalism

Instructor: Professor Ivonne del Valle

According to Max Weber the spirit of Protestantism made possible the emergence of capitalism proper. In his recounting, Spain’s imperial/colonial experience could be bracketed as a previous and/or different moment, what Marx termed primitive accumulation. Without negating that the 16th and 17th centuries in the Americas (one of the central vantage points of the course) could be rightfully considered in such a way, we will study how religion and economy intermingled, clashed, and related to each other in an enterprise in which they were the central, directing forces (evangelization/exploitation of people and resources). Focusing on Spain’s Catholic version of the economy we will investigate violence and its justification, religious metaphors and ideology, as well as the processes of rationalization and discipline, ordering that accompanied the expansion of Christianity, in order to understand the particular forms the economy took under early modern/colonial Catholicism and the cultural, social forms that accompanied it. [more]