Italian 215: Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture: The Renaissance of Faith

Instructor: Professor Albert R. Ascoli

This course fulfills the Intellectual History or an elective requirement for the DE in REMS.

The polysemous word-concept, “faith,” usually studied in its separate religious, moral, political, economic, textual, and other acceptations, constitutes an unusually potent means for examining the subtending ideological structures of early modern Italy, and of European culture more generally, as well as the transformative pressures on these during the sixteenth century.  “Fede” is at once the name given to blind trust in unprovable truth and to blind commitment in institutional and personal relationships.  It is, in other words, the name explicitly given in this period to the general principle that once shapes the social order, binding individuals to and within it, and effaces what lies, unseen and unsaid, beneath it.  Drawing on recent historical scholarship, I will demonstrate the pervasiveness of “fede” as the pivotal concept in the range of key discursive domains, indicate the homologies among them, and analyze their interactions in some symptomatic texts of the period.  These texts, ranging across the late medieval and early modern period from Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, to Machiavelli and Ariosto to Tasso and Guarino, with reference to such as key European figures as Luther, Rabelais, Montaigne, and Shakespeare, typically bring together multiple strands of the discourse of “fede,” at once revealing its systemic function and pointing to a pervasive crisis within it that opens on to what we are accustomed to call “modernity.”

Requirements: Attendance and active participation.  Two in-class reports.  Detailed paper proposal with bibliography (due in week 10).  Final paper (20-25 pages text; 5000-6000 words).  Papers may be developed from readings within the course and in relation to its primary topic (fides), or they may treat that topic in relation to texts not considered in the course (Italian or other), or they may consider an analogous problem using critical tools developed during the course.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes