Italian Studies 215: Shakespeare’s Italy: Appropriating the Renaissance in Early Modern England

Instructor: Professor Diego Pirillo

‘Inglese italianato è un diavolo incarnato’ (an Italianate Englishman is a devil incarnate) , Roger Ascham famously said in the Schoolmaster, reproaching the wide diffusion of Italian language and culture in Elizabethan England. Despite Ascham’s attack on the ‘Italianate Englishmen’, the influence of Renaissance Italy remained wide and persistent in early modern England, as is clear to any reader of the Merchant of Venice or Romeo and Juliet. What Italian authors were read the most in the Tudor and the Stuart period and by whom? Who published them and in what material form? How did the book trade work? Did the movement go only in one direction or was Italy also reciprocally influenced by English culture? These are some of the questions that this seminar intends to address. The readings will include Shakespeare, Marlowe, Bacon, James I, Milton as well as Machiavelli, Bruno, Florio and Sarpi. Moreover, the seminar will devote ample space to methodology, in order to discuss and contrast the different approaches for studying the transmission of culture across linguistic and religious borders (translation studies, new historicism, book history, history of reading, bibliography and the sociology of texts, intertextuality and others). Several classes will take place at the Bancroft Library to examine early printed books as material objects and to understand how form affects meaning. Alternating lectures and discussions, the seminar will also host some talks by distinguished visiting scholars.

  • Elective Requirement: This course fulfills an elective requirement for the DE in REMS.