Humanities 211-212

The Renaissance World and the Birth of Modernity

Fall 2018 Syllabus

Books for Purchase

Note: To allow conversations in class, it is important that everyone in conference be reading the same edition of the course texts. The editions listed here (and available in the bookstore) have been chosen with an eye to keeping costs low and scholarly standards high.

John Bossy, Christianity in the West, 1400-1700 (Oxford)

Dante, The Divine Comedy of Dante Aligheri: Inferno, trans. J. Hollander (Doubleday)

Rice and A. Grafton, Foundations of Early Modern Europe (Norton)
M. Baxandall, Painting & Experience in 15th-Century Italy (Oxford)

Castiglione, Book of the Courtier (Penguin)

Machiavelli, Selected Political Writings, Ed. Wootton (Hackett)
Thomas More, Utopia, Ed. Logan (Cambridge)

Bernal Diaz, Conquest of New Spain (Penguin)

Rabelais, Gargantua & Pantagruel, trans. J. M. Cohen (Penguin)†

Natalie Davis, Society & Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford)

M. de Montaigne, Essays, trans. Cohen (Penguin, 1993)†
Marguerite de Navarre, The Heptameron, trans. Paul Chilton (Penguin, 2004)
Ibn Tufayl, Hayy Ibn Yaqzan: A Philosophical Tale (University of Chicago Press)

†Editions so marked differ in pagination from others with this title by the same publisher; if you buy a different edition, be sure to consult one of the editions on reserve in order to arrive at the correct pagination for your edition.

All readings not required for purchase will be placed on reserve in the Library. For your convenience all other reserve books will be on two-hour desk reserve. Lectures will be on Mondays unless announced otherwise here or in class.

WEEK I (August 27- 31)

Ibn Tufayl, Hayy Ibn Yaqzan: A Philosophical Tale

Lecture: Cultural Entanglements and the Idea of Western Humanities (GhaneaBassiri)

WEEK II (September 3 – 7)

Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, First Part, Question 2. The Existence of God, Question 4. The Perfection of God, Question 7. The Infinity of God, Question 8. The Existence of God in Things, Question 11. The Unity of God; 1st Part of the 2nd Part, Question 1. Man's Last End; 2nd Part of the 2nd Part.

The Summa is available on the World Wide Web at The required reading is at the following sites:,,,,  Please note that each question has multiple parts. Be sure to read them all. Copies of this reading will also be on reserve. 

Averroës, Faith and Reason in Islam: Averroes' Exposition of Religious Arguments, 16-44. (e-reserve)

David B. Burrell, "Aquinas and Islamic and Jewish Thinkers," in The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas, ed. Norman Kretzmann and Eleonore Stump (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 60-84. (e-reserve)

Wednesday Lecture: Averroës in the School of Athens (Katz)

WEEK III (September 10-14)

Dante, Divine Comedy: Inferno.

optional: Rice/Grafton, The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1-109.

Lecture: Dante as a Moral Thinker (Faletra)

WEEK IV (September 17-21)

Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in 15th-Century Italy, 29-93 [optional: 1-27, 94-108].

Randolph Starn, "Seeing Culture in a Room for a Renaissance Prince," in The New Cultural History, ed. Lynn Hunt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 205-232. (e-reserve)

Alberti, "On Painting" Italian Art 1400-1500. (e-reserve)

Dominique Raynaud, "Why Did Geometrical Optics Not Lead to Perspective in Medieval Islam? Rationality and Good Reason in the Anthropology of Mathematics," in Raymond Boudon: A Life in Sociology, ed. Mohamed Cherkaoui and Peter Hamilton (Oxford: Bardwell, 2009), 243-266. (e-reserve)

Lecture: Making Sense of Renaissance Perspective in a Global Context (Sakai)

WEEK V (September 24-28)

Castiglione, Book of the Courtier, Prologue, 31-36; Book I, 39-46, 51-98, 102-104; Book II, 107-133, 199-202; Book III, 207-231, 274-278; Book IV, 281-282, 288-304, 315-345.

Lecture: Performing Courtliness (Garcia-Bryce)

WEEK VI (October 1-5)

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (entire; in Selected Political Writings).

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourses, Book I: Preface, Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 55; Book II: Chapter 2; Book III: Chapter 41 (in Selected Political Writings).

optional: Rice/Grafton, Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 110-45.

Lecture: Civic Virtue and Princely Power (Breen)

WEEK VII (October 8-12)

Thomas More, Utopia.

optional: John Bossy, Christianity in the West, 1400-1700. Part I.

Lecture: Christian Humanism as Political Philosophy (Garrett)



Fall Break (Oct. 13-21) 

WEEK VIII (October 22-26)

Duarte Pacheco Pareira, Esmeraldo de situ orbis, Prologue, Book I, intro. & chs. 1-5, 8, 13-15, 22-23, 27; Book II, intro. & chs. 5, 7, 9, 11; Book III, intro. & chs. 2 & 8-9; Book IV, intro. (e-reserve)

"Letter from Columbus to Luis de Santangel," American Journeys Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Library and Archives, pp. 261-272.  This reading is available online: (Document No. AJ-063).  Please press "Print or Download" for a pdf of the reading.

Lia Markey, "Stradano's Allegorical Invention of the Americas in Late Sixteenth-Century Florence," Renaissance Quarterly 65, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 385-442. (e-reserve)

Anthony Grafton et al., New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 59-93. (e-reserve)

Lecture: Crusade, Commerce, and Christianization (Breen)

WEEK IX (October 29 - November 2)

Bartolomé de Las Casas, "A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies," (pp. 3-30, 42-56, e-reserve).

Bernal Diaz, The Conquest of New Spain, 85-99, 107-118, 166-188, 189-204, 216-219, 232-235, 245-257, 278-304, 353-413.

Hernan Cortes, "Letters from Mexico," First Letter (pp. 3-46). (e-reserve)

James Lockhart, ed., We People Here: Nahuatl Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico (pp. 1-21, 27-37, 48, 70-88, 114-122, 138-156, 180-184, 214-220, 224, 246-254, e-reserve). 

Lecture: “Translation, Narration, & Conquest” (Garrett)

WEEK X (November 5-9)

M. Luther, "The Freedom of a Christian" in Luther, Three Treatises, (pp. 277-316, e-reserve).

S. Lotzer, "Twelve Articles of the Peasantry" (e-reserve; from The German Peasant War of 1525).

Luther, "Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants" (e-reserve; from Luther's Works, vol 46).

Jean Calvin, "Of Eternal Election," "On Resistance and Magistracy" (e-reserve; from Institutes of the Christian Religion).

Lecture: Popular Piety and the Reformation from Below (Breen)

WEEK XI (November 12-16)

Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel: 1) Pantagruel, Prologue and chapters 1-9, 16, 23-34 and 2) Gargantua, Prologue and chapters 1, 3-8, 14-17, 21-32, 34-36, 48-58 [note: Gargantua is a "prequel" to Pantagruel].  If you are using the 2006 edition edited by M. A. Screech, the pages to read are Pantagruel  pp. 11-62; 86-91; 118-164 and Gargantua,  pp. 203-211; 215-233; 250-260; 268-307; 313-319; 356-379.

Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, (pp. 59-101, e-reserve).

Lecture: The Abyss of Learning (Faletra)

WEEK XII (Nov. 20-22)

Marguerite de Navarre, The Heptameron, Prologue, First Day: all; Second Day: Prologue, stories 15 & 17-20; Third Day: Prologue, story 22; Fourth Day: Prologue, stories 33, 36-37; Fifth Day: Prologue, stories 42-44; 48; 50; Sixth Day: Prologue, stories 51 & 58-60; Seventh Day: Prologue, story 61. 

Natalie Zemon Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modern France, "Women on Top," 97-151.

Lecture: Worldly Wit and Divine Wisdom (Breen)

WEEK XIII (November 27- December 1)

Michel de Montaigne, Essays: "On the Power of Imagination," "On Cannibals," "On the Custom of Wearing Clothes," "On Experience."

Natalie Davis, Society and Culture, "The Rites of Violence," 152-187.

Lecture: The Complexity of Montaigne's Skepticism (Bedau)