Renaissance and Reformation
History 275--Block 7, 2009-2010
Carol Neel

The image to the far left is of the late fifteenth-century German printmaker Sebastian Brant's Ship of Fools, a work portraying European society as made up of idiots and lunatics.  The image juxtaposed to it is the famous drawing of Leonardo da Vinci, Brant's Italian contemporary, describing a human as a being of geometric perfection figuring lofty possibilities.  Europeans of this period seem to have been ambivalent about humankind's nature and potential.  In this course, we will explore their points of view in the context of their social, religious and political experience.



"Renaissance and Reformation" will consider European society, politics, and religion during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Although prior experience of European history, especially of classical and medieval civilization, is helpful, it is not required.  Students unfamiliar with the Christian tradition are nonetheless advised to find copies of the New Testament and to read at least the Gospel of Mark before they undertake the assignments described below.  Europeans of this period were overwhelmingly shaped by Christianity, so familiarity with the rudiments of their religious beliefs is essential understanding why they believed and acted as they did.

This year’s version of HY 275 will center on the period's own self-perception as novel and self-fashioning.  Common readings and discussions will emphasize the ways in which Italy and then the rest of Europe were swept up in a great "rebirth," as it was characterized by the nineteenth-century French art historians who first labeled it "Renaissance."  The course will then explore how the religious reform of the sixteenth century at once grew and parted from an initially literary and artistic revival in the south.  Although this period is rich in the work of some of the canonical authors of the Western tradition, and this course will give due attention to several among them, it will consider as well the economic and social experience of ordinary folk both south and north of the Alps. 



The following works or collections, required for the entire class, are available in the College Bookstore.  Several of these texts are in print in variety of translations.  Students are nonetheless urged to use those selected for class, so that discussion may easily refer to selected passages. 

Dante Alighieri, Vita Nuova, trans. Mark Musa (Oxford UP 1999)

Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (Norton 1998)

Duccio Balestracci, The Renaissance in the Fields, trans. Paolo Squatriti and Betsy Meredith (Penn State UP 1999)

Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly and Other Writings, ed. and trans. Robert M. Adams (Norton 1989)

Martin Luther, Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, ed. John Dillenberger (Anchor 1958)

Steven Ozment, Protestants (Image, 1993)

Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Paulist 1979).

The following works will be electronically available either as direct web links here or through this course Colorado College PROWL site:

                        Francesco Petrarca, letters

                        Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ, trans. Leo Sherley-Price (Penguin 1962) (excerpt)

                        Poggio Bracciolini and Niccolo Niccoli, letters in Two Renaissance Book-Hunters, ed. Phyllis W. Gordan (Columbia UP 1991)

                        Paula Findlen (ed.), The Italian Renaissance: Essential Readings (Wiley-Blackwell 2002) (excerpts)

                        Paul's letter to the Romans, in Acts and Letters of the Apostles, trans. Richmond Lattimore (Farrar, Strauss, 1982)

The following films will  be subjects of critical discussion:

                        Ingmar Bergman, Seventh Seal (1957)                       

                        Fred Zinneman, A Man for All Seasons (1966)  

                        Roland Joffé, The Mission (1986)                                 



Students will be responsible for careful reading and thoughtful consideration, demonstrated in classroom discussion, of all assigned texts.  Each will be required to submit

One third of the final grade will depend on class participation (including the article précis/critique), one third on the research essay and a final third on the exam considered together.  All students will be expected to finish assigned readings before class meetings on the day for which they are listed.  Papers will observe Chicago Manual of Style form and acknowledge compliance with wth Colorado College Honor Code.



Discussion titles are indicated below in bold face, written assignments and special scheduling or locations in upper case.  The class will meet in Palmer 233 at 9:30am, unless otherwise noted.  Readings for which no page number are noted are assigned in their entirety. 


Mon.                After the "Middle Ages"

                        9am INTRODUCTION AND FILM: Seventh Seal

Tues.               The Black Death and the Spirit of the North

                        Thomas à Kempis

Weds.              But in Italy


Thurs.              Buying a Renaissance

                        Findlen, Jardine 3-90

Fri.                   The Classical Model and the Love of Books

                        Petrarch, Mommsen, Jardine 135-180


Mon.                The Scholar and the City

                        Poggio and Niccoli, Brucker

Tues.               Neighborhoods

                        Klapisch-Zuber, Muir, Jardine 277-230

                        3-PAGE PAPER DUE

Weds.              The Countryside


Thurs.              Reforming Christendom

                        Erasmus 6-87, Jardine 277-330

Fri.                   Criticism and Critics

                         Erasmus 174-227; Huizinga in Erasmus 297-308; Bakhtin in Erasmus 309-316


Mon.                 Faith Alone

                         (in this order!) Luther 485-503, Romans, Luther 3-37, Jardine 330-376

Tues.                Secular Society

                         Luther 403-485

                         1pm FILM: Man for All Seasons                    



Thurs.               The Lived Reformation

                         Ozment, Jardine 425-436                  

Fri.                    Catholic Reform    

                        Teresa 33-67, 108-71, 195-196

Mon.                 Beyond Europe

                         FILM: The Mission

Tues.                REVIEW

                         12-PAGE PAPERS DUE IN CLASS

Weds.               EXAM DUE NOON (History Office) 


Among many internet bibliographical and textual resources available on the internet for this course, see especially the Internet Medieval History Sourcebook (for Renaissance materials) and the Internet Modern History Sourcebook (for Reformation materials), both edited by Paul Halsall at Fordham University.