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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2008

T C 357 • Self and Society in Renaissance Culture - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43890 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
BUR 128

Course Description

This course aims to introduce students to the civilization of the Renaissance in Europe from Petrarch and Boccaccio in mid-fourteenth century Italy to Molière in mid-seventeenth century France. Although our primary focus will be on the literature of the period, we will also consider politics, philosophy, and art, as well as social and intellectual history. Since we cannot hope to do justice to all these subjects or to a period as immense as the Renaissance, we shall focus on two of its central preoccupations, both of which are harbingers of the modern world: first, its notion of a flexible or protean self and of identity as something shaped and manipulated by the individual; and second, its sense of the historical contingency of the social order, of society as something man-made and hence transformable. Proceeding in chronological order, we will follow the first of these notions in autobiographical writings and in books which aimed to prescribe just how the self should be fashioned. At the same time, we will also examine the preoccupation of the Renaissance with society in the utopian literature of the period and in a variety of works concerned with the alienation of marginal groups and with social change. Actually, these two concerns were never really distinct from one another in the minds of Renaissance people, nor were they kept apart in the works we shall read. Finally, we shall consider the growth of rationalism and absolutism in the course of the period which ultimately led away from the Renaissance and into the Enlightenment.

Grading Policy

Students will write three essays totalling at least eighteen pages and will give two oral reports during the course of the semester. The three essays will count 90% of the semester grade (the oral reports will be factored in). Students will also write three peer reports (each will be 1-2 pages long) about other students' work, which will be available before students turn their papers in to the instructor. These peer reviews will also be graded and will constitute 10% of the final grade.


J. R. Hale, Renaissance Europe, 1480-1520
Boccaccio, Decameron
Castiglione, Book of the Courtier
More, Utopia
Montaigne, Essays
Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
Shakespeare, The Tempest
Quevedo, The Swindler
Tirso del Molina, Trickster of Seville
Molière, Dom Juan and Tartuffe

About the Professor

Professor Rebhorn works on Renaissance literature, rhetoric, and culture in general. He holds a doctorate from Yale University in Comparative Literature and has written books on Castiglione, Machiavelli, and Renaissance rhetoric and literature as well as numerous articles on such writers as Boccaccio, Erasmus, More, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Jonson, and Milton. He has won fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Guggenheim Foundation as well as the Howard R. Marraro Prize of the Modern Language Association for his book on Machiavelli. Among his hobbies are: classical music, movies, cooking, handball, and tennis.


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