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

Fall 2009

T C TC 357 • Self and Society in Renissance Culture

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43827 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
CAL 21

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.


Among the works we will read will be: generous selections from Boccaccio's Decameron; Castiglione's Book of the Courtier; More's Utopia; Erasmus's Praise of Folly; various works by Machiavelli, including The Prince; the first picaresque novel, Lazarillo de Tormes; portions of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel; some of Montaigne's Essays; Marlowe's Doctor Faustus; Shakespeare’s The Tempest; Quevedo’s The Swindler; and Molière’s Tartuffe. About the Professor: Wayne Rebhorn is a Professor in the Department of English. For information on recent publications, awards and honors visit:


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