Current Course Offerings - Graduate

Graduate Courses

ITAL GA 1552:  Renaissance Italy

Tuesdays, 3:30 - 6:10 p.m.

Professor Jane Tylus

A class devoted to the 'heart' of the Renaissance, the city of Florence, in the 15th and 16th centuries, with virtual excursions to Siena, Venice, and Rome.  We will focus on studying the interface between historical and religious movements, on the one hand, and cultural manifestations on the other.  Translation will be a key term for us as we not only read the first modern treatise on translation, by the Florentine chancellor Leonardo Bruni, but consider translation in ways related to Florence's, and Tuscany's, growing cultural and political mastery over the peninsula.  How, that is, does the local dialect of the Florentines become 'translated' into the language of cultured Italians by the end of the Renaissance, and how in turn do other languages of Renaissance Florence -- especially artistic and political ones -- also come to dominate early modern Italy, and hence to define the meaning of 'renaissance' itself?
Key texts to include:
Bruni, On Correct Translation
Poliziano, Le Stanze; Orfeo
Lorenzo de'Medici, Comento; selected letters; Sacra rappresentazione
Lucrezia Tornabuoni de' Medici, Sacred Narratives (lives of Judith, Esther, Tobias, John the Baptist)
Antonia Pulci, plays
Leon Battista Alberti, On the Family, Della pittura
Machiavelli, The Prince; La Mandragola; excerpts from the Discorsi, selected letters
Savonarola, selected sermons
Amerigo Vespucci, selected letters from the voyages to the New World
Laura Battiferri, selected poems and translations
Benvenuto Cellini, Vita
Vasari, "The Life of Michelangelo"
Michelangelo, poems
selected artworks at the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick
readings in Renaissance historiography (Burckhardt, Weber, Baron, Grafton, Struever, Celenza)


ITAL GA 2311 (Cross-listed with ITAL UA 161)

Divine Comedy:  Part II Purgatorio (Canti 17-33) & Paradiso

Wednesdays, 3:30 - 6:10 p.m.

Professor Maria Luisa Ardizzone

Dante, Purgatorio.A Verse translation byJ. Hollander & R.Hollander. Introduction &Notes by R.Hollander.New York:Anchor Books, 2003
Dante, Paradiso.A VerseTranslation by J. Hollander & R.Hollander. Introduction &Notes by R.Hollander.New York:Anchor Books, 2003

The second of a sequence of two semesters, the course is conceived as a reading of Dante’s Purgatorio, part 2 (canti 17-33) and Paradiso. We will start with a general introduction to Dante’s Commedia in order to orient the students to an understanding of Dante’s masterpiece. Purgatorio is the second section of the Divine Comedy, a very long poem traditionally judged to be one of the most important in Western culture. The first section is the Inferno, and the third and last the Paradiso. At the center of the poem is the human being, his condition in the after life and his punishment or reward. Taken literally, the theme is the state of the souls after the death. But allegorically, the true subject is moral life and thus the torments of the sins themselves, or the enjoyment of a happy and saintly life. In the Inferno, Dante represents the problem of evil and the punishment that God’s justice inflicts upon the sinners. Hell is the place of eternal damnation. Purgatory, by contrast, is the place in which human beings are purged of their sins and become pure, thereby able to enter Paradise, which the Comedy describes as the place of eternal happiness. Paradiso is a journey towards awareness, in which knowledge implies a mystical and philosophical rediscovery of the self. In the poem, Purgatory is depicted as a mountain that Dante climbs in company with the Latin poet Virgil. Dante comes to know the seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth, until he reaches the Earthly Paradise located at the top of the mountain. Love is the compelling law of Purgatory, the law that is coincident with what our inner highest essence dictates. Purgatorio thus makes a universal appeal to the reader’s heart and intelligence. In the course the Purgatorio is considered not just as the place of expiation but as the place of regeneration and rebirth, and encloses a partial reshaping of theories of sin and punishment. Purgatory is the locus in which natural law is regained through repentance and suffering. Love, here conceived as the seed of every virtue and of every vice, is the moving force of the ascent up Mount Purgatory toward the happiness of the Earthly Paradise.

The reading of Paradiso focuses on the interaction between the mystical- theological culture and the encyclopedia of medieval secular learning, as it takes place in the Commedia. Dante’s Paradise will be considered as a realm of eternal happiness that fulfils human earthly aspirations, which, however, earthly life does not allow us to reach. The course will focus on Dante’s model of happiness as perfect knowledge by emphasizing the political aspects of such happiness as they take place in Dante’s conception of Empire. The eternal city as the model for the earthly city will be discussed in relation to Dante’s idea of justice and law. In this section, the theory of law will consider that part of medieval law called common law or jus gentium, that is, the law that belongs to all human beings. Paradise, as the place in which ius is metaphorically restored, functions as the model of a perfect state. Dante’s theory of Paradise, according to my reading, constructs the perfect archetype of earthly Empire.

The course will be conducted in English. Dante’s Commedia will be read in light of Dante’s minor works. We will investigate Dante’s text focusing on theories of poetics and rhetoric, philosophy, law,  art, and theology. The requirements of the course are as follows: active class participation, a mid-semester oral presentation, and a final paper 20 to 25 pages in length for graduate and 10-15 for undergraduate. The course grade will be broken down as follows: class participation 40%, seminar - paper 60%. All paper topics must be discussed with me before active research and writing begins.

The course is a graduate  course open to qualified undergraduate students. Professor consent for undergraduate is required. Course conducted in English. 


ITAL GA 1981 Studies in Italian Culture:  Why Read this?  Canon-formation in the Early Italian Tradition

Professor Alison Cornish

Wednesdays, 12:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Although Italian was notoriously “slow” to emerge among vernacular literatures of the Middle Ages, it was the first to form a canon, a prescribed group of authors.  By Chaucer’s time, Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio already formed a tradition.  This phenomenon was in part an intentional project of the three crowns themselves, as scholars have recently shown, but was rendered possible in the particular social and economic context of Italian textual cultures involving new readers and writers of different social class and gender, new materials and new practices.  The question of who read what, when and why will be asked of medieval texts as well as of metatexts that address the question explicitly.  The course will also be an opportunity to consider canon-formation from a historical and theoretical perspective in a variety of chronological moments, up until the present day.


ITAL GA 3020

PhD Exam Preparation

Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Class Time/Location - TBD