During the Middle Ages the language... begins to evolve into the language of our time. Toward the close of the medieval period in the late fourteenth century, western Europe looks backward in two directions simultaneously: toward the firmly rooted but increasingly troubled beliefs that had come to dominate Europe, and toward the cultural legacy of antiquity. Late medieval thinkers focus increasingly on humans in the world—on human achievements and foolishness... . The result is Renaissance humanism, an explosion of cultural accomplishment in visual art, literature, and music that ranges from Giotto to Michelangelo, from Dante to Shakespeare.
This course will examine this extraordinary sweep of cultural history from the aftermath of Emperor Constantine's ... in the fourth century to the burgeoning of Descartes's doubt in the seventeenth century. We will tantalize the student with tidbits from a wide array of literary and visual works, rather than examine a few such works in great detail. We hope to inspire the student to read more deeply and widely and look further than the brief span of twenty lectures allows us.
1. Barbarians and the medieval world 2. Struggle to define 3. Medieval literature and poetic tradition 4. Fringes of Western Europe 5. Church and state 6. Symbols of faith 7. Questions of understanding 8. Ideas and images 9. Knights of romance 10. Morality, entertainment and human fellowship 11. Street language becomes literature 12. Renaissance humanism 13. Esoteric humanism and human form 14. Educating the powerful and the privileged 15. From heaven to earth 16. Vision and revision 17. From earth to heaven 18. April Fool’s day 19. Myth, history, power and family 20. Religious wars and individual reflections