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Courses

The following information is from the 2016-17 Vassar College Catalogue.

Medieval/Renaissance Studies: I. Introductory

116 The Dark Ages 1

(Same as HIST 116) Was early medieval Europe really Dark? In reality, this was a period of tremendous vitality and ferment, witnessing the transformation of late classical society, the growth of Germanic kingdoms, the high point of Byzantium, the rise of the papacy and monasticism, and the birth of Islam. This course examines a rich variety of sources that illuminate the first centuries of Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, and early medieval culture showing moments of both conflict and synthesis that redefined Europe and the Mediterranean. Nancy Bisaha.

Not offered in 2016/17.

Two 75-minute periods.

159 Blood and Faith: The St. Bartholomew's Massacre in Context 0.5

(Same as HIST 159) On August 24, 1572, Catholic troops slaughtered nearly 3,000 Protestant men and women who had arrived in Paris to attend the marriage between the future Henry IV and Marguerite de Valois, sister of Charles IX. It was the most dramatic episode of the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598) during which 2-4 million Catholics and Protestants died.  This course examines the origins of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre coming out of the Protestant Reformation. Like the larger war, the massacre was not simply initiated by kings and nobles but featured ordinary subjects who sought to defend and define their community. We look at how the war was fought not just with weapons but words, featuring a trip to Special Collections. Throughout the course, we examine the relationship between politics and religion, between faith and community, issues that remain relevant today. Sumita Choudhury

Two 75-minute periods.

175 The Italian Renaissance in English Translation 1

(Same as ITAL 175) In this course we examine the notion of selfhood as it first appears in the writings of early humanists (XIV century), Renaissance authors (XVI century) and works of contemporary visual artists. Cultural, philosophical, aesthetic, and gender issues are investigated through the reading of literary and theatrical masterpieces and their influence on visual artists like Botticelli, Raphael, and others.  We read in English translation excerpts from Petrarch (Canzoniere and Letters), Boccaccio (Decameron), poems and letters by women humanists (Isotta Nogarola, Cassandra Fedele, Laura Cereta), Machiavelli (The Prince), Castiglione (The Book of the Courtier), Gaspara Stampa and Veronica Franco (Poems). In order to foster the student's self-awareness and creativity, journaling, experiential practices, and a creative project, based on the course content, are included. Eugenio Giusti.

May not be counted towards the Italian major. Satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Not offered in 2016/17.

Two 75-minute periods.

Medieval/Renaissance Studies: II. Intermediate

117 High Middle Ages, 950-1300 1.0

(Same as HIST 117) This course examines medieval Europe at both its cultural and political height. Topics of study include: the first universities; government from feudal lordships to national monarchies; courtly and popular culture; manorial life and town life; the rise of papal monarchy; new religious orders and spirituality among the laity. Relations with religious outsiders are explored in topics on European Jewry, heretics, and the Crusades. Nancy Bisaha. 

Two 75-minute periods.

202a. Thesis Preparation 0.5

220 Medieval and Renaissance Culture 1

(Same as HIST 220 and WMST 220) Topic for 2016/17b: Sex, Power, and Resistance in the Renaissance. From the fifteenth century until the end of the seventeenth century, European women and men argued about the nature and status of woman and their debates still engage us today. Critically, this period represents a shift in thinking about women. We examine literature, treatises, and polemical works that reveal how the discussion shifted from theological to biological definitions of woman. How did people in the Renaissance articulate biological and intellectual differences between men and women? How did they view sexual identity? Furthermore, women, such as Isabella of Castile, Elizabeth I, and Catherine de Medici, became powerful rulers, as a result of hereditary accidents, which gave greater urgency to the definition of power and gender. While many women accepted the more conventional patriarchal framework, others resisted and challenged the denigration of woman through writing, legal action and work. Sumita Choudhury.

Two 75-minute periods.

223b. The Founding of English Literature 1

(Same as ENGL 223) These courses, ENGL 222 and 223, offer an introduction to British literary history through an exploration of texts from the eighth through the seventeenth centuries in their literary and cultural contexts. ENGL 222 begins with Old English literature and continues through the death of Queen Elizabeth I (1603). ENGL 223 begins with the establishment of Great Britain and continues through the British Civil War and Puritan Interregnum to the Restoration. Critical issues may include discourses of difference (race, religion, gender, social class); tribal, ethnic, and national identities; exploration and colonization; textual transmission and the rise of print culture; authorship and authority. Both courses address the formation and evolution of the British literary canon, and its significance for contemporary English studies.

Topic for 2016/17b: From the Faerie Queene to The Country Wife: Introduction to Early Modern Literature and Culture. This is a thematically organized "issues and methods" course grafted onto a chronologically structured survey course of early modern literature and culture. Its double goal is to develop skills for understanding early modern texts (both the language and the culture) as well as to familiarize students with a representative selection of works from the mid-1500s through the late 1600s. With this two-pronged approach, we will acquire an informed appreciation of the early modern period that may well serve as the basis for pursuing more specialized courses in this field. We explore a great variety of genres and media, including canonical authors such as Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne, and Milton, but we also attend to less well-known authors, many of them women, through whose writings we can achieve a more nuanced and complex understanding of the times. By paying special attention to correlations between literature and other discourses, as well as to issues of cultural identity and difference based on citizenship, class, ethnicity, gender, geography, nationality, race, and religion, we engage early modern literature and culture in ways that are productive to the understanding of our own culture as well. Zoltán Márkus. 

Please note that ENGL 222 is not a prerequisite for this course; it is open to all students, including freshmen.

Two 75-minute periods.

235a. Old English 1

(Same as ENGL 235) Introduction to Old English language and literature. Mark Amodio.

Two 75-minute periods.

236b. Beowulf 1

(Same as ENGL 236) Intensive study of the early English epic in the original language. Mark Amodio.
 

Prerequisite(s):  ENGL 235 or demonstrated knowledge of Old English, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

246a. Music and Ideas I: Medieval and Early Modern Europe: The Power of Church and Court 1

(Same as MUSI 246) This course introduces major historical and intellectual ideas of music from the Ancient world through 1660. The focus is on essential repertoire as well as the cultures that fostered principal genres of sacred and secular music during the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and early Baroque. Brian Mann.

Includes an additional listening/discussion section.

Prerequisite(s): MUSI 105/MUSI 106 or permission of the instructor.

275a. Roots and Branches: Italian Renaissance Authors and Their Impact on Early Modern Western Culture 1

(Same as ITAL 275) The works of Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) and Giovanni Boccaccio, arguably the greatest authors of Italian Humanism, had a lasting impact on early modern western culture, from the literary, to the philosophical, from the theatrical to the visual. In this course we explore the ways in which Petrarch's poetic style (Canzoniere)  and epistolary writing (Familiar and Seniles Letters) become a canon for sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian and European poets (including William Shakespeare), and such essayists as Michel de Montaigne.  Boccaccio's invention of the novella genre and the writing of the Decameron  inspired not only contemporary and Renaissance authors like Geoffrey Chaucer and Marguerite of Navarre, but also theatrical production of the period (Bibbiena, Machiavelli, Shakespeare.  Boccaccio's erudite catalogue of famous women (De Mulieribus Claris) can be read as partial subtext to Christine de Pizan's The Book of the City of Ladies,  and the iconography of Renaissance visual artists, like Botticelli and Titian, can be explored as based on Petrarch's and Boccaccio's texts. Conducted in English. Eugenio Giusti.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  May be counted towards the Italian major.

Two 75-minute periods.

290 Field Work 0.5 to 1

298 Independent Work 0.5 to 1

Medieval/Renaissance Studies: III. Advanced

300a. Senior Thesis 0.5

An interdisciplinary study written over two semesters under the supervision of two advisors from two different disciplines.

Yearlong course 300-MRST 301.

301b. Senior Thesis 0.5

An interdisciplinary study written over two semesters under the supervision of two advisors from two different disciplines.

Yearlong course MRST 300-301.

302a or b. Senior Thesis 1

An interdisciplinary study written during one semester under the supervision of two advisors from two different disciplines.

339 . Shakespeare in Production 1

(Same as DRAM 339) Students in the course study the physical circumstances of Elizabethan public and private theaters at the beginning of the semester. The remainder of the semester is spent in critical examination of the plays of Shakespeare and several of his contemporaries using original staging practices of the early modern theater. The course emphasizes the conditions under which the plays were written and performed and uses practice as an experiential tool to critically analyze the texts as performance scripts. Ms. Walen.

Enrollment limited to Juniors and Seniors.

One 3-hour period.

341b. Studies in the Renaissance 1

(Same as ENGL 341) Intensive study of selected Renaissance texts and the questions they raise about their context and interpretation. Zoltán Márkus.
 

One 2-hour period.

399 Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1