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IT321 Renaissance Rivalries: Power, Magic and Language

Module Code: IT321
Module Name: Renaissance Rivalries: Power, Magic and Language
Module Coordinator: Dr Maria Pavlova
Not running 2024-25
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

This module explores the cultural vitality of the Italian peninsula approximately from the fourteenth century (the age of Petrarch) to the 1530s. It asks what contributed to making this period so special in European history and considers a series of upheavals, tensions and rivalries in a time-span that included some of Italy’s most famous writers, artists and thinkers, such as Petrarch, Boccaccio, Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, Ariosto and Michelangelo. Among other topics, we shall look at the rivalries between humanism and scholasticism, magic and philosophy, ancient and modern languages, poetry and other genres, Florence and other centres, manuscript culture and print culture. We shall look at how and why this period came to be known as the ‘Renaissance’, ask whether it was the cradle of modernity, and consider how different it really was from the Middle Ages.

Primary readings for this module will be taken mainly from Italian and Latin texts (the latter in translation). A weekly reading group will considerably aid the understanding of these passages.


Either 4000-4500 word essay OR one 2000-2500 word essay and a one hour examination.

Module outline

Week 1: Introduction to Renaissance Italy

Week 2: Humanism I: Petrarch and the value of poetry, rhetoric and history

Week 3: Humanism II: Boccaccio, women, the study of antiquity, the problem of language

Week 4: Humanism III: From Coluccio Salutati to Leonardo Bruni, historian and educator

Week 5: Machiavelli, Il principe

Week 6: Reading week

Week 7: Ariosto’s Orlando furioso I: classical and vernacular models

Week 8: Ariosto’s Orlando furioso II: magic, madness and the value of poetry

Week 9: Ariosto’s Orlando furioso III: chivalry, religion, war and contemporary history

Week 10: Book culture in Renaissance Italy: philology, manuscripts and print

Term 3: Revision class (2 hours)