Dissent, unruliness, and subversion can be as constructive agents of change as they are deemed disruptive by the establishment. The emergence of the printed book is a case in point. Combined with the humanists' inquisitiveness and the wit of satirists, Early Modern books were a powerful tool in shaping the modern world’s critical climate; amongst other things, they also helped set up the principles of methodical investigation, formed a fertile arena for the battle of the sexes, and were instrumental in the spread of religious and political thought.
This module [FR916-30] therefore takes a two-pronged approach (print culture,on the one hand, and the notion of subversion, on the other) to delve into the intellectual culture of the Early Modern period. The weekly sessions gradually move from the exploration of key concepts to a greater in-depth study of individual works, several of which are considered masterpieces of the Renaissance. Chronologically, the module concentrates on the sixteenth century and first half of the seventeenth century. Geographically, the focus is on France, but since most of the phenomena and tendencies under scrutiny had pan-European dimensions, the module boasts a strong comparative and interdisciplinary dimension. It will thus be of interest to students of the Renaissance in general, and to those exploring the history of ideas.
All anchor texts are available in English translation, and the syllabus can be varied to accommodate students' individual interests in relation to Books and Print Culture in the Early Modern period. The module tutor, Ingrid De Smet, welcomes enquiries from students with a variety of backgrounds (including French Studies; Italian Studies, English and Comparative Literature, Classics, History...).
Topics typically include:
- Humanism and the Dawn of Modernity: introduction to the module
- Spreading the Word: the Impact of the Printing Press
- Networks, the Republic of Letters and the Institutions of Learning
- Critical Thinkers and Subversion I (anchor-text: Erasmus, Praise of Folly)
- Critical Thinkers and Subversion II (anchor-text: Rabelais, Pantagruel)
- From Textual Criticism to Political Thought (anchor-text: Etienne de la Boetie, Contr'un [Discours de la Servitude Volontaire])
- Women, Books, and the World of Learning (anchor-text: Marie de Gournay, De l'Egalite des Hommes et des Femmes)
- The Rebellious Mind, or from ars critica to free-thinking (anchor-text: Cyrano de Bergerac, Voyage dans la Lune)
Students write a long essay on an agreed topic relating to one of the module's themes or to one of the texts under discussion. The usual length of the essay is 5,000 words, but the word-length may vary for students on other MA programmes.