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Timetable 2022-23: Term 1

Tutor: Iván Parga Ornelas
Term 1 Timetable (October - December 2022)

(Thursdays 5-6:30 pm)

During term 1 we will study the works of Petrarch and Erasmus in order to build familiarity with their style, and, through them, become acquainted with literary practices of Renaissance Latin writers.

Week 1 (Oct 6). Petrarch’s Letters (Familiares, I,1)

The first sessions of the course will be dedicated to Petrarch’s letters. These were gathered in three collections: Familiares, Seniles, and Metricae. These are more than haphazard compilations of letters, they are carefully planned literary works. Petrarch took care to rewrite and organise his letters in order to fashion his own self-image and the narrative of his life. In the first session we will read the introductory letter of the Familiares. Here, Petrarch provides a brief summary of his life and lays out the motivations behind the collection. Letter-writing became a predominant literary practice for posterior humanists, thus, the study of Petrarch’s letters introduces the reader to several motifs and stylistic practices of Neo-Latin writers.

Week 2 (Oct 13). Petrarch’s letters (Familiares, XXIV, 2)

In this session we will read a letter from the last book of the Familiares. In this letter Petrarch recounts his encounter with an old man who was a fervent admirer of Cicero. The letter also deals with the discovery of Cicero’s Familiar letters, which, according to Petrarch, show Cicero not as an infallible model of virtue, but as a flawed man. Familiares, XXIV, 2, therefore, shows the evolution of Petrarch’s attitude towards Cicero and, by extension, antiquity.

Week 3 (Oct 20). Petrarch’s metric letters (Epistulae Metricae, III, 33)

Petrarch is best-known for his lyric poetry in Italian, but he also wrote a large number of poems in Latin, in different genres and styles. His greatest project was the unfinished Africa, an epic poem about the second Punic war. In this session we will read a less ambitious poem, one of his metric letters. In this letter Petrarch expresses his discontent with his own times and speaks of ancient Rome as a golden age. Petrarch’s conception of his own time as an age of intellectual decline was adopted by posterior intellectuals who created the concept of the Dark Ages.

Week 4 (Oct 27). Petrarch’s Moral treatises (Secretum)

The Secretum or De secretu conflictu curarum mearum is a fictitious dialogue in three books between Petrarch and Augustine of Hippo. In it, with Augustine as his confessor and alter-ego, Petrarch deals with what he considers his most entrenched vices: the love for Laura and the love for poetic glory.

Week 5 (Nov 3). Intermezzo: The Quattrocento Epigram

In this session we will steer away from our two authors, Petrarch and Erasmus, in order to explore the Neo-Latin epigram. Together with the private letter and the philosophical or satiric dialogue, the epigram was one of the literary genres most commonly practiced by Neo-Latin writers. It was mainly the early Quattrocento that saw a controversial and very interesting revival of the Latin epigram. In this session we will read a selection of epigrams from different Quattrocento poets such as Antonio Becadelli ‘Panormita’ (1394-1471), Maffeo Vegio (1407-1458), and Michele Marullo (1453-1550).

Week 6 (Nov 10). Reading Week.

There will be no class in reading week.


Week 7 (Nov 17). Erasmus’ Colloquia Familiaria

In the second part of this term we will read different works by Erasmus of Rotterdam, dubbed ‘The prince of humanists’, and one of the most important intellectuals of the 16tth Century. In the first session we will read one of his famous Colloquia. The Colloquia were initially written for educational purposes, but soon evolved into satiric or serious discussions on contemporary issues and philosophical or religious ideas.  

Week 8 (Nov 24). Erasmus’ Laus Stultutiae

In weeks 8 and 9 we will read and translate excerpts from one of Erasmus most important works, the satiric speech, Laus stultitiae or Praise of Folly. In this work, Erasmus imagines a speech held by the goddess Stultitia in praise of herself. Though comedic in nature, the work deals with important issues such as war, love, or faith. This work is not only a great example of Erasmian humour, it will also introduce readers to a satiric style that is very common in Neo-Latin literature. Similar works are Leon Battista Alberti's Momus and Thomas More's Utopia, both of which will be read in the second term.

Week 9 (Dec 1). Erasmus’ Laus Stultitiae (contd.)

In this session we will continue to read Erasmus Laus Stultitiae.

Week 10 (Dec 8).

In the last session we will read one of Erasmus latest works, the Dialogus Ciceronianus. In this work Erasmus criticises his contemporaries for an excess of zeal in the imitation of Cicero. Like Petrarch in the letter read in week 2, Erasmus sees an excessive admiration of Cicero, or antiquity in general, as a problematic attitude that threatens the development of contemporary intellectual life. Thus, Dialogus Ciceronianus does not simply deal with questions of Latin style, but with the broader question of how to approach and use antiquity.