French 360
French & Italian Renaissance Literature: On-line Course

Learning Goal:

The goal of this course is to introduce the students to Italian and French Renaissance literature. The stress is put on reading and interpreting literary texts in their cultural, historical contexts.

Methodological Assumptions:

This course seeks to convey the skills needed to read and understand French and Italian Renaissance literary texts.  We do not intend the course as an exhaustive survey or a history of Renaissance literature.  Hence the methodological premises, which are important in order to understand the pedagogy underlying the course:

  • Although the course is entirely online, it relies on an active interaction of the students with the material, and encourages intellectual exchanges among each other and with the Instructor.
  • Contrary to some online courses, this course does not allow for a random access of the material from the start of the semester.  The French and Italian Renaissance Literature Online course is highly structured and precisely paced, although it allows for some flexibility within the given time frames. It is therefore imperative that the students keep up with the pacing of the material and follow all the assignments sequentially.
  • Literary texts and their interpretation are at the core of the course. These are not casual readings. The students should read and reread them carefully and take advantage of all the interpretative tools that are proposed to them.

The navigation through the particular components of the course are presented in the “How to use this course” link, accessible from the side bar of the home page of the course.


Week 1
Introduction: Instructions for proceeding through the course

Definitions of the Renaissance as an historical period and as an approach to reading literature

Week 2
The myth and history of Rome from Antiquity to the Renaissance; Dante and Petrarch

Week 3
Renaissance Rome: The rediscovery of the Ancient world

Petrarch, on the cusp of the Renaissance; Papal restoration of Rome

Week 4
Ficino and his legacy: Florentine Neo-Platonism in philosophy and art

Week 5
Urbino and Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier: Renaissance courts and civility

Week 6
Machiavelli, Florentine politics and the advent of modern polical thought

Week 7
Venice, courtesans, women poets and the Commedia dell’arte

Week 8
Mid-term exam

Week 9
The court of Francis I: the School of Fontainebleau and the beginnings of the French Renaissance

Week 10
The worlds of Rabelais: the comic genius of the Renaissance

Week 11
The poets of Lyons: Italian influences in French literature

Week 12
Brazil: The “Antarctic France”

Villegagnon’s expedition to Brazil and Jean de Léry’s account

Week 13
The “Prince of Poets”: Pierre de Ronsard and French national poetry

The role of mythology in Renaissance literature

Week 14
Marguerite de Valois at the court of Nérac: an intimate account of life during the religious wars and the end of the Renaissance in France

Week 15
Conclusion: the aspirations and disappointments of the Renaissance

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