Introduction to Italian Renaissance
Tuesday | Thursday: 2:00 - 3:30pm
This new version of Berkeley’s interdisciplinary Italian Renaissance survey presents moments from Italian art and literature from circa 1300 to circa 1600. Considering artworks and texts as mirrors and motors of cultural change, Italy will be shown in its unique position between the Northern countries and the Mediterranean, allowing for porous borders of forms and contents in visual and textual media. A main focus is placed on the artistic exchange in centers such as Venice and Rome and the courts while questioning the experience of the viewers and consumers of the time: what was the function of art, and how do specific genres of texts relate to the artistic production? Each lecture’s thematic core of art objects or theoretical interests will be complemented by a short discussion of a related literary genre or example of a contemporary text (excerpts from canti, prayer books, treatises, sonnets, letters, workshop manuals, contracts, legal documents, novelle, lives of Saints and artists, etc.). This structure will offer insights into the visual and textual material while developing an understanding for the functions of art and text in a specific historical context. The grasp of historical context, time, and place extends to the present day. Its active components include the search for traces of Italian culture on campus, in the Bay Area, and San Francisco, and the consideration of the presented historical challenges and conflicts in their enduring relevance.
Learning objectives include: starting the life-long process of carefully looking at art and gaining knowledge and inspiration from it, acquiring a memory of visual knowledge through the practice of memorizing artworks, gaining insights into the history of religions, understanding better the connections between the Italian Renaissance and American cultural practices and aesthetics, becoming aware of differences in media, style, and material, approaching texts and images more sensitively, describing well, citing primary and secondary sources in a professional and academically sound format, and making informed choices about one’s own research approach for any given topic.
Skills that can be learned or strengthened in this course are: describing accurately, writing effectively, formulating a powerful visual analysis, operating in a context of multiple historiographic methods, learning how works of art and architecture are dated and categorized, building a visual memory of the classical standards of Western art, critically challenging those standards, having a better experience in any given art museum in the world you will visit in the future, and, in general, getting a better historical orientation.
The crucial question of how the issues of a globally conceived Renaissance can be meaningful to our time will accompany the course’s investigations of history, the visual arts, literature, architecture, theology, philosophy, political theory, social history, and music.