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HSP Summer 2013
The Renaissance begins in Italy and is an invention of the Florentines. This seminar is an examination of the art, architecture, sculpture, literature, and history of the republic of Florence during its period of greatest importance to world history. From the mid-14th to the late 15th century, Florence was the center of a cultural movement that has become the definition of the modern world.
We will begin by examining the first glimmerings in the frescoes of Giotto, the literary works of Petrarch and Boccaccio, the sculptural work of Donatello and Ghiberti, and the architecture and engineering of Brunelleschi. We will study the dynamics of the network of thinkers at the court of Lorenzo de'Medici, including Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Botticelli.
As artistic experimentation with anatomy, musculature, and linear perspective accelerate throughout the 15th century, we will follow the work of the great artists Fra Angelico, Verrochio, Pollaiuolo, and others, and we will study Benozzo Gozzoli's frescoes in the Medici-Ricardi Palace.
We will also follow the fortunes of the republic of Florence in its ups and downs, including the 1478 Pazzi Conspiracy and the career of Savonarola. Through these political upheavals the cultural expressions of Florence still triumph in the High Renaissance masterpieces of Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo. We will read Machiavelli's Prince, and examine Mannerism in the work of Rosso Fiorentino, Parmigianino, Pontormo, and Bronzino.
Reading brief selections from the period, we will have occasion to consider Lorenzo de' Medici's songs, the role of St. Francis of Assisi, the sonnets of Michelangelo, Petrarch's letter to Dionisio da Borgo San Sepolcro, Machiavelli's letter to Francesco Vettori, and the mathematical and philosophical musings of Leonardo da Vinci. Using all these works, we will try to come to a deeper understanding of the key role played by Florence and its unique culture in initiating a new period of human history, one characterized by observation, rigorous craftsmanship, experimentation, resistance to authority (but respect for the ancients), and an abiding belief that man is the measure of all things.
There may be one book on Florentine Renaissance art (to be named later),and some brief selections from these texts:
Vasari, Lives of the Artists.
Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier
Machiavelli, The Prince
Galileo, Sidereus Nuncius.
Richard Poss is an Associate Professor in Astronomy and former Director of the Humanities Program at the University of Arizona. His research examines the role of astronomical themes in European poetry, and he has published articles on Petrarch, Dante, Veronica Gambara, Walt Whitman, and on the exploration of Mars. He teaches courses on the history of astronomy and the relations between astronomy and the arts, and is a frequent instructor in the Humanities Seminars program. He is co-founder of the popular lecture series "Astrobiology and the Sacred: Implications of Life Beyond Earth," sponsored by a grant from the Templeton Foundation. He has won a variety of major university teaching awards, including the UA Foundation Leicester and Kathryn Sherrill Creative Teaching Award, the Provost's General Education Teaching Award, and several Humanities Seminars Superior Teaching Awards.