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ITALIAN 303: Innovation and Transformation of the Counter-Reformation: Religion and Culture in Early Modern Italy

Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, following the Council of Trent (1545?63) and the attempt of the Catholic Church to reformulate its doctrines and regulate its disciplinary and spiritual renewal, Italian religious life and culture underwent remarkable transformations affecting all branches of human knowledge. As the nature of these transformations has long been the subject of scholarly debate, the literature and culture of the Counter-Reformation continue to be prejudicially neglected by scholars as products of a systematically repressive period. However, the complex cultural milieu of post-Tridentine Italy generated innovative and varied expressions of art, religion, science, and literature. This course intends to investigate a wide range of these cultural products, from lyric to epic poetry, from drama to non-fictional narrative, from visual arts to music. Works of this period are influenced by a uniquely syncretic religiosity and spirituality that reflect a profoundly more »
Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, following the Council of Trent (1545?63) and the attempt of the Catholic Church to reformulate its doctrines and regulate its disciplinary and spiritual renewal, Italian religious life and culture underwent remarkable transformations affecting all branches of human knowledge. As the nature of these transformations has long been the subject of scholarly debate, the literature and culture of the Counter-Reformation continue to be prejudicially neglected by scholars as products of a systematically repressive period. However, the complex cultural milieu of post-Tridentine Italy generated innovative and varied expressions of art, religion, science, and literature. This course intends to investigate a wide range of these cultural products, from lyric to epic poetry, from drama to non-fictional narrative, from visual arts to music. Works of this period are influenced by a uniquely syncretic religiosity and spirituality that reflect a profoundly interiorized experience of the Divine. With their unique blend of the pagan and Christian, literary and visual, marvelous and edifying, heroic and saintly, aesthetic and pious, theoretical and empirical, moral decorum and stylistic conceit, the cultural products of post-Tridentine Italy aim at triggering an emotional response in the mind of the devout reader. Due to the affective nature of the spirituality these works entail, male and female writers and artists highly value the relationship between devotion, creativity, and identity and act as self-aware agents of a complex cultural synergy, the nature of which is experiential rather than normative. A closer look at these neglected authors reveals the importance of the period's cultural shift, its intellectual and creative richness, and its enduring legacy. All the readings will be in English translation; there are no prerequisites or language requirements. Students will be occasionally allowed to select their own primary readings and are expected to produce a research essay on an elective topic, as well as several informal writing assignments.
Terms: Spr | Units: 3-5
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