The Catholic University of America

History 549: From Humanism to the Enlightenment

This is an introductory survey of early modern intellectual history. We will focus on defining Humanism and weighing its influence (or lack thereof) on the Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment. How did each of these successive movements break away from Humanism, and why did Humanism remain a vital educational and cultural force despite these shifts? For each week we will read one major monograph and one primary source. Advanced undergraduates are welcome to enroll.

 

Assignments

 

Each student will make two presentations of no more than ten minutes each.  The presentations should not summarize the reading but should rather raise problems and/or make a compelling argument about the topic of the week.  After the presentation, the student will be responsible for leading the discussion for the rest of the class, so it is recommended that you come prepared with questions.

 

For the paper you will write an assessment (10-12+ pages) that reviews the life’s work of one intellectual historian of the early modern period.   What central themes have preoccupied him or her?  How has the work developed over his or her life?  How did he or she change the field?  In what ways was his or her work shaped by the times in which he or she worked?  How does he or she define intellectual history?  You should read as much as possible by this historian.  You may choose your own historian, provided that he or she has written at least three books, but here are some suggestions:  Jacob Burckhardt, Frances Yates, Anthony Grafton, Paul Kristeller, Arnaldo Momigliano, Ernst Cassirer, Quentin Skinner, Charles Trinkaus, or Robert Darnton.

 

Grading

 

Paper: 50%

Presentations: 20%

Informed Participation: 30%

 

Course Schedule

 

January 11: Introduction

 

January 18: The Renaissance

           

Nauert, Humanism and the Culture of the Renaissance

 

Primary Sources: Petrarch, “On His Own Ignorance and that of Many Others”

and “Ascent of Mount Ventoux”

 

January 25: Humanism

           

Grafton and Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities

 

Primary Sources: Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy.  N.B.  I assume that you have already read The Prince.  If not, start there.

 

February 1: Renaissance Philosophy

 

Kristeller, Eight Philosophers of the Italian Renaissance

 

Primary Sources: Vives, "A Fable About Man," and Ficino, "Five Questions Concerning the Mind"

 

February 8: The Printing Press

           

Febvre and Martin, The Coming of the Book

 

            Primary Source: Erasmus, In Praise of Folly and Erasmus, “Festina Lente”

           

February 15: Hermetic Philosophy

 

Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition

 

            Primary Source: Giordano Bruno, Cause, Principle and Unity

           

March 1: Science in the Renaissance

 

Debus, Man and Nature in the Renaissance

 

Primary Source: Paracelsus: Essential Readings

           

March 15: Luther

 

McGrath, The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation

 

Primary Source: Martin Luther: Selections from his Writings

           

March 22: Calvin

 

Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait

 

Primary Source: Calvin, Institutes

           

March 29: Political Philosophy

 

Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought

 

            Primary Source: Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos

           

April 5:  The Seventeenth Century

 

Rabb, The Last Days of the Renaissance

 

Primary Source: Montaigne, Essays

 

April 12: Science

 

            Shapin, The Scientific Revolution

 

            Primary Sources: The Galileo Affair, A Documentary History and Descartes,

Discourse on Method

 

April 19: The Early Enlightenment

 

            Hazard, The European Mind

 

            Primary Sources: Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, aka Theological-

Political Treatise

 

April 26: Enlightenment

 

            Krieger, Kings and Philosophers

 

            Primary Sources: Kant, “What Is Enlightenment?” and Rousseau, Émile