Institution: Monash University, Faculty of Arts, School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies
Course Code: ATS2612/ATS3612
Course Coordinator & Lecturer: Assoc. Prof. Peter Howard
Tutors: there will also be one or two tutors, who are expert in the history of Renaissance Florence and experienced teachers.
Prerequisites: At discretion of SOPHIS
Offered: Prato Summer Semester A 2016
Enrolments: available for participants enrolled in an undergraduate course at Monash University or another university; for participants not currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree wishing to take the subject for credit; or for those wishing to travel and attend classes but not wishing to submit essays and give talks (ie as a ‘non-assessed’ audit student). For further details see ‘Application Procedure’.
Assessment: For assessment details, please see the online Monash University undergraduate handbook, searching under ATS2612/ATS3612
About the Course
The Renaissance in Florence places the extraordinary cultural flowering of the Florentine Renaissance in its historical context from a social, political, religious and cultural perspective. The course combines formal lectures and discussion in tutorials with lectures on site to follow the Renaissance from its earliest beginnings in the society of the medieval Tuscan city-states to its climax in the 15th and early 16th centuries under the control of Cosimo, Piero, Lorenzo de’ Medici (il Magnifico), and the later Medici Dukes. The course begins with an exploration of the city and its evolution over the centuries which is designed to penetrate our own popular vision of the Florentine Renaissance as it was shaped for us by 19th-century art critics and British travellers and writers like E.M. Forster, and in more recent popular novels like Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. Thereafter, we plunge backwards in time to investigate the medieval visions of landscape and city life that emerged from the instability and violence of the High Middle Ages in a town such as Prato. A very few Italian city-states, including Florence, preserved their communal liberty in this period, founding a way of life that fostered the participation of large numbers of citizens, and creating an atmosphere in which statecraft, the economy, religious devotion and the arts could flourish in unique ways.
In Florence we investigate the rebirth of Western art that accompanied these developments, following the relationship between art and society as it appeared in Dante’s age in the works of such artists as Giotto, and the later masters of the Florentine Renaissance: Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Masolino, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and many others. At every stage, the works of these artists are interpreted as part of the Florentine social fabric.
Lectures and tutorials examine and reflect upon the civic culture of Florentine men and women of all ranks, and trace changes in ideas about city life, religious devotion, the place of women, political trends and other themes. We examine the rise of the Medici, and the physical expressions of oligarchical power in the grandiose urban dwellings of great lineages including the Medici, Strozzi and Rucellai, and in the many sumptuously decorated family chapels with which these wealthy citizens filled Florence’s churches from the 14th century.
We step outside of Florence into the surrounding Tuscan countryside exploring both the imposing country villas of the patrician families, such as Caffaggiolo in the Mugello and Lorenzo the Magnificent’s Poggio a Caiano. Here we learn of the relationship between the city and country, the dependence of the Florentine economy on agriculture and the subsequent need for the city to both control and expand her territories.
In a visit to Scarperia, located at the foot of the Appenines on the road between Florence and Bologna, we examine the phenomenon of ‘New Towns'; the creation of urban centres in strategic military positions in the countryside. These themes are followed into the 16th century, when a more courtly milieu emerged, and the rule of a succession of hereditary Medici Dukes replaced the Renaissance Florentine republic. In examining the work of such figures as Michelangelo, we shall need first to understand how their subsequent reputations have affected ever since our own ideas of greatness and creativity. Similarly, by placing the Renaissance in its historical context as part of an intimate study conducted in the city of its birth, we shall come to understand the significance of this major cultural movement for ordinary people of the period, and the tremendous influence that it has exerted on our own cities, and our social and cultural life.
Prato provides a unique prism for the thematic explorations of the course. A walled town with a beautifully preserved historical centre, Prato demonstrates its own ‘cultural flowering’ in the art, politics and architecture of the 14th and 15th century. In this setting we draw together the themes explored throughout the course and ‘read’ the city of Prato – its architecture, streetscapes, neighbourhoods, families and churches – as documents of its past and continuing evolution as a city.
How the Course Works
The course combines visits to various sites in Tuscany with formal lectures, seminars and tutorials held at the Palazzo Vaj, the Monash Centre in Prato. The lecture usually deals with a general theme to be investigated during the day’s site visits, while tutorials and seminars seek to deepen the knowledge gained. Course participants will receive a course handbook with a detailed study program, assessment requirements, readings and other resources relevant to the course. Participants who are not enrolled as Monash students will not be required to complete any work for assessment after the course ends, but will participate to the full in all activities during the study program.
Taking this Course for University Credit
This course is an approved elective for Monash University degrees and has a 12 credit-point value. For further information please contact:
Assoc. Prof. Peter Howard
School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Building 11,
Clayton Campus, Monash University VIC 3800.
Tel: 03 9905 9209
Email: [email protected]