Medieval Italy: Italy in the Age of Dante (1000-1350)

History 149B

Spring 2015
Day & Time: 
MWF 10-11A

The history of medieval Italy is one of vivid contrasts: of beauty and brutality, freedom and tyranny, piety and blasphemy. The great poet of the Inferno summons us to consider such contrasts in nearly every canto: how can such stunningly beautiful language conjure images of such horrendous violence? This course explores the world that produced Dante, Giotto, and Saint Francis. It first traces the emergence of independent city-states in northern and central Italy after the millennium, emphasizing the particular conditions and experiences that created this distinctive medieval civilization. We will then focus on the culture of these vibrant urban centers using the artifacts they produced to discover the economic, social, religious, and political tensions underpinning them.  Were the divisions and inequities of this society central to its creativity?  We will explore with particular intensity the relationship between religion and society.  Special emphasis will also be placed on analyzing material and visual sources: do they tell a different story than the written sources?  Requirements include midterm and final examinations in addition to an essay based on primary sources.

Course Books

Inferno by Alighieri, Dante (trans. Allen Mandelbaum) Bantam. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0808509578 Required
Dino Compagni's Chronicle of Florence by Bornstein, Daniel E. (trans.) University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0812212211 Required
The Little Flowers of St. Francis by Brown, Raphael (trans.) Image Books. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0385075442 Required
The Lives of Saint Francis by Celano, Thomas of CreateSpace. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-1502329004 Required
Barbarossa in Italy by Carson, Thomas (trans.) Italica Press. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0934977302 Required