Early Cultures Courses 2019-20
Upper Division and Graduate Seminars



SP 231 Colonial Misfortunes
Instructor: Ivette Hernandez-Torres

In this course, we will study a heterogenous group of texts written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries during the Latin American Colonial period. We are going to examine the writing of (mis)fortunes in the formulation of the colonial experience mainly elaborated through the trope of travel, shipwreck, accidents, catastrophes, and narratives of defeat. Taught in Spanish.



CL100/ES101A/FMS160 - "Renaissance Europe Goes to the Movies”
Instructor: Jane O. Newman

Stephen Jay Gould once wrote that the film, "Jurassic Park," contains errors that “belong to the juicy and informative class of faults.” “Give me a fruitful error any time...You can keep your sterile truths for yourself.” In this course, we examine the “juicy faults” about the European Renaissance in a series of movies from the 1940s up through the early twenty-first century in conversation with primary and secondary historical and literary texts from and about the period. What role do cinematic representations of the European Renaissance and European early modernity (c. 1500-1650) play in the fashioning of modern and post-modern political, religious, cultural, and scientific identities in the West? Among the topics covered are the persecution of witches, female leadership, Machiavellianism, the Reformation, Dutch and Italian Renaissance art history, contact with the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and the endless series of wars.


E210 Shakespeare
Instructor: Julia Lupton

This year's graduate seminar on Shakespeare will focus on "Curse, Cure, and Care." We will examine the force of malediction and the power of repair in three plays, "King Lear," "Pericles," and "The Winter's Tale." Readings in medical humanities, biopolitics, political theology, and virtue ethics as well as Shakespeare criticism.


FRE 150 / CL 123 Modernity's Ruins: The French Renaissance of the 16th-century in its European Context (taught in English)     
Instructor: Prof. Peter Frei

In the 16th-century, the city of Rome and its ancient ruins weren't just a tourist attraction, they embodied the artistic, philosophical and even political ambitions of the modern age. The paradoxical nature of ruins in particular, as figures of both a survival of the past and its irremediable loss in a disinherited present, informed an imaginary that will haunt modern literature, art and thought. The experience of a fragmented world, from the early modern anatomies of the microcosm that is man to the wastelands of postmodernity, defined a new experience of the past and the present which the Renaissance explored in its creations. Far from being just the source of an ideal to be imitated, Antiquity was thereby rediscovered as a powerful resource to reimagine the world in its forms and meanings. This course - taught in English -  will look at important literary and artistic inventions of the modern world which the French Renaissance, rivaling both the authority of the Ancients and the prestige of its Italian precursor, will exemplify in its attempt to become the new Rome, the cultural and political capital of modernity.


Phil 113: The Problem of Evil in Early Modern Philosophy
Instructor: Sean Greenberg

The early modern period (roughly, 1517-1789) has been called 'the age of theodicy', on account of the attention devoted to the problem of evil in that period.  In this course, we will consider the most important early modern approaches to the problem of evil, focusing on writings by Malebranche, Leibniz, Voltaire, and Kant.



AH 125: Art of Luxury and Vice—The Baroque
Instructor: Lyle Massey

This course covers the art and architecture of Catholic Europe after the Reformation and during the period referred to as the Baroque. It was during this period (roughly 1543-1690), that the Catholic Church made Rome into the seat of a new, grandiose cultural revival under the papacy of Pope Urban VIII. Church architecture and decoration proliferated, exhibiting an exuberance and expansiveness that surpassed that of the High Renaissance (which peaked one hundred years earlier). In other parts of Europe, particularly France and Spain, Catholic monarchs such as Louis XIV and Phillip IV built similarly lavish courts filled with art dedicated to the propaganda of absolutism, as well as monuments to Roman Christianity.


Drama 290 Early Modern Theatricalities
Instructor: Ian Munro

How do you think a stage? This course will survey some of the ways in which that question might be answered in the context of the English Renaissance theater, via a broad selection of contemporary plays (principally non-Shakespearean).  Although we'll be concerned with the material determinants of early modern theatricality, our purpose is not to understand the stage solely in early modern terms, uncovering (or recovering) a historical perspective.  Rather, we will use these plays as a case file for exploring theatrical topologies, ontologies, and epistemologies.


EA 116 Premodern Japanese Ghosts
Instructor: Susan Klein

This course will examine the historical development of premodern Japanese ghosts, from the 9th to 19th centuries, in response to historical changes in the political and religious context, as well as genre developments in literature, drama, and art. We will focus on how the changing literary and artistic representation of Japanese ghosts has embodied (or disembodied)problematic fissures in premodern Japanese society, especially with regard to gender and class issues. Requirements: take-home midterm and final, group class presentation.


English 106 Chaucer Canterbury Tales
Instructor: Elizabeth Allen

In late 14th-century England, plague wiped out a third of the population; peasants and artisans rose against aristocracy; the King struggled to retain authority and was eventually deposed; the Church was divided against itself. Out of this social unrest came Chaucer's Canterbury Tales—a new kind of poetry for a rapidly changing audience. Thirty pilgrims tell stories to pass the time en route to Canterbury Cathedral, and along the way they encounter the problems raised and satisfactions achieved in forming a socially various community. We will read many of the Canterbury Tales, from the General Prologue to the Knight’s Tale to the Retraction.
(Undergraduate students can contact Dr. Allen for permission to enroll if they are not English majors. Graduate students may also take the course by arranging with her for graduate-level assignments.)


History 165: Race and Empire in Latin America
Instructor: Rachel O'Toole

How did race define empire, and how did empire change race, and gender? As indigenous and African communities negotiated the Iberian empires, Europeans struggled to convert and enslave the peoples of the Americas. In the course, we will ask, in the Andes, Brazil, and Mexico, how colonized people identify themselves and their communities within, and beyond, imposed racial hierarchies and gender expectations?


Phil 213: Descartes, Malebranche, and Leibniz
Instructor: Sean Greenberg

The early modern philosopher Nicolas Malebranche was hailed in his own day as "the greatest philosopher of this age," a surprising claim to present-day readers.  In this course, we examine Malebranche's interactions with two of his contemporaries, Descartes and Leibniz, as well as core aspects of his philosophical system, with an eye to determining whether Malebranche was indeed "the greatest philosopher" of his age.