The Use of the Past in Italian Renaissance Culture


The Renaissance Humanism of 15th century Italy became formative for many of the central ideas of modern Europe. New directions in politics, philosophy and science originated, developed and spread through the Humanist movement. Arbitrarily enough this movement was staged by its founding fathers as a return to antiquity and the ideals that were to be called Classical. In the course The Use of the Past in Italian Renaissance Culture we examine this movement, its use of the past, and its expressions in art and literature.

The aim of this course is to provide you with a broad, interdisciplinary insight into the Italian Renaissance Humanism, its central ideas, media, and mechanisms through studies of the literary and visual culture of the period. You will be reading Petrarch and Castiglione, marveling at works by Michelangelo and Bramante, discussing inscriptions, prints and manuscripts as well as Neo-Platonism and self-fashioning together with students from several disciplines under the guidance of international experts. On occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, the course also examines its effect on the Roman Church through its art and literature.


The course has two phases:

15 May-8 July: During this first, virtual part of the course, you will obtain digital access to the course curriculum that you are expected to read before you go to Rome. You are also expected to formulate a research question and start working on your assignment during this period. In order to assist this process you will be assigned a supervisor. S/he will help you develop your research question and supplement the general reading list with relevant literature for your particular topic.

9-21 July: on-site part in Rome, Italy: We take advantage of the setting to learn from works of art, architecture, inscriptions and manuscripts around Rome in a combination of excursions, lectures and tutorials.

The exam is a take-home assignment on a topic of your own choice. As basis for the exam paper students are required to compose individual syllabi with the help of their supervisor.

Submission date: 20 August

Course description

Find full course description in the course catalogue.