Course: Power and Performativity in Italian Renaissance Court Culture

HC 421H

Professor: Nathalie Hester

This course focuses on 16th-century Italian court culture and the cultural, social, and political changes associated with what has come to be termed early modernity. The course is organized around the study of four Italian courts—Florence, Urbino, Mantua, and Rome—and representative texts (treatises, plays) and art produced in those cities. The course will also consider contemporary representations of these courts (novels, television series).

Analyses and discussions will serve to consider notions of self-fashioning and performativity in a courtly context and the broader implications of stricter and more detailed prescriptions for proper comportment. Furthermore, Harry Berger’s characterizations of Renaissance “surveillance culture” will guide conversations concerning how to think about early modernity.

Readings will include representations, both critical and idealized, of courts and will provide insights into the literary, linguistic, cultural, and political concerns of the time, and how these concerns were framed and addressed. Course events will include a early renaissance sword fighting demonstration by Sean Hayes (Northwest Fencing Academy) and a presentation by Professor Deanna Shemek of UC Santa Cruz,  codeveloper of the IDEA-Isabella d’Este Archive, who will talk to the class about Digital Humanities and discuss research in the area of early modern court culture.