Study Renaissance Literature and Painting in Florence!


Published: 24Oct2011

This May…   Study Renaissance Literature and Painting in Florence!

*ENGL 347: Great Writings of Europe 1 Passions of the Renaissance
taught in English

Professor Maggie Kilgour
May 7-June 1, 2012



In this course we will examine the ways in which Renaissance writers represented the powers and dangers of passion. We will begin by looking at the different myths about desire which the Renaissance inherited from the classical and Christian traditions. Our main focus will be the rise and fall of Petrarchan love, which we will trace from the idealistic courtly lovers of 13th-century Italy to the cynical rakes of late 17th-England. Following the evolution of the passions through time and space will enable us to examine how desire is both an intimate expression of the individual self and shaped by cultural influences. Questions we will consider will include the nature of erotic passion and its relation to other forms of desire such as love of God, country, family, power, and especially art itself; same-sex desire; the relation between desire and disgust. Readings of literature will be juxtaposed with visits to art galleries in Florence and other cities, and discussions of the historical contexts which shaped a growing passion for passion itself.

Texts (tentative):

  • Course pack with short selections from: Plato; The Bible; Ovid; Ficino; Petrarch; Castiglione; Aretino; Wyatt; Surrey; Marlowe; Donne; Suckling; Carew; Marvell; Rochester
  • Dante, La Vita Nuova
  • Shakespeare: selections from the Sonnets;Venus and Adonis;Romeo and Juliet ;Antony and Cleopatra

Prerequisites: None.

Method of Evaluation: Participation (20%); 10-15 minute presentation (10%); Midterm (30%); final 10 page paper (40%).

Enrollment is limited to 15 students, admission by permission of instructor. Students interested in taking this course should email maggie.kilgour [at] as soon as possible.

Further information on McGill’s summer program in Florence, including costs and application forms, will be available in early January 2012 at

* Note: this course will count towards the Backgrounds/Renaissance requirement of McGill’s English program.

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