This course will introduce the work (and world) of five original and extraordinarily creative individuals whose explorations of man’s understanding of himself and his relationship to others and to his world enriched western civilization.
Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy: a quest to know the soul by an exiled, thwarted lover in a time when pilgrimages’ and crusades’ holiness was waning (as also portrayed by Chaucer’s pilgrims).
Leonardo Da Vinci: In pursuit of Nature’s secrets, as a reconnection with ancient learning reinforced the development of Humanism (with a sideways look at human folly).
Luis da Camoes: The Lusiados–the epic rediscovering of the world as exemplified by the harrowing voyage of Vasco da Gama to India, recounted by another exile, who reimagined Homer and Virgil to glorify his longed-for Portugal.
Michel de Montaigne: The rebirth of self-knowledge by a savant who straddled the contemplative and political worlds of his time and whose celebration of friendship preserved a seminal text of radicalism: On Voluntary Servitude by Étienne de la Boetie.
Marcel Proust: Lost time and love restored: An overview of the writer’s intense exploration of memory, emotion, and relationships (and his intuitions that inspired Proust Was a Neuroscientist) and which parallels two other 20th century pilgrims, Sigmund Freud and James Joyce.
Classes will consist of lecture and discussion. There will be no assigned reading.