Photo:  G. Dameron (2008)

Humanities 203A (MWF 10:30-11:20) and Humanities 203B (MWF 1-1:50)

Spring Semester 2009 (Jeanmarie 290)

Dr. George Dameron/Department of History

Office:  Library 306/Phone 654-2318/e-mail: gdameron/Personal Web site

Office Hours: Monday, 9-10; Wednesday, 2:30-4:30, and by appointment

". . . when I consider and weigh in my mind all these commonwealths . . . I can perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men procuring their own commodities . . ." Thomas More, Utopia (1516)


The purposes of this interdisciplinary course are the following:  (1) to introduce students to some of the principal issues in European intellectual and cultural history from 1400 to 1600 through a close reading of primary texts, (2) to assist the student to develop and improve critical and analytical skills in reading, writing, and speaking; (3) to explore key issues of on-going social importance (the role of class and gender in human society, western attitudes and approaches to non-westerners, the formation of gender identities, the pursuit of truth and the possibility of certainty, the meaning and purpose of life, conceptions of human nature, divergences between Protestant and Catholic Christianity, conceptions of God); (4) to inculcate in the student an abiding interest in the history of ideas and culture, (5) to introduce the student to and encourage appreciation of some of the most important texts (books, essays, visual arts) in the Early Modern Period, (6) to explore the importance and contributions of these three centuries to the formation of the modern world, (7) to fulfill a Culture and Civilization Requirement of the Liberal Studies Requirements, and (8) to help the student learn how to conduct research and to write a research paper in the humanities.


The course will focus on discussion of the assigned texts, but there will be infrequent, occasional lectures.  

There is a “Renaissance and Reformation Film Series” that accompanies this course.  There are three films, and all three will be screened in the evening on January 21, March 11, and April 20.  There will be a short discussion after each film.  For students who cannot make the evening screening, the films will be available on reserve.  However, they will need to submit to me a focus paper (one page) on the film at the next class meeting.  On the three days when the films will be screened, there will be no regular class meetings during the day.

For most class meetings, one student will bring a question or comment based on the readings, to start the discussion.

I am available to meet with students individually or in groups during my regularly scheduled office hours or by special appointment. Students can also correspond with  me via email.

All online readings are hyperlinked to the online syllabus posted at the eCollege Web site. 


·         Attendance, seriousness of purpose, and participation in discussions (10% of final grade). 

·         Focus papers (10% of final grade) and quizzes (10%) will alternate every Friday.  All focus papers will be typed, one-page, and handed in during or before class when due.  No late focus papers are allowed.  The lowest quiz score will be dropped.  Students can choose to skip one quiz without affecting their grade adversely. 

·         A mid-term examination (20% of final grade) on February 11.  It will focus on objective and essay questions. 

·         A research paper (20%), due March 13, 7-9 pages, excluding footnotes and bibliography.  Late papers will be penalized half a letter grade for every day they are late.  Students will choose from a list of topics associated with the Reformation (topics to be distributed shortly after the examination).

·         Final Exam, dates tba (30% of final grade).  It will also focus on objective and essay questions.

·         Except for compelling personal and medical reasons, no make-ups of the quizzes or late submissions on the research paper will be allowed. 



Students with documented learning differences should speak with me about making special accommodations.


I expect students to attend every class. As a courtesy, students should inform me in advance of any anticipated absence.  Arrange all travel arrangements so as not to miss any scheduled classes, exams, or films.


The paper is due on March 13 (Friday) in class. There will be a half a letter grade penalty (5 points) for every day the paper is late.

The paper must follow the required methods of citing primary and secondary sources in footnotes or endnotes, and it must also include a formal bibliography.  In-text citations (within parentheses inside the text) are unacceptable.  For information about acceptable forms of citation, see the link to the citation guides provided by the library.

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. According to the Academic Integrity Policy (St. Michael’s College Responsibilities, Rights and Rules), plagiarism is the presentation of "another person's ideas as your own, by directly quoting or indirectly paraphrasing, without properly citing the original source." The penalties for plagiarism in this course can range from receiving a failing grade for the plagiarized assignment to receiving a failing grade in the course. In some cases plagiarism can result in suspension or expulsion from the college. If a student is in doubt whether a source should or should not be cited, (s)he should play it safe and cite the source. For more information on plagiarism, see the Student Handbook. I routinely spot-check papers for evidence of plagiarism.




 January 12Introduction to course; in-class reading:  Petrarch, poems from the Canzoniere


January 14, 16 (focus paper):  Petrarch (1304-1374), The Ascent of Mount Ventoux

January 19:  Lecture and Presentation:  “The Italian Renaissance”

January 21:  **First Film** (“Romeo and Juliet”, 1968), Saint Edmund’s Hall, 6 pm (no regular class meeting)

January 23 (quiz), 26, 28:  Machiavelli, The Prince


January 30 (focus paper), February 2, 4, 6 (quiz), 9:  Marguerite of Navarre, The Heptameron

February 11:  Hourly Examination

February 13 (focus paper):  Lecture and Presentation (“The Northern Renaissance”)

February 16-17:  February Break


February 18:  Lecture and Presentation:  “The Late Medieval Background to the Reformation”

February 20 (quiz), 23:  Luther, in Hillerbrand, “The Freedom of the Christian Man”

February 23:  Luther, in Hillerbrand, “On Governmental Authority”

February 25:  “The Twelve Articles of the Peasants,” in Hillerbrand, and Luther, “Friendly Admonition to Peace”

February 27 (focus paper):  Luther, in Hillerbrand, “Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians”

March 2:  Zwingli, in Hillerbrand, “Commentary on True and False Religion”

March 4:  The Anabaptists (in Hillerbrand):  Conrad Grebel, “Letter”; “The Schleitheim Confession of Faith”; Elizabeth, “A Letter”

March 6 (quiz):  Calvin, in Hillerbrand, “Reply to Sadoleto” and “Ecclesiastical Ordinances”

March 9:  Calvin, in Hillerbrand, “The Institutes of the Christian Religion”

March 11:  **Second Film** (“A Man for All Seasons”, 1966), Saint Edmund’s Hall, 113, 6 pm (no regular class meeting)

March 13 (focus paper on film):  Paper Due and continuation of discussion on Calvin’s “Institutes”

March 14-22:  March Recess

March 23:  Lecture and Presentation:  “The Counter-/Catholic Reformation”; “The Tridentine Creed” (1564) and Ignatius Loyola, “The Spiritual Exercises” (excerpts)


March 25, 27 (quiz), 30:  Bernal Diaz, The Conquest of New Spain (1568)

April 1:  Montaigne 1.8, 1.20, 1.27

April 3 (focus paper--Montaigne 1.31), April 6:  Montaigne 2.1, 2.2, 2.11, April 8: Montaigne 3.11

April 10-13:  Easter Break

April 15:  Montaigne, 3.13

April 17 (quiz), 20, 22:  Shakespeare, Henry V (1599)

April 20:  **Third Film** (“Henry V”), Jeanmarie 362, 6 pm (no regular class meeting)

April 24 (focus paper):  Galileo Galilei, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615)

April 27, 29:  Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (1641)

May 1 (quiz):  Conclusion and summary of course

Dates for final examination:

·         Humanities 203A (MWF 10:30-11:20):  Monday, May 4 (9 am-11:30 am)

·         Humanities 203B (MWF 1-1:50):  Monday, May 4 (1 pm-3:30 pm)