Early Modern Subjects
The Renaissance is marked by a radical re-orientation in how human beings think about their place in the universe. In the wake of a medieval pessimism that tended to view humanity as the passive victim of largely uncontrollable external forces, the new voices that emerge in this period, working in all manner of disciplines, begin to re-think the individual’s relationship to the environment—political and social, but also natural. The result is a proliferation of new ideas, some subversive, some deeply attached to inherited power structures, but all preparing the way for our modern sense of who we are as human beings.
In ten weeks, we can only scratch the surface of this very large topic, and I have chosen a sampling of texts that is designed to provide some sense of the varied ways in which the question of subjectivity is re-configured throughout the early modern period.
Cervantes, Exemplary Stories (selections)
Galileo, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (selections)
Las Casas, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies
Machiavelli, The Prince
Montaigne, Essays (selections)
Shakespeare, The Tempest