The Renaissance, which began in northern Italy in the fifteenth century--some scholars claim an earlier date--was a "rebirth" of learning and a return to the literature and humanistic studies of the ancient world.  "Humanism" itself, the intellectual movement of the Renaissance, was inspired by the Ancient Greek focus on the beauty of the human body.  (The Church had long taught that the human body was the source of evil.)  The term "Renaissance" itself was coined by French nineteenth-century historians who, when reviewing the marvelous literary, artistic and philosophic achievements of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially in Italy, viewed the era literally as a rebirth of civilization.  The idea of a renewed appreciation of the classical civilizations of the past was an important break from the Christian church which had always looked with disdain, to put it mildly, upon the pagan past of Ancient Greece and Rome.
When scholars approach the study of the Renaissance, humanism is the most common term that is usually applied to the intellectual movement associated with the era, and it is Francesco Petrarch who is usually considered the father of humanism.  Humanists searched the literature of ancient Greece and Rome for answers about beauty, the meaning of life and the value of the individual.  This was a daring undertaking because that literature had been produced by pagans, who were not in good favor with the Christian church.  The novelty was that the humanists could not find the answers they sought in the centuries of Christian literature, so they went back to the pre-Christian centuries.  This profoundly altered Western attitudes.
Some recommended online lectures and websites:
  • Lecture 1: Renaissance Portraits
  • The Renaissance
  • History of the Renaissance
  • A quick summary of the Medici family, which you can use in conjunction with the extra credit option on the Medicis
  • Renaissance Spell
  • Life in Renaissance Times is a list of links (some of which do not work) that might provide useful information on different aspects of the Renaissance.
  • For extra credit please suggest to your instructor a relevant website for this unit of the course.
    Send the title of the site, the url and a brief explanation why you find the information interesting and applicable to the material being studied in this unit.


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