About the Program
The two-part name of the program reflects the re-thinking, across the disciplines of literature, history, and art history, of the period formerly known as the Renaissance. That name derived from the goal of the early humanists: to revive classical culture, which they thought had been obscured by the medieval church. To rename this era “early modern” is to see it from a later vantage point as laying the social and intellectual foundations of the modern era.
Between 1350 and 1800, humanists strove to renew the cultural and political forms of Greece and Rome, in a distinctly Christian setting. Such diverse figures as Petrarch in the fourteenth century, Michelangelo in the sixteenth, and Sir Francis Bacon in the seventeenth put classical models to use for the distinctly new purpose of serving centralized royal courts and emergent nation states. Vernacular literatures across Europe looked to classical authors for genres and styles, yet also struggled to establish a native eloquence. A heightened sense of individual agency, fostered by the advance of Protestantism with its emphasis on the individual believer, also arose, in distinct contrast to the corporate sense of self and community that had characterized the Middle Ages. New technologies such as firearms and the printing press, and cultural innovations such as the novel, journalism, and the art market also characterize this period, and lead up to the modern era. At the same time, the exploration and conquest of the Americas opened up new markets, and offered Europeans fresh perspectives on their own societies.
The Renaissance and Early Modern Studies Program (REMS) pursues a multi-disciplinary approach to this complex epoch. REMS encourages students to explore different perspectives by taking courses in different departments , and fosters curiosity about the languages, literature, history, science, art, music and philosophy of the Renaissance.