Winter 2009:  "The Culture of Cities in Premodern Europe"

By the sixteenth century Europeans regularly identified their culture as both urban and urbane. This argues for a central role of cities in the formation of European identity.This course will examine the role of the city in shaping that identity from the rise of urban culture in the twelfth century through its full development in the period of European global expansion in the sixteenth century. 

Although European urbanism shaped a continental identity, the continent was not unaware of comparisons, from dream capitals of Troy and Jerusalem to more competitive contemporary images of Tenotichlan and Constantinople. It is the intersection between the growth of cities in Europe and the imagining of cities - in art, in literature, in religious thought - that will provide the focus of this course. Although the course will proceed for the most part chronologically, it will also organize itself around specific cities, institutions, and disciplines. 

Such topics will include the role of the universities in the standardization of European culture, but also in connecting various cities in Europe, urban religion (mendicants, confraternities, Jews), self-representation and public display (art, music, procession), the physical city (architecture and urban planning) and the ideal city (Rome, Jerusalem), exiles, tradesmen and travelers. 

Because of the expertise of the instructors, particular attention will be given to Italian cities: Florence, Venice, Rome.