The Glory of the Renaissance

Florence Duomo reduced shutterstock_173846513.jpg
Thomas Brothers
LS 770-90
Summer 2017
June 12-25, in Italy, with three on-campus class meetings prior to departure (May 9, May 23, and June 6)
Study Away

How Music, Painting and Architecture Thrived at the Nexus of Spiritual, Political and Intellectual Power in Fifteenth-Century Italy

You can lose yourself in the magnificent Duomo of Florence, completed by the great fifteenth-century architect, Filippo Brunelleschi.  You can also lose yourself in a painting by Piero della Francesca, or in Guillaume Dufay’s brilliant music for the Catholic liturgy, pieces like the Missa Se la face ay pale—lose yourself in the sense of tasting a vast and brilliant world that leaves the petty concerns of day-to-day life behind.  Fifteenth-century Italy enjoyed a strong tradition of art designed with this in mind.  Composers, painters and architects used the full range of intellectual and emotional power available to them to create a transcendent world, and they did so through the patronage of powerful people who expected something in return.  That is how the themes of art, spirituality, intellectual inquiry and politics intersect, and that is how some of the greatest art in the European tradition was created.  Much of it is still around for us to enjoy and understand today.

This course covers music, painting, architecture, religion and politics in the 15th Century, primarily in Florence and Rome.  We begin with three class meetings in Durham, then continue with a group trip to Florence and Rome. 

Each student will select another city to work on for a term project.   Let’s see how the themes we are talking about in Florence and Rome played out there. Pienza, Arrezo, Perugia, Milan, Ferrara, Siena, Bologna, Padua, Mantua, and Naples are obvious choices, but there are also charms and surprises to discover in, Rimini, Modena, Pavia, Genoa, and Perugia.  You are welcome to pair up, with two people for one city, travelling together and dividing up areas of inquiry.

Prerequisites: none. The learning goals of this class are: 1) to gain general knowledge about fifteenth-century music, painting and architecture; 2) to understand how themes of spirituality, intellectual life and politics intersect in the arts; 3) to develop writing and research skills. 

Click here for syllabus.

Accommodations and Costs

Students will stay at the Sanctuary B&B Firenze from June 12 through the night of June 18. On June 19 the group will travel via train to Rome and check into the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies through the night of June 24 (checking out after breakfast on June 25).

The cost of tuition for a GLS course is $3945 and GLS tuition scholarships will apply.  The cost for an auditor is $1800. The cost for room and board in Florence and Rome and train fare from Florence to Rome is $1300 ($1250 for double occupancy in Florence). Click here for complete details.

Application and Payment

Registration in the program is on a first-come, first-served basis, with priority given to currently enrolled Duke students. The application must be received by February 1, 2017. A non-refundable advance deposit of $750 is due by February 15 and may be paid to your bursar account via e-check (please select the "Nonrefundable Advance Deposit" option and specify that your advance deposit be applied against the summer 1 term). The balance will be billed with tuition via the bursar in mid-April and is due by May 12. Auditors may pay by check, made out to Duke University and mailed to Graduate Liberal Studies, Duke University, Box 90095, Durham, NC 27708-0095.


About Thomas Brothers

Thomas Brothers is Professor of Music.  He joined the faculty at Duke in 1991 after completing his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley.  He has published three books on Louis Armstrong, most recently Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism (W.W. Norton, 2014).  In addition to African American music, Professor Brothers also teaches music of the medieval and renaissance periods.  Currently he is writing a book on The Beatles.