Archive for May, 2017

Courtly Performances

Posted: May 31, 2017 in Uncategorized


Baldassare Castiglione
(1478 – 1529)


Greeenblatt Self-Fashioning

Renaissance Self-Fashioning is a study of sixteenth-century life and literature that spawned a new era of scholarly inquiry. Stephen Greenblatt examines the structure of selfhood as evidenced in major literary figures of the English Renaissance—More, Tyndale, Wyatt, Spenser, Marlowe, and Shakespeare—and finds that in the early modern period new questions surrounding the nature of identity heavily influenced the literature of the era. Now a classic text in literary studies, Renaissance Self-Fashioning continues to be of interest to students of the Renaissance, English literature, and the new historicist tradition.

Luminist Painting

Posted: May 31, 2017 in Uncategorized


Johannes Vermeer
(1632 – 1675)






Nicolas Malebranche
(1638 – 1715)

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
(1646 – 1716)

Antoine Arnauld
(1612 – 1694)

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Princeton University Press, 2010

The centerpiece of this intellectual history is a vicious late 17th-century debate between three unlikely combatants. . . . Nadler’s superb study makes for a larger space for Leibniz, Malebranche, and Arnauld alongside such giants of the period as Descartes and Spinoza.

–Publishers Weekly


When it appeared in 1670, Baruch Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise was denounced as the most dangerous book ever published–“godless,” “full of abominations,” “a book forged in hell . . . by the devil himself.” Religious and secular authorities saw it as a threat to faith, social and political harmony, and everyday morality, and its author was almost universally regarded as a religious subversive and political radical who sought to spread atheism throughout Europe. Yet Spinoza’s book has contributed as much as the Declaration of Independence or Thomas Paine’s Common Sense to modern liberal, secular, and democratic thinking. In A Book Forged in Hell, Steven Nadler tells the fascinating story of this extraordinary book: its radical claims and their background in the philosophical, religious, and political tensions of the Dutch Golden Age, as well as the vitriolic reaction these ideas inspired.


In the wake of the Scientific Revolution, the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the complete demolition of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief by the new philosophy and the philosophers, including Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. The Radical Enlightenment played a part in this revolutionary process, which effectively overthrew all justification for monarchy, aristocracy, and ecclesiastical power, as well as man’s dominance over woman, theological dominance of education, and slavery. Despite the present day interest in the revolutions of the eighteenth century, the origins and rise of the Radical Enlightenment have received limited scholarly attention. The greatest obstacle to the movement finding its proper place in modern historical writing is its international scope: the Racial Enlightenment was not French, British, German, Italian, Jewish or Dutch, but all of these at the same time.

In this wide-ranging volume, Jonathan Israel offers a novel interpretation of the Radical Enlightenment down to La Mettie and Diderot, two of its key exponents. Particular emphasis is placed on the pivotal role of Spinoza and the widespread underground international philosophical movement known before 1750 as Spinozism.

Radical Enlightenment
Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750
Jonathan I. Israel
Oxford University Press (2002)

Jonathan Israel is a professor in the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Readings For June 1st

Posted: May 30, 2017 in Readings


Baruch Spinoza
(1632 – 1677)
Theological-Political Treatise (1670)
Ethics (1677)


Stephen Shapin (Harvard) and Simon Schaffer (Cambridge)
“The Trouble with Experiment: Hobbes vs. Boyle
Winners of the 2005 Erasmus Prize

It might be well to compare what the notion of the book meant to Galileo, compared to what the book became in the days after Descartes. Who could fail to see the enormous sea-change that the institution of the book underwent in just a generation or two?

Galileo on books

Here are clips from the film, Prospero’s Books, I may not have time to show in class. It is a cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, directed in the style of the great Venetian colorist painters. I hope to show here that the book, in the age of Galileo, experiences a last burst of color, before the rise of the black-and-white Cartesian diagram. The film is incredibly lush and sensual, in a variety of ways, and may not be suitable for all viewers. Decide for yourself.





The Impact of Intervention

The ‘life cycle of a painting’ varies depending on its condition, the materials the artist used, and the amount and quality of the restoration it has undergone.

“In recent decades, conservators have given considerable thought to … lengthening the period between treatments,” says Dorman. “We know that, even when we raise the flags of reversibility and minimal intervention, our work is precisely that—an intervention—and it has an impact on the art.”

Conservators and appraisers seem to agree that conservation doesn’t decrease a painting’s value. However, this factor depends on the conservator’s ability to restore the piece without changing anything about the art.

Until mid-June, you can watch in the Musée d’Orsay the restoration in progress of two large academics paintings: “The Orphan” (circa 1885) by August Schenck and “Two Mothers” (1888) by Maxime Faivre.