Renaissance Topics

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University

Some Project Topics Suggestions and
Some Raw Notes Towards Topics

1.Mine into the various levels of intricacy in a Petrarchan poem. Explain how the poet’s craft succeeds or fails (but beware of matters of translation) in conveying an effective and appropriate “emotion recollected in tranquility.”

2.Creative option: write a sonnet in proper format (Italian or English), pretend it’s a newly discovered Renaissance piece (possibly in translation), and provide the scholarly critical commentary that would accompany its first publication. Be sure your actual research, your grasp of the genre, and your analytical skills are displayed in the commentary.

3.Compare two paintings, one a Medieval and the other a Renaissance depiction of an identical subject: two Madonnas with Child, two Temptations of St. Anthony, two “Noli me tangere”s, two Gardens of Eden. In excruciating detail, pinpoint the evidence of cultural and ideological change as manifested in the supposedly representative works.

4.Track down a Renaissance musical piece (ideally both score and recording) and take a standard critical approach to this piece by deciding what effects and special effects the composer creates. How do music and text reinforce each other meaningfully? Consider melodic lines, harmonic intervals, musical phrasing, rhythmic decisions, the interplay of the lyrics with the musical effects, etc.

5.How does Renaissance smut differ from Medieval smut? Consider an element in Medieval lyrics vs. the innuendo in Renaissance lyrics. Or maybe just discuss Boccaccio.

6.The tale of patient Griselda from Boccaccio involves some bizarre politics (not just gender politics). With or without Marxist consciousness, explain the implications of this pervasive element within the tale. What is Boccaccio’s point here?

7.Look more closely into Medieval and/or Renaissance food. How does this aspect of life function as an “art”? Or, can we subject the relevant “texts” (the food itself, or the recipes) to a form of literary study? If you are headed towards the field of education, you could argue for the inclusion of food studies into the Arts and Humanities curriculum or into the syllabus of a course such as this.

8.Offer a Machiavellian reading of something unusual. Whatever the subject, this project would have to be especially clever itself, because it’s too easy to crank out a mediocre point-by-point “proof” of nothing more than a worthless thesis (e.g., “Those damned tree-hugging Greenpeace liberals are really Machiavellian”; “Grover Cleveland was a textbook case of Machiavellianism”).