MENLO SCHOOL • SINCE 1915

Humanities I: Renaissance (1S)

Biography

Why do humans often look to the past as they try to envision a better future, and what role can the arts play in driving social change? There’s a reason Gatsby famously exclaims to Nick, “Can’t repeat the past? Why, of course you can!” and it’s not a fluke that Faulkner claims, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” These American authors articulate a truth about being human, and this course will explore the causes and artistic and social consequences of this backward-looking impulse. This course takes an interdisciplinary, Humanities-focused approach – using primarily artistic primary sources such as visual art, literature, and music – to understand the causes and effects of this human impulse towards reviving the past.

The French word “Renaissance,” or rebirth, describes this revival of art forms from older times in order to move society in a better direction. Our course begins with the Italian Renaissance of the 16thC, when artists (like Michelangelo) and thinkers (such as Machiavelli) reached back to the legacy of the Ancient Greco-Roman Classical World to develop a worldview that accommodated the growing powers of people outside the traditional power centers of the Roman Catholic Church or the nobility. We then examine the concept of Renaissance in 17thC Mughal India, Ming China, and Tokugawa Japan. The course concludes with student-driven projects examining how the concept of a Renaissance nourished African-American artists and thinkers in the 20thC Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes is one example) and 21stC Afro-Futurist (think Black Panther) movements.

All students will conduct research about a Renaissance of their choosing. Non-Honors students will produce an Annotated Bibliography. Honors students will create the Annotated Bibliography and write a 6-8 pg. essay.

Instructor: Ms. Gertmenian

Students in grades 10-12 may elect to take this course for History credit (with or without an Honors designation in History only). Students in 12th grade may elect to take this course for English credit.