Monash University Handbooks 2008

HYM4330 - Cultures of Devotion in Renaissance Italy

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Peter Howard


Not offered in 2008


This unit examines the religious cultures of Italy from the fourteenth to the early sixteenth century, including the role of humanism and the recovery of the classical past in the re-envisioning of the Christian life in the Renaissance city, the boundaries between magic, superstition, and orthodox religion, the cult of the saints, shrines, and pilgrimage, the relationship between institutional religion and popular piety, high culture and popular expressions of devotion, the function of preaching and education by friars in local contexts, and the extent to which public theology shaped the cultural and material milieu.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will:

  1. Have acquired an understanding of the nature of Christianity as the matrix of experience in the Italian Renaissance city.

  1. Have acquired an understanding of the variety within that experience.

  1. Be critically conversant with the conceptual and analytical issues relating to the term 'popular'.

  1. Have worked with the conceptual complexities of 'religious culture'.

  1. Understand the nature of, and the religious and the social function of, devotion and devotional space.

  1. Have examined the Renaissance understanding of the nature of the natural order, sign and symbol, language and power.

  1. Understand the impact of the return 'to sources' which was part of the humanist agenda.

  1. Will have engaged the inter-relationship between the material world (piazza, building; representation) and the aesthetic, spiritual and religious activities of Renaissance Italians.

  1. Have developed a capacity to analyse the processes which underpinned the construction of devotional and theological texts.

  1. Will have developed the capacity to detect the resonances of language and code embedded in particular texts and their relationship to social context.

  1. Will be able to engage in critical discussion of texts in relation to the urban context of Italian Renaissance Society.

  1. Will be able to engage in critical discussion of texts in relation to the urban context of Italian Renaissance Society.


Research Essay (6000 words): 60%
Critical Journal (2000 words): 20%
Seminar presentation (1000 words): 20%

Contact hours

2 hours per week


A History or RLT Major



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