COM 547 / ENG 530

The Renaissance: The Early Modern ‘I’

Leonard Barkan

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What does it mean for a pre-modern author to say “I”? That is, to write in the first person. How do we understand terms like “self” and “subjectivity” in the Renaissance? We begin with some classical and medieval precursors, then turn to the heart of the matter: Petrarch,
Montaigne, Shakespeare, the first two being the great European masters of the first person, the last said to have buried the first person in the voices of his characters. In the final weeks we ask ourselves about our own first persons as readers: what do “I” have to do with the way I read literature?

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