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HIS 28 — The Age of Plague: Medicine, Society, and Epidemics, 1348 and Beyond

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Feb 1—Mar 8
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Drop Deadline: Feb 3
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $320
Instructor(s): Paula Findlen
Status: Registration opens Nov 30 8:30 am (PT)
Please Note: No class on February 15. In addition, some of our refund deadlines have changed. See this course's drop deadline above and click here for the full policy.
Winter
Live Online(About Formats)
Mondays
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Date(s)
Feb 1—Mar 8
5 weeks
Drop By
Feb 3
1 Unit
Fees
$320
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Instructor(s):
Paula Findlen
Registration opens Nov 30 8:30 am (PT)
Please Note: No class on February 15. In addition, some of our refund deadlines have changed. See this course's drop deadline above and click here for the full policy.
In 2020, COVID-19 led to global awareness that epidemic disease is hardly a thing of the past. How have societies risen to the challenge of earlier epidemic and pandemic diseases? The outbreak of plague in Eurasia in the 1340s affected many late medieval and early modern societies. It transformed their understanding of disease, raised questions about the efficacy of medical knowledge, and inspired new notions of public health. This course explores the history, art, and literature of plague in the Western world. We will read plague classics (Boccaccio and Defoe) with other sources from that era, and discuss how history, science, and archaeology together have shaped today's interpretations of plague. We will explore the experience of plague from the 14th through the 18th centuries, and we will touch on the First Pandemic (also called the Plague of Justinian), which began in 541 CE, and the Third Pandemic, which brought plague to the Americas at the dawn of the 20th century. Contrasting the shock, fear, and novelty of pandemic in the 14th century with its evolution into a recurrent epidemic disease over the next few centuries, we will discuss how people experienced and interpreted pandemics in the past in light of what pandemic means today.

Paula Findlen, Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History; Director of the Patrick Suppes Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, Stanford

Paula Findlen’s many publications include Leonardo’s Library: The World of a Renaissance Reader, which accompanied an exhibition in Stanford's Green Library (May-December 2019). She received the Galilei Prize in 2016 and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Findlen received a PhD from UC Berkeley.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron (Penguin Edition) (ISBN 978-0140449303)
(Recommended) Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (Penguin or Oxford Editions Recommended) (ISBN 978-0140437850)
DOWNLOAD THE PRELIMINARY SYLLABUS » (subject to change)