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HIS 28 — The Plague Generation of 1348: Love, Death, Healing, Faith, and Friendship in Boccaccio’s Italy

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Jan 19—Feb 16
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 21
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $320
Instructor(s): Paula Findlen
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 19—Feb 16
5 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 21
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Paula Findlen
Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
How have earlier societies risen to the challenge of epidemic and pandemic diseases? In 1348, when the Black Death finally arrived in Italy, the inhabitants of this part of the world confronted an unknown and devastating disease. It transformed their understanding of disease, raised questions about the efficacy of medical knowledge and the power of faith, and inspired new notions of public health.

Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron is the most famous literary reflection, but he was one of many people who reflected at length on the impact of this pandemic on their lives. This course will explore the most interesting responses to the 14th-century Italian experience of plague. What did plague compel people to do, say, and think about their society? How did they handle the fact that plague did not simply end? Our exploration of this plague generation will be used to illuminate and discuss our own experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will read portions of the Decameron and some of the other interesting plague literature from this era. As we look at the history, art, and literature of plague in 14th-century Italy, we will discuss how they have shaped today's interpretations of plague.

Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of History and Professor, by courtesy, of French and Italian, Stanford

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

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.