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Fall 2017

RSCP 72100 - Introduction to Renaissance Studies:  Neoplatonism across Time and Faith, GC: W, 2:00-4:00pm., Rm TBA, 3/4 credits, Prof. Clare Carroll and Feisal Mohamed, Cross listed with CL 80900 and ENG 71000

Engaging in questions of Platonic influence may seem to support a traditional view of the Renaissance as reviving and redoubling a unitary sense of Western culture tracing its roots to ancient Greece. This course poses a strong challenge to that narrative. By focusing on the Platonism of late antiquity, we in fact engage in a profound re-mapping of the period’s engagement with classical and medieval locales, one less centered on Athens and Rome and taking into its ken Alexandria, Damascus, and Baghdad.
 
The Neoplatonic tradition was the philosophical limgua franca of the Renaissance: the rediscovery of Plotinus and Proclus achieved in no small measure through the prodigious influence of Marsilio Ficino was a spark generating widespread interest. And as was recognized in the period, it is a tradition that spans all three Abrahamic faiths: the great wellspring of biblical Neoplatonism is the Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, whose influence can be discerned in the seminal Christian mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius and in the Islamic tradition of falsafa. These interests certainly display themselves in literature, though this course will ask whether such engagements constitute thick intellectual engagement or a merely ornamental embellishment.
 
We will see in the course how Neoplatonism continues to provide a common philosophical language to theologians of all three faiths, as in the work of the twentieth-century Shi’a philosopher Henri Corbin and of the member of the “Radical Orthodoxy” school Simon Oliver.