UW-Madison Center for the Humanities

Center for the Humanities

Past Faculty Development Seminars
Spring 2014: Machiavelli

Spring 2014: Machiavelli at 500

Led by Kristin Phillips-Court, Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian, and Daniel Kapust, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

Machiavelli’s Prince was completed 500 years ago, and it – along with its author and his works – has been the subject of controversy ever since. The project of the seminar is a study of Machiavelli’s major writings, with some attention to their reception. Why has Machiavelli been so controversial, and what are these controversies? Machiavelli is one of the most important figures in early modern thought, while his dramatic and poetic works are of great importance in their own right. The broad aim of the seminar is to facilitate a cross-disciplinary encounter with Machiavelli. Devoting extra time to The Prince (1513) we propose to read Machiavelli’s primary written works in chronological order while incorporating specific, complementary critical studies representing the different disciplinary and hermeneutical approaches to Machiavelli. Texts include the Prince, Discourses, Mangragola, Clizia, Life of Castruccio Castracani, and The Art of War. Seminar participants will pursue three interrelated aims. First and foremost, participants will encounter Machiavelli’s life and times through his major works. Second, participants will encounter seminal works of Machiavelli scholarship from a variety of humanistic disciplines through introductory discussions by the faculty conveners. Third, participants will grapple with the questions Machiavelli himself – and his interpreters – have confronted: empire, republicanism, the limits of human agency, and the aims of literature.

The first meeting will address the topics and concerns of the seminar, introduce different disciplinary perspectives on Machiavelli through discussion, and give attention to trends in contemporary Machiavelli scholarship and applications of his thought. The majority of the subsequent meetings will center on particular texts from Machiavelli’s corpus, typically with reading of 50 pages per session. The proposed schedule of the seminar follows:

Week 1: Introductions
Week 2: Machiavelli, The Prince
Week 3: The Prince 
Week 4: The Prince
Week 5: Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy
Week 6: Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy
Week 7: Mandragola
Week 8: Clizia
Week 9: The Art of War (Selections), Life of Castruccio Castracani
Week 10: Conclusions

Participants should purchase their own copies of David Wooten's Machiavelli: Selected Political Writings (Hackett, 1994) and Mandragola.