R5B, Section 1: Session A (May 28 – July 5, 2019): The Man behind the Myth: Michelangelo

TuWTh 10-12:30 | Dwinelle 279 | Instructor: Kristen Keach

Units: 4

Michelangelo is one of the greatest artists of all time. Not only a skilled draftsman, but also he was an exceptional painter, sculptor, and architect. A prolific writer and poet to boot, Michelangelo was a true Renaissance master.  This course will go beyond studying his most famous works of art and delve into the mind and personality of the Renaissance master. Did fame effect Michelangelo physically and mentally? What emotional struggles did he face as a result of the public’s constant pressure for perfection? How did various patrons influence some of his greatest masterpieces? What role did religion play in his life and how was this manifested in his art and writings? How did Michelangelo express his love for close friends through letters and sonnets? In essence, who is the man behind the myth? During this course we will read texts by a wide variety of authors including Michelangelo, Ascanio Condivi, Giorgio Vasari, Benvenuto Cellini, Irving Stone, and Tamara Smithers.

By the end of the summer, we will have a better understanding of the complex life of Michelangelo. In this writing-intensive course, students will use critical reflections on the texts for two lengthy papers, developing these papers through a series of brainstorming assignments, drafts, in-class workshops, peer reviews, and revisions. In addition, students will complete shorter weekly reading responses and assignments devoted to specific elements of essay writing and research.

Learning Objectives:

Through this course, students will:

  • Develop effective reading strategies to help them think actively and critically about a specific text
  • Develop analytical writing and research skills that question the text.
  • Have a clear understanding of the life of Michelangelo in a broader context, beyond his artworks.
  • Question how Michelangelo’s personal, professional, and religious beliefs influenced his creative process and the history of the Italian Renaissance.


Texts include (All readings will be in English):

  • Ascanio Condivi, The Life of Michelangelo
  • Tamara Smithers, A Short Biography of Michelangelo
  • Michelangelo, Letters
  • A selection of sonnets from Michelangelo and Vittoria Colonna
  • Giorgio Vasari, The Life of Michelangelo
  • Excerpts from Benvenuto Cellini’s Autobiography
  • Excerpts from Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy
  • We will watch the film of The Agony and the Ecstasy (Reed, 1965) in its entirety

We also will read scholarly articles, view documentaries, and explore artworks to provide a broad understanding of the life and creations of Michelangelo.

Instructor pending appointment.

This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent. Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.