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Italy Trip

In 2011, the ITALY TRIP, takes all AY and first year BA students to Florence, taking place at the beginning of the Spring term. Preparation for the trip begins as part of the new Core course: Forms of Love: Eros, Agape and Philia. Against this background in the study of Christianity, the course on The Values of the Florentine Renaissance creates the forum for a term-long meditation on an intensive initial encounter with Florence as total work of art. With the physical reality of the city fresh in their memory, students turn to reading Dante, Machiavelli, Alberti, Boccaccio, and other authors crucial for understanding the period and its aesthetic objects. Works of art viewed in situ with an 'innocent eye' are studied and discussed in seminars each week with increased awareness of their context and implications. In Florence, faculty members lead tours for groups of students. Upon returning to Berlin students prepare presentations on a work of art they have viewed in Florence to present at the end of the term.

The goal of the course is to make the traditional pilgrimage to Florence more meaningful by combining it with a prolonged reflection on fundamental questions about art which this particular period and place confronts us with so powerfully. These questions include: What sort of claim does art make on us? Does it make demands at all, or are we as human beings free to engage with art on any terms we like, or even to live a life without any real contact with art? Is the reception of art always historically conditioned? If so, does our response as viewers become richer and more meaningful when we become better historians? Is there value-free reasoning about art, or is thinking about art irreducibly aesthetic, and thus thoroughly embedded in aesthetic values, however defined? Are the creation of and response to works of art ipso facto ways of knowing?