Honors 182-19: Leonardo da Vinci (2008)

Spring 2008
MW 3:10-4:25

Prof. Michael Bess
208 Benson
322-3340
michael.d.bess@vanderbilt.edu
Office Hours:
MW 2-3; F 2-4

 

Course Description

In this seminar we will explore the life, ideas, and works of one of humanity’s most remarkable figures, the Florentine genius Leonardo da Vinci. We will contemplate the full breadth and depth of Leonardo’s achievements, which ranged famously across painting, sculpture, architecture, engineering, botany, anatomy, philosophy, theater, psychology, cartography, mechanics, music, and military technology – to name just the most obvious areas. My goal is for us to come closer to understanding how Leonardo’s mind worked, what made him “tick”, and perhaps most importantly, what we can learn from him that applies to living our own lives as thinking persons today. Is the ideal of the Renaissance Man, of the Universal Mind, hopelessly outdated in our age of hyper-specialized research and scholarship? Or, to the contrary, is that ideal all the more relevant precisely because we live in a world of specialized fields of inquiry? What is living, and what is dead, in the example of Leonardo da Vinci today?

The course will be divided into three thematic parts:

I. The life and works of Leonardo

II. Critical scrutiny of the project of emulating Leonardo today

III. Peer review of each other’s research projects

Readings

– Martin Kemp, Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvelous Works of Nature and Man (Oxford, 2006)

Also available online as an e-book through Acorn:

<http://acorn.library.vanderbilt.edu/uhtbin/cgisirsi/qky972LhXH/CENTRAL/204650116/9>

– Charles Nicholl, Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind (Viking, 2004)

– Martin Kemp, Seen/Unseen: Art, Science, and Intuition from Leonardo to the Hubble Telescope (Oxford, 2006)

– Michael J. Gelb, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day (Delta Books, 1998)

Assignments, Grading

You should ALWAYS finish each day’s assigned reading before class meets on Monday or Wednesday. In order to carry out a satisfying discussion, it is essential that all students come to class well-prepared to contribute their thoughts and observations on the readings. I encourage you to take notes on the readings as you go along; this will also help you considerably when you are writing your research project.

Each student will be asked to choose one class session during the semester in which he or she will start off the discussion with a 10-15 minute analytical report on that day’s reading.

There will be no examinations in this course. Written assignments will include a one-page topic proposal for your research project, an 8-10 page research project, fourteen one-page (single-spaced) peer reviews of the first drafts of the research projects written by your fellow students; a revised version (8-10 pages) of your research project; and a final one-page reflective essay on what you have learned in this course. Late assignments will be penalized at the rate of 5% per day. Peer review essays will receive no credit if they are handed in late.

Semester grades will be determined according to the following percentages:

Discussion participation and oral presentations:                      15%

Topic proposal paper (1 page):                                                7%

Research project, first polished (not rough!) draft:      25%

1-page peer reviews: 2% each x 14 =                          28%

Research project, revised draft:                                               20%

1-page “What have I learned?” essay:                         5%

All assignments for this course will be governed by Vanderbilt’s honor code. Please read carefully the description of the honor code in the student handbook and the section on plagiarism in the writing guidelines for this course. If you have any questions about this very important matter, please come and discuss them with me.

Course Schedule

Part I. The Life and Works of Leonardo

Week 1

Wednesday, Jan. 9 — Intro and overview; hand out Palmer excerpt; discuss research project                                    topics; start film: Leonardo da Vinci

Week 2

Monday, Jan. 14 — Finish film: Leonardo da Vinci; discuss film; Palmer handout; Kemp 1-35.

Wednesday, Jan. 16 — Discuss Kemp 35-70; Nicholl part 1

Week 3

Monday, Jan. 21 —  Discuss Kemp 71-100; Nicholl part 2

Wednesday, Jan. 23 — Discuss Kemp 100-137; Nicholl part 3

Week 4

Monday, Jan. 28 — Discuss Kemp 138-168; Nicholl part 4

Wednesday, Jan. 30 — Discuss Kemp 168-204; Nicholl part 5

First paper due: research topic proposal (1 page single-spaced): Wednesday, Jan. 30 (copies to classmates)

Week 5

Monday, Feb. 4 Discuss Kemp 204-235; Nicholl part 6

Wednesday, Feb. 6 — Discuss Kemp 235-271; Nicholl part 7

Week 6

Monday, Feb. 11 — Discuss Kemp 271-305; Nicholl part 8

Wednesday, Feb. 13 —  Discuss Kemp 305-349; Seen/Unseen chapter 1

Week 7

Monday, Feb. 18 —  Discuss Seen/Unseen chapters 2, 3

Wednesday, Feb. 20 —  Discuss Seen/Unseen chapter 6

Week 8

Monday, Feb. 25 — Discuss Seen/Unseen chapter 10, Conclusion

Part II. Critical Scrutiny of the Project of  Emulating Leonardo Today

Week 9

Wednesday, Feb. 27 — Discuss Gelb 1-75

Spring Break

Week 10

Monday, March 10 — Discuss Gelb 76-141

Wednesday, March 12 — Discuss Gelb 142-191

Week 11

Monday, March 17 —  Discuss Gelb 192-261

Part III. Peer review of research projects

Wednesday, March 19 — Discuss Gelb 262-310. Paper swap. First polished draft of your research project (8-10 pages) due. Please bring one double-spaced, one-sided copy for me and 14 single-spaced double-sided copies for your classmates

Week 12

Monday, March 24 — In-class peer review of two students’ research projects. (Each student hands in 1-page peer review of the two projects under discussion today. No late peer reviews accepted.)

Wednesday, March 26 — In-class peer review of two students’ research projects. (Each student hands in 1-page peer review of the two projects under discussion today. No late peer reviews accepted.)

Week 13

Monday, March 31 — In-class peer review of two students’ research projects. (Each student hands in 1-page peer review of the two projects under discussion today. No late peer reviews accepted.)

Wednesday, April 2 — In-class peer review of two students’ research projects. (Each student hands in 1-page peer review of the two projects under discussion today. No late peer reviews accepted.)

Week 14

Monday, April 7 — In-class peer review of two students’ research projects. (Each student hands in 1-page peer review of the two projects under discussion today. No late peer reviews accepted.)

Wednesday, April 9 — In-class peer review of two students’ research projects. (Each student hands in 1-page peer review of the two projects under discussion today. No late peer reviews accepted.)

 

Week 15

Monday, April 14 — In-class peer review of two students’ research projects. (Each student hands in 1-page peer review of the two projects under discussion today. No late peer reviews accepted.)

Wednesday, April 16 — In-class peer review of two students’ research projects. (Each student hands in 1-page peer review of the two projects under discussion today. No late peer reviews accepted.)

Week 16

Monday, April 21 — Closing discussion: What have I learned?

* April 21: One-page single-spaced reflection essay due: What have I learned? (Copies to classmates)

* Revised research project due in Bess’s mailbox in History Dept., by 3 pm, Wed. April 23