Essay Questions Italian Renaissance

Instructions

Please select one of the three essay questions below (1, 2 or 3) and develop a 1000 word typed response for submission to your school team. Essays are due on February 13th, 2018. Finalists from each school will be read by Palazzo Strozzi committee members and participate in an interview process with the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation. Two winning students from each school will be awarded a chaperoned, all expenses paid three to four week trip to Florence, Italy this summer, to study art, history and the Renaissance.

To support the development of the essays, the Foundation has submitted required and recommended readings, as per the guidelines below. All materials are provided electronically by the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation.

Mandatory Readings about Renaissance for all Essay Topics
  1. The Italian Renaissance by J.H. Plumb
    • Dawn of the Renaissance (pgs. 6-19)
  2. The Italian Renaissance by J.H. Plumb

    Choose any one of the three following chapters:

    • The Young Michelangelo (pgs 192-205)
    • Lorenzo de’ Medici (pgs 206-221)
    • Leonardo da Vinci (pgs 222-237)
  3. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt
    • Part Three, The Revival of Antiquity, the Humanists (pgs. 1-4)
  4. Laudatio Florentinae Urbis or Panegyric to the City of Florence by Leonardo Bruni

Topic A – Galileo Galilei
“The growth of ideas and the development of mental attitudes are difficult to pinpoint in the course of history, but this, at least, can be said: the men of the Renaissance, by the range of their inquiries, by the freshness of their skepticism, and by the sharpness of their observation, gave impetus to, and helped to acquire intellectual acceptance for, the search for truth on earth instead of in heaven.”
- J. H. Plumb, The Italian Renaissance, American Heritage: 1961, NY, p 19.

“He (Galileo) realized at last that the authorities were not interested in truth but only in authority.” (Santillana, 257)

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was one of the most renowned and outstanding scientists in history. His discoveries on pendulum motion, his scientific method, his construction of the most advanced telescope of the time, discoveries of sunspots and heliocentric planetary motion were pivotal developments and contributions to modern science. His discoveries were possible because of the spirit of freedom and tolerance that was brought forward by the Renaissance. Yet bigotry, superstition, and religious traditionalism fought against his scientific discoveries and innovations, forcing him to disclaim his ideas, which he knew to be the truth.

Choose one of these questions for your essay:
Question 1
In our time we witness numerous public debates such as Creationism vs Evolutionism, and the conflicting views about the use of embryonic stem cell for research and treatment of incurable illnesses. What is your take on those or other similar debates? Do you think that the forces of superstition and bigotry that persecuted Galileo are still in existence today - even after many centuries of scientific progress and discovery?
In your response be sure to include:
a) A brief description and details of Renaissance history and ideas relevant to the subject you are focusing on.
b) How the reference to Galileo’s trial relates to your thesis and analysis.
c) Your opinion/recommendation about today’s ongoing debate about the relationship between science and religion and/or politics.
d) A formal conclusion.

Mandatory Readings for Question 1

  1. The Italian Renaissance by J.H. Plumb
    • a. Florence: Cradle of Humanism (pgs. 52-67)
  2. The Crime of Galileo by Giorgio de Santillana
    • a. Introduction (pgs. 1-4)
    • b. The Trial (pgs.237-260)
  3. The Earth Moves by Dan Hofstadter
    • a. The Summons (pgs. 17-26)
  4. How Scientific Progress Is Changing the Stem Cell Debate by Michael White, Pacific Standard Magazine
  5. Religion and the Public Ethics of Stem-Cell Research: Attitudes in Europe, Canada and the United States
    • a. Abstract
    • b. Introduction
      • i. Public Ethics
      • ii. Stem-Cell Research and Ethical Dilemmas for Policy Makers
    • c. The Present Research
    • d. Discussion
  6. Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Research by Theresa Phillips, The Balance

Download All Readings for Question 1

Question 2
Many societies have enjoyed the values of liberty, democracy and humanism after wars, hardships and persecutions of the 20th century. Nevertheless, today’s global society often seems confused and fragmented resulting, according to the author Samuel Huntington, in a “Clash of Civilizations”.
Do you think that the values of tolerance, freedom and humanism of the Renaissance could help bring and/or maintain hope for a bright, positive future for all?
In your response be sure to include:
a) A brief description and details of Renaissance history and ideas relevant to the subject you are focusing on.
b) One or more examples of conflict played out on a global basis.
c) Support your opinion on whether or not Renaissance values can help alleviate international tensions.
d) A formal conclusion.

Mandatory Readings for Question 2

  1. The Italian Renaissance by J.H. Plumb
    • a. Florence: Cradle of Humanism (pgs. 52-67)
  2. The Crime of Galileo by Giorgio de Santillana
    • a. Introduction (pgs. 1-4)
    • b. The Trial (pgs.237-260)
  3. The Earth Moves by Dan Hofstadter
    • a. The Summons (pgs. 17-26)

    Topic B – Architecture
    “I hear Filippo has started building and am all happiness that he will yet leave behind some memory of himself.” (Letter dated 21 August, 1489 from Lorenzo di Carlo in Avignon to Michelle, a Strozzi cousin).

    An excerpt of this letter is published by F. W. Kent, “Piu superba de quella de Lorenzo: Courtly and Family Interest in the Building of Filippo Strozzi’s Palace”, Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 30, No 3 (Autumn, 1977), p 314.

    Situated between Piazza Strozzi and via Tornabuoni in the heart of Florence, Palazzo Strozzi is one of the finest examples of Renaissance domestic architecture as well as a confident interoperation of the stylistic innovations introduced into Florence in the mid- fifteenth century. It was commissioned by the Florentine merchant Filippo Strozzi and the foundations were laid in 1489 according to a design by the architect Benedetto de Maiano. At dawn on the 6th of August that year, Filippo Strozzi wrote in his memoirs, “with the help of God and for the benefit of myself and that of all my descendants I began to build the aforementioned house, and lay the first stone of the foundations.” In addition he hoped that “the building perpetually serves as an abode for great, noble men of good will.” Finished in 1538, the Palazzo remained the property of the Strozzi family until 1937, and since 1999 has been managed by the city of Florence.
    In the fifteenth century, the Strozzi and other rich families in Florence broke with tradition and changed the face of the city by creating these spacious and imposing palazzi; prestigious buildings immediately recognizable in their urban context. It took Filippo Strozzi sixteen years, between 1473 and 1489, to acquire the land to build his future palazzo in the heart of the city, on the corner of via Tornabuoni and via Strozzi. Via Strozzi was laid out on one of Florence’s major Roman roads, whereas via Tornabuoni was one of the widest Florentine streets, habitually used for solemn processions. Undoubtedly a prestigious place to build one’s residence: “in the most convenient and most beautiful location in the city” – www.palazzostrozzi.org

    Download All Readings for Question 2

    Question 3
    One of the most important aspects of Palazzo Strozzi was its enormous scale, that is, its size relative to the surrounding buildings of the time. Another important aspect was the location of the chosen site, right in the center of town. A copy of Palazzo Strozzi has been built in New York City - it is the headquarters of the Federal Reserve bank on Wall Street. Its size and majesty, striking in Renaissance Florence, have been dwarfed in our modern era by the surrounding building, high towers and skyscrapers. New York has also produced some of its own daring construction, such as the Woolworth building on Broadway or the American Express Tower at 3 World Financial Center.
    Detroit’s architecture has also some buildings inspired by the Renaissance style, such as the Detroit Public Library and the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. In Los Angeles the most prominent representations of Renaissance style architecture are the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall, a multipurpose facility for meetings and conferences, and the Roosevelt Building, which houses one of the busiest Metro Red Line stations in downtown Los Angeles.
    Can you elaborate a parallel analysis between the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and the contemporary buildings in New York, Detroit or Los Angeles, in relation to their respective cities?
    In your response, be sure to include:
    a) A brief description and details from Renaissance architecture relevant to the subject you are focusing on.
    b) References that would relate to your thesis and analysis.
    c) A focus on a specific building in New York City, Detroit or Los Angeles, to support your point.
    d) A formal conclusion.


    Mandatory readings for Question 3

    1. The Italian Renaissance by J.H. Plumb
    2. Courtly and Family Interest in the Building of Palazzo Strozzi
    3. The Florentine Palace as Domestic Architecture by Richard Goldthwaite(Pgs. 977-989)
    4. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt
      • Part Three, the Revival of Antiquity, Introductory (pgs. 8-10)

Download All Readings for Question 3

Optional readings for all Questions

1. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt
a. Part Four, the Discovery of the World and of Man, Description of the Outward
Man (pgs. 5-7)
2. Italy in the Age of Renaissance 1300-1550 by John M. Najemy

Optional Reading for Question 1
1.Stem Cell Fast Facts, CNN Library

2.The Case of Embryonic Stem Cell Research by R. Alta Charo

Optional reading for Question 3
1. The Florentine Palace as Domestic Architecture by Richard Goldthwaite
(pgs. 990 - 1012)

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