A2 Basic Other 1550 Folder Collection
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PROFESSOR 1: Hello and welcome to week four.
This week we continue with works that
are written in the dialogic presentation.
And hope we get into something really fun here.
Gender and education in the Renaissance.
And How Should Men and Women Be Educated?
And we think this is a really fun topic,
and have been talking about it a lot
before we made this recording.
So we hope to bring you into the fun of the discussion, as well.
PROFESSOR 2: And this is a very hot topic
during the Renaissance.
I mean the roles of men and women are always a hot topic.
But especially in this time period when
education was taking on new importance.
You have the rediscovery of all these classical texts.
You have lots of people that are trying
to renew the glories of ancient Greece and Rome.
And one of the most important ways to do that
is through education.
You have this whole group of people called the Humanists who
want to revive classical education.
And so in doing that, they have some tough questions
to try to deal with about who should receive that education,
and how that education should fit
into the social structure that's already set up.
So one of the texts that we are looking at--
and we're looking at only a very small piece of each
of these three texts-- please keep
in mind that all three of these books-- Castiglione's
The Book of the Courtier, Bruto's Education of a Young
Noblewoman, and Christine de Pisan's City of Ladies
are all much larger, longer books.
We are just taking a tiny, tiny slice of them.
So please don't feel like you understand them all from this.
Because there's so much more.
And if you're interested, there's so much more.
So Castiglione's book, The Courtier--
as your head notes to the reading
tells you-- was published in the early 1520s,
well, in the 1520s.
And it was supposedly the record of a conversation
that he had been part of-- or had witnessed at a court,
at a royal court back in Urbino, back when he was a diplomat.
And so we don't really know how much of this is made up,
or how much of this is actually true to what really happened.
But I don't think it really matters, actually,
because he captures these questions about courtly life
in the Renaissance, and specifically
about how to make it.
So in some ways this is like a political book
for aspiring government workers, aspiring presidents.
How do you become a perfect politician.
PROFESSOR 1: Aspiring philosopher kings, as it were.
And so Castiglione's book of the courtier
was very, very famous during its own time.
Lots and lots of people read it as a sort of success manual.
How do I make it?
How do I become successful during this time?
So that the setup of this book is
that a bunch of courtly ladies and gentlemen
are hanging out together at a court in Urbino.
And they're trying to figure how to pass the time one evening.
And so they come up with all these ideas
of what we might do, what kind of party games we might play.
And they say, you know, maybe we should
have everybody tell jokes.
And they said, no, that doesn't sound so fun.
Maybe we should talk about this.
Aw no, that doesn't sound so fun.
And somebody says, hey, I have an idea.
Why don't we talk about what we think the perfect courtier--
the perfect courtly gentleman-- would be like.
And everybody says, that sounds like a great idea.
We'll all take turns.
And so it's very, very much not just a dialogue,
because there's more than two people talking.
It's very much a conversation in which tons of different ideas
are floated out.
But several of them-- the ones we've
given to you in this handout-- seem to recur over and over.
Or at least the conversation seems
to agree on some of these things-- specifically the ones
that we've given you.
PROFESSOR 1: And I guess it's my turn to talk now.
I think it's important to remember
is that we are talking about people
living a political life here.
So a very particular class of society.
They're not talking about education in general for men
and for women, but education for the noble elite of society,
whose job it is to lead the country,
or to lead the kingdom.
PROFESSOR 2: Yeah, and it's interesting
that we would even have to say that,
because for most of human history, that's
the only people that were educated.
Those were the only people who were educated anyway.
So I mean, they don't feel the need
to say we're not talking about the lower classes here,
because lower classes just weren't educated.
But even their discussion is not so much about formal education
as it is about what-- it's about learning objectives.
About the skills and knowledge that someone
would need to develop in order to have
a successful career-- specifically
a successful career in the courts
and government of Renaissance Italy.
And so we have in the handout that you have, in the reading,
there are lots of different skills.
We could make a whole list of the different skill
that he thinks that a courtier should have,
all the way from the ability to use weapons,
to painting, to writing, speaking, to dancing, to music.
There's quite a list of general education requirements.
But the part that I would like to focus on, or draw
your attention to, is at the bottom
of page one, which talks about the method of education,
the way that this courtier gains his education.
It says, "Therefore, he who wishes
to be a good pupil, besides performing his tasks well,
must put forth every effort to resemble his master,
and if it were possible, to transform himself
into his master.
And when he feels that he's made some progress,
it will be very profitable to serve
different men of the same calling,
and governing himself with that good judgment which must ever
be disguised, to go about selecting now
this thing from one, and that thing from another."
And so this process of education is not
formal schooling in the sense of sitting down in a classroom
and having someone teach you these things,
so much it is finding people who know how to do what you want
to do, and watching them, imitating them, looking
at a bunch of different people, and learning
from a variety of teachers to cobble together the skills that
are going to be most necessary for your situation.
PROFESSOR 1: And these are social skills, too,
which I think are learned by imitation.
Think about high school.
When you were a freshman-- or any social situation.
But what came to my mind is we were just talking about that,
is a social hierarchy where you come in.
Let's say you're a freshman in high school,
and you're kind of geeky and don't really know what to do.
And you see the big, cool seniors and what they're doing.
I think this is something very important that humans do well.
We watch.
We see what somebody's doing.
We try on these personas.
How many different ways did you try to act, or dress,
or be when you were an adolescent?
We're glad we don't have pictures with us now.
But those are the things that people
do to try to rise in the social hierarchy.
And that's exactly what's being taught here--
rising in the social hierarchy within this particular
political class.
PROFESSOR 2: And it reminds me of [INAUDIBLE] second theory
about those intangible skills that you learned during college
that you might not learn anywhere else.
And I think about as a teacher how often
the things that my students learn from me
go way beyond content knowledge to how to manage their time,
how to write an email to a teacher that isn't insulting,
how to ask for help when necessary,
how to work with a team.
All these kinds of things that go
beyond learning calculus or learning American history.
We don't see the same sorts of discussion
and, I want to say justification,
for the subject matter here in the Renaissance
that we saw Socrates spelling out in the Glaucon
in The Republic.
PROFESSOR 1: There's certainly some similarities.
And I think it's fascinating to look at--
to do a little comparing and contrasting between what Plato
was presenting his ruling class in an ideal world
would be taught, and what Castiglione here is presenting
the ideal ruling class be taught.
Yeah, because there's a lot in common.
And Castiglione and his cronies here had certainly read Plato.
There was a big resurgence of Plato during this time.
But it is interesting that there isn't that same sort
of practical application of all these things.
I mean, you do have to learn how to use weapons
because you might duel.
I guess that's kind of practical.
You need to know how to defend yourself
with both a rapier, a dagger, and a pistol.
PROFESSOR 2: One other thing that I want to point out
is at the top of page two.
One of the most famous parts of this particular discussion
is Castiglione's emphasis on doing things naturally, doing
things with a sort of-- he called it nonchalance.
And the Italian word that he uses is a new word.
It's called sprezzatura.
I love that word.
And It means doing things as if they were easy,
or making them look easy.
And I think about how we value that in our own society
still, then when we watch Olympic athletes,
or when we watch ballet dancers, or singers,
that we want to think that it happens very naturally, that we
don't want to see the evidence of all the hard work.
When someone makes a mistake-- [GASP]
Oh, that's not supposed to happen.
It's supposed to be effortless somehow.
Although we still value the hard work that's put in,
we don't want it to look that way.
Think, for example, how upset people were when like,
you learn somebody's been lip syncing.
If we want to go back to my childhood, when I learned
that Donnie and Marie lip sync--
PROFESSOR 2: And then Milli Vanilli.
Milli Vanilli.
And more recently the orchestra that
played during the presidential inauguration, Obama's
presidential inauguration.
It was so cold, their instruments
literally would not stay in tune.
And anyone who knows the fine instruments knows that.
But the people were just outraged
that they were playing along and faking it to a recording.
Because we want things to be natural.
Theses are talented musicians.
They should be able to play without-- regardless
of the weather.
And I think about even in school now-- I have a fourth grade
son-- and it's not enough that he know the times tables,
he has to be able to do them very quickly.
And so, I mean, surely that has practical application.
But you know, the ACT test, and SAT test,
it's not just that you can get the answer,
you have to be able to do it quickly.
This has to be something natural and innate to you.
It can't take too much work on your part,
or it doesn't have the same kind of value for our society.
Which I think is very interesting.
PROFESSOR 1: And we could talk about this for a lot longer,
but we better move on.
PROFESSOR 2: So hopefully, you'll
get a chance to read this very carefully to look at the things
that he requires of his courtier-
or that the conversationalist-- I guess not Castiglione
necessarily, asks for them to do.
One of the things that Steph and I were talking about before we
started this video was the fact that he isn't learning law,
he's not learning medicine, he's not learning accounting,
he's not learning any of the trades,
I guess, that have become prestigious in our own time,
when you talk about someone's education.
He doesn't seem to be training for any kind of career
at all, although the men in these conversations
did go on to become really important people
in Italian politics, Italian church leadership.
And so this is a broad-based liberal education in many ways.
PROFESSOR 1: Or the leaders who aren't
going to make a living-- their living
is taken care of for them.
So they don't have to worry about that.
PROFESSOR 2: Their living is taken care of for them
as long as they continue to please the right people.
PROFESSOR 1: Oh, that's right.
As long as they are in favor.
That's right.
So did you say this already, that we're
talking about the second tier?
PROFESSOR 2: I didn't say that.
PROFESSOR 1: We're talking about the people who have to please--
and this is mentioned-- you must please your Master,
you must please your Mistress.
And that's not in terms of one as a servant,
but they are courtiers who are loyal to the ruler.
They're trying to move into those positions of power.
And most of these guys eventually do.
And women, eventually do.
But right now they are in a place
where they have to impress the right people.
They have to balance their desire
to be reformers, of course, at the same time
that they have to kind of kowtow to the people in charge.
And so they're walking a very fine line,
just as most people entering a new career are.
When you come in, and you say, I've got a college education.
And your company is doing everything wrong.
And I'm gonna fix it.
You're not gonna last very long, probably.
So the soft skills that are so important.
So I guess although the specific job training is missing,
that the focus on effective communication,
things that we talked about in class, are there.
PROFESSOR 1: For your career as a politician.
All right.
And so then in the book, in Castiglione's Book
of the Courtier, it's actually separated
into four separate books.
The first two books talk about the courtly gentleman.
And the third book talks about the courtly lady.
And you have some passages about that here.
PROFESSOR 1: And so one of my favorites--
because I just love to take varying views on what
the gender roles are-- as I read through this on page four,
after we've gone through how women in many ways
should have a similar education to men,
but they need to be dainty.
They need to be very unlike a man physically.
They need to always be sweet and soft,
and must, above all, be beautiful,
because if you're not beautiful, you've
pretty much lost all your credibility.
Is this paragraph on page four that
starts with the brackets, the court lady saying
that she must have not only the good sense to discern
the quality of him with whom she is speaking, but knowledge
of many things in order to entertain him graciously.
And in her talks she should come to know
how to choose those things that are adapted
to the quality of him with whom she is speaking,
and should be cautious, lest occasionally,
without intending it, she utter words that may offend him.
And it goes on.
And so my first reaction as someone
who teaches freshman writing, is, well
she has to know her audience.
She's supposed to know how to speak to this man.
But then she must please him.
And I'm like, oh, I put up with having
to listen to enough bores in my life, that at this point
I'm thinking, oh really?
But then as we were talking here over lunch,
we realized that we're talking about someone
who must play the role of a diplomat.
She is a hostess.
She is in court where there are probably
people with a lot of competing interests.
There are men who may break into a duel
with their various weapons with which they're skilled to use.
But she has to find a way to maintain the peace,
maintain the conversation, maintain
the facade of the social gathering, whatever's
going on at that time.
And so this is a really important skill.
And we made a joke about, well, how many times
does Hillary Clinton have to do this as the Secretary of State?
Does she have to put up with someone that she doesn't really
want to talk nicely to, but she does.
And you I think, see this in diplomatic circles
as an important skill for maintaining the peace.
PROFESSOR 2: And in fact, during the Renaissance,
often educated women were used in this diplomatic role.
For instance, at one point the King of France
came to Venice to visit.
And they found one of the educated ladies of the town,
and brought her to talk with him as proof
of their civilization in Venice, as proof
that they were worthy of being allies.
And I think it's especially interesting
that they would choose a woman for a role like that,
because of these exact skills that Castiglione's
talking about here.
Knowing how to talk to the person in the right terms.
I mean, these are networking skills.
And this is still essential.
And it makes me think where's the class where
we learn this in school?
I'm not sure.
Do we learn that in Communications?
PROFESSOR 1: Perhaps.
It isn't oral communication still, though.
So perhaps UF100 is the place for it now.
PROFESSOR 2: As least we can start talking about it.
And I think it's Interesting.
I think the first time I read Castiglione's book,
I got my myself all offended, because he
said that a women should be very unlike a man in all
these things.
But as I read through it, I think
that he's very shrewd in talking about the ways
that a women, especially in this time period,
could leverage her position and her abilities
to also be in a position of power, a position
to gain power.
And at the end of that paragraph that Steph was reading,
it says, "And perhaps should be worthy to be placed side
by side with this great courtier as well in qualities
of the mind as in those of the body."
And that's a very progressive thought,
that he's not saying that it's just her beauty that
is valuable, or even just her conversational skills.
But this is a mental-- this is mental training
to be able to judge audience, to be able to speak correctly
based on the audience.
I mean, this kind of good judgment that he talks about
with the courtier is also central to the lady.
And also something that I hope that a college education helps
to foster is that critical thinking, that judgment.
So we talked a little bit about how
she's both different and similar.
He really emphasizes that a women should act womanly.
And a man should act manly, whatever that means.
PROFESSOR 1: Women can't play drums, fifes, or trumpets.
And they shouldn't dance with wild, jerky movements,
But the gracefulness that he requires of her
is similar to the gracefulness that he
requires of the courtier.
So it's not so different in that way.
Now in contrast to this progressive view,
we have this passage from Giovanni Michele Bruto's
Education of a Young Noblewoman.
And this is not a dialogue.
This is more of a self-help book,
guess for parents of young noblewomen,
to try to decide what kind of education they should have.
Should they educated like their brothers?
Should the same tutors that come in and teach their brothers
Latin, and Greek, and poetry teach the young women as well?
Or is that kind of education-- well
he claims, of course, that it's inappropriate.
PROFESSOR 1: Wasted on them.
Well, it might make you virtueless.
PROFESSOR 1: Is that a word?
PROFESSOR 2: It is now.
I think it's interesting that in this passage-- and this
is the most often quoted passage from his much, much, much
longer book.
But in this passage he says that it is not
meet-- so not appropriate-- nor convenient.
And I interpret that to mean helpful, that it really
doesn't do women any good, according to Bruto,
to have this kind of humanist, liberal arts education
because, first of all, only reasons he could think
of for it would be one-- to make money.
And women aren't supposed to be making
money in this time period.
At least not women of the noble classes.
And then second-- for recreation.
And he worried that the kind of recreation
that this kind of education would give the woman
would-- like you said-- would corrupt her.
PROFESSOR 1: They're afraid that--
I'm trying to find the line here where basically he says that
she would--
PROFESSOR 2: The subtle and shameless lovers?
Subtle and shameless lovers.
Cunning and skillful writers.
And something-- we've decided that these people are all
PROFESSOR 2: Well it's interesting
that he connects poetry and loose women.
And he was not the only one during this time to do that.
That when a woman was sharing her education
with other people, it was like sharing her body
with other people.
And that was considered to be a bad thing.
Just like we consider that, in general,
in our society to be a bad thing.
PROFESSOR 1: Not the sharing of your poetry.
But it's interesting that he sees
those things going together.
And this was not just Bruto.
He is not an isolated case of people
who were concerned that if a woman received
the same education as a man, not only would she
become dissatisfied with her life, with her lot in life,
with her assigned role of being the mistress of-- what's
he talk about?
PROFESSOR 1: A household?
PROFESSOR 2: Of a household.
The government of her household and family.
She would be dissatisfied with that,
but also that she would lose her morals.
She would become morally corrupt.
PROFESSOR 1: That great hurt and damage would be done to them.
And it's more convenient to be using
the distaff, and the spindle, and the needle,
and the thimble, if you want a good and honest reputation.
And it's interesting that he even qualifies this last part,
that writing versus is not a good thing if it's
more about beautiful speech then about virtue.
And hopefully by now in the semester virtue
is a very loaded word for you.
But you could read this in the platonic sense too.
That he's afraid she'll get so caught up
in the fun of writing and writing beautiful things that
is won't be about being good anymore.
And I don't know what he would have
said about men's education, because we don't have
the book that he wrote about that.
But I don't know if there was a similar emphasis on good,
on being good.
But there was certainly-- well I guess back to Castiglione,
he said it's not just about speaking well.
It's about saying things that are worthy of being said.
And so there's the emphasis on-- but the word virtue doesn't
really come up there.
And then our last contrast here is
the writing of Christine de Pisan.
And Christine de Pisan is a century before these other two
So we're doing this a little bit out of chronological order.
Technically, she's a late medieval--
in the late Middle Ages.
She's not considered to be Renaissance writer.
Her book takes place a century before Castiglione's book.
And again, it's a dialogue with her talking with reason.
PROFESSOR 1: And she's talking not with real people,
as in Castiglione, but she brought
in the Lady Reason, Lady Rectitude, and Lady Justice.
So these are goddesses?
Do I want to call them that?
PROFESSOR 2: You could call them that.
That's what our headnote calls them.
PROFESSOR 1: So they're divine beings of some sort.
Well, we still see Lady Justice and Lady Liberty.
We still see them as feminine embodiments.
We have the Statue of Liberty.
We have the statues of Justice, blindfolded,
holding the scales.
They're all women.
And so it's a very interesting situation
to set up, to have a dialogue with.
And I like the exploratory nature of it.
It does seem much more Socratic to me.
PROFESSOR 2: Although she does set these goddesses up
as spokespeople for God.
PROFESSOR 1: That's true.
PROFESSOR 2: She's asking them what God thinks.
And these women are able to speak for God.
So I guess that's a sort of religious tradition
as well, having these sort of intercessory figures
that are often women, like the Virgin Mary,
or something, that can speak on behalf of God, about what God
thinks about stuff.
PROFESSOR 1: So God must trust them a lot.
PROFESSOR 2: Sounds like it.
PROFESSOR 1: Trust them to get it right.
So we're going to the highest authority here.
And I think it's interesting that this format allows
Christine to just be the humble seeker of answers.
I mean, she's not being this strident feminist and saying,
women should do this.
And women should do this.
She says, can you tell me why?
Can you tell me whether this is a good idea?
PROFESSOR 1: So she's speaking gracefully,
and with sweetness and softness.
PROFESSOR 2: And appropriate to her audience.
So she starts out in the section that we
have asking Lady Reason, "Please enlighten me again. [INAUDIBLE]
ever please this God who has bestowed so many
favors on women to honor the feminine sex with the privilege
of the virtue of high understanding
and great learning, and whether women ever
have a clever enough mind for this.
I wish very much to know this, because men maintain
that the mind of women can only learn a little."
And so I think it's interesting she
actually two things going on.
First of all, is it OK for women to be educated?
And then, can women handle it?
Is it going to be too much for them?
PROFESSOR 1: And the answer is quickly, well of course
they can handle it.
The opposite of those men's opinion is true.
And then Lady Reason says, "I will give you proof
through examples.
If it were customary to send daughters to school like sons,
and if they were taught the natural sciences,
they would learn as thoroughly and understand the subtleties
of all the arts and sciences as well as sons."
So basically saying, if the education is the same,
women are as capable of learning things as men.
And she goes even a little farther than that though,
to say that because women's bodies are
more delicate and weak, then their minds
are sharper and freer when they get the opportunity.
So there's sort of nature-- she's
suggesting at least, that nature makes up for women's weaker
bodies by giving them sharper minds.
PROFESSOR 1: Which is interesting,
because we see a tradition going even back to Plato that you
must have sound bodies to be evidence of your sound mind.
She sets up a little contrast here.
But certainly talks about women's
lack of education in her time being a matter of custom--
misguided custom-- not a matter of biological inability.
There were certainly people during this time,
and during other times, that thought that women were
incapable of learning, that their brains
would become overheated.
That it would affect their ability to have children.
PROFESSOR 1: Yes I remember-- my great grandmother, who
was going to high school in the early part of the 20th century,
was told at her high school, women
were not allowed to take physics.
She enrolled anyway.
But they were not allowed to take physics,
because that was bad for their body.
You might not be able to have children.
PROFESSOR 2: And here you are.
PROFESSOR 1: I know.
She did only have one child.
And that child was prevented from taking physical education,
because 20 years later, with the next generation,
well, they didn't want women's frail bodies
out there hardening themselves, because that might make it hard
for them to have children.
And yet the species manages to persevere.
PROFESSOR 2: Somehow.
Although, like Steph and I were talking before about how
this gets really complicated, these
issues about education, and women having children,
and the fact that the more educated women are, the fewer
children they tend to have, and whether that's a good thing
or not.
And we don't know.
PROFESSOR 1: It probably depends on which country you live in.
PROFESSOR 2: Certainly.
And the circumstances under which you're living.
PROFESSOR 1: Absolutely.
There's just not a clear, easy answer for anything, is there?
PROFESSOR 2: But like Plato says,
I think that the opportunity to ask these questions,
and to deal with them-- oh.
My phone's ringing in the background.
But to talk about these thins is of value in itself.
And I guess while Jen is shutting of her answering
machine, I'll talk a little bit more.
What I think is fun is to look at the issues
that we're addressing now.
They're hundreds of years old, and they still
provoke a lot of conversation.
And there's issues that we still try to wrestle with.
I mean, it's easy to come down and say yes, absolutely.
Women and men should be educated exactly the same.
Or it's easy to say, no.
There's some really important differences.
And this is what they are.
And there should be some differences
in the way people are educated in order
to the way they should act in society.
But the question that we keep going back
to here in both the Renaissance and medieval
readings we're reading for this week,
and then also the week before in The Republic,
are these questions of how society
is supposed to function.
And especially we're looking at the ruling levels of society.
So it's these questions move beyond individual fulfillment
and into your role as a citizen in a larger society.
And that's a really excellent point, partly
for a bunch of reasons, but I think
partly because when Bruto is talking
about his reasons for women not to be educated,
it's not about what necessarily will make her happy.
PROFESSOR 2: It's about what's going to be good, right?
How we want things to run.
And that, in his time, women do not govern.
They do not run society.
So why would she learn about law and government?
And then even the examples that Christine de Pisan
gives here, I think it's interesting that she really
takes into account that they are women.
For instance, the story about Hortensia,
and the fact that she uses her legal knowledge
and her argumentative skills in order to fight against a law
that would harm women, or a tax on jewelry.
I think, oh, well, that's interesting
that it becomes a feminine concern
that she's fighting for.
And the other story, that the woman
has to be concerned about the effect of her beauty
on the students, and draw that veil behind them, because maybe
that would be distracting.
Maybe it would make it harder for them to learn.
if they have this beautiful woman in front of them
in a class full of young men, perhaps.
PROFESSOR 1: With no self-control, apparently.
PROFESSOR 2: Well, and that goes to this discussion
we were having about are the terms of the argument still
the same in our day and age?
Do we argue about what subjects boys and girls should
be learning?
Or do we argue about the method?
Because it does seem that there's
been quite a bit of research that's come out lately
that suggests that boys and girls do not learn the same.
And that the learning styles in classrooms
often benefit girls more than boys.
And so maybe we're having a similar discussion,
but it's not about subject matter so much as more
about methods.
And I suppose I should have something
really smart to say right now.
But I don't.
PROFESSOR 2: Well that's the end of our thing.
So you can think about it.
So we don't have answers for you.
We have just a lot of questions, as usual.
Have fun thinking about them.
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Gender and Education in the Renaissance

1550 Folder Collection
Sū-guân Âng published on June 22, 2015
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