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HIS 250 — The Trial of Galileo: An MLA-Style Course

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Tuesdays
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Date(s): Apr 12—May 31
Duration: 8 weeks
Drop By
Drop Deadline: Apr 25
Unit(s): 1 Units
Tuition: $395
Format: On-campus course
Limit: Limit 18
Status: Pre-approval required
prior to enrollment
Interested students are required to join the wait list, and if eligible for the course, will be emailed a link allowing them to complete registration online.

In 1633, the Italian mathematician Galileo was tried and condemned for advocating that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the cosmos. The Catholic Church did not formally admit that Galileo was right until 1992. This course examines the many factors that led to the trial of Galileo and looks at multiple perspectives on this signal event in the history of science and religion. We will consider the nature of intellectual heresy in the 16th and early 17th centuries, including the case of Galileo’s infamous predecessor Giordano Bruno (burned at the stake in 1600). Looking closely at documents surrounding the trial and related literature on Renaissance and Reformation Italy, our goal is to understand different perspectives on this famous event. What, in the end, were the “crimes” of Galileo?

This course aims to introduce those who are strongly interested in pursuing a degree in the Master of Liberal Arts Program to the kind of seminar they would likely encounter in the program. Students will face the same kind of intellectual challenges, the same kind of opportunities to engage in weekly discussion, and the same kind of stimulus to write persuasive research essays.

The course is open to students who have not previously enrolled in an MLA-style course through Stanford Continuing Studies (courses include PHI 200, LIT 200, LIT 223, LIT 225, LIT 226, and CLS 83). Students are required to take this course for Credit, submit written work, and contribute to class discussions, as happens in all MLA seminars. However, this course may not be taken for a Letter Grade, though students’ written work will receive extensive feedback from the instructor.

For more information on the MLA Program, please visit mla.stanford.edu.

Paula E. Findlen, Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History and Department Chair, Stanford

Paula Findlen received a PhD from UC Berkeley and has taught at UC Davis and Harvard. Her main interests are Italy in the age of Galileo and the scientific revolution. She has written on many aspects of the early history of science and medicine, and writes regularly for The Nation.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Mario Biagioli, Galileo Courtier (ISBN 978-0226045603)
(Required) Robert Blackwell, Galileo, Bellarmine and the Bible (ISBN 978-0268010270)
(Required) Bucciantini,Camerota,Giudice, Galileo’s Telescope (ISBN 978-0674736917)
(Required) Maurice Finocchiaro (Editor), The Essential Galileo (ISBN 978-0872209374)
(Required) Maria Celeste Galilei, Letters to Father (ISBN 978-0142437155)
(Required) Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms (ISBN 978-1421409887)
(Required) Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (ISBN 978-0674171039)
(Required) Ingrid Rowland, Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic (ISBN 978-0226730240)