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Learning Laboratory: Prof. Brenton Hobart Compares Historical Plagues and The Covid-19 Outbreak

In this episode of the Learning Laboratory video series, Professor Brenton Hobart discussed the similarities and differences between life during historical plagues and the current Covid-19 pandemic. Hobart begins by explaining the story of Saint Sebastian, and his popularity in the Middle Ages as a defender against plagues. He then continues by exploring what life was like during historical plagues in comparison with life now during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Hobart touches on the speed at which information was spread then and today, the creative cures of the medieval ages, and the ways in which confinement was much more isolating in historic periods than it is now.


Professor Hobart began teaching at The American University of Paris in 2008 while working on doctoral degrees at both Harvard University and the Université de Paris-Sorbonne. At AUP, he teaches within the departments of Comparative Literature and French Studies, and in the English Writing Program. Recent courses include The Bible, Shakespeare in Context, The Fantastic Nature of Things, and The World, the Text and the Critic I. He has also taught courses on English and American literature, French and francophone language and literature, translation, cultural studies, and American history and civilization at institutions including the Université de Paris Nanterre, the Université d’Orléans, the Université de Cergy-Pontoise, the Institut d’Études Politiques (Lille), the Institut catholique de Paris and Harvard University.

His first book, La Peste à la Renaissance (Classiques Garnier, 2020), studies the literary representations of epidemics known as plague in 16th-century France, exploring how French authors perpetuate the idea of the disease through their translations of classical, biblical and medieval texts, while intertwining imitation, personal experience and invention in their own writings. His publications include studies on poetry and prose from Classical Antiquity in 15th- and 16th-century translation, the Bible, early Christian writings and the writers of the Reformation, medieval medical writings, as well as a variety of Renaissance genres in works by Boccaccio (novella), Clément Marot (poetry), François Rabelais (novel), Nostradamus (prophecy), Pierre Boaistuau (compilation), Ambroise Paré (medical treatise), Étienne de La Boétie (political discourse), Michel de Montaigne (essay and travel literature) and Agrippa d’Aubigné (epic poetry). He is currently working on a second monograph covering the works of Rabelais.