Cultural history through the arts with emphasis on the era of early European expansion into Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Focuses on parts of the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, Islamic spheres of the ancient Near East and Africa, the Aztec and Inca cultures, Ming China, and Muromachi Japan.
This course has a broad sweep of cultural artifacts produced by the dominant civilizations around the world at the moment of first European explorations. The students will get exposure to and gain mastery of literary and visual texts within the larger cultural frameworks. We cannot visit all the major cultural centers, but we do get a taste for the value systems and accomplishments in the arts and letters of diverse world civilizations: Renaissance Europe, Ottoman Turkey, Mayan and Aztec Mesoamerica, Ming Dynasty China, and Muramachi and Momoyama Japan.
Student learning goals
1. Learn to see a slice of world history through its cultural productions, half a millenium ago.
2. Consider the issue of globalization as a continuing human enterprise, rather than something unknown until recent history.
3. Get the sense of the diversity of world cultures and perspectives, in addition to the Eurocentric or Ameri-centric paradigms.
4. Be able to do critical thinking about, and close reading of, canonic literary texts from different cultures.
5. Be able to do critical evaluation of visual artifacts (description and analysis) and answer the perennial question, “why does it look the way it does?”
6. Engage in cross-cultural comparisons in examining literature and visual art.
General method of instruction
We have lecture/discussions, augmented by small group and plenary sessions around assigned readings. There are two sites to augment learning: 1) MDID for visual images and 2) Blackboard for class-specific information.
Any humanities or history class will be helpful, plus students with a background in foreign language gives the class a distinctive flavor, as students contribute from their own experiences to the larger discussions of readings and visual artifacts.
Class assignments and grading
There will be three take-home exams, comprising short answer and essay format. In addition, the students will create personalized on-line "galleries of artistic objects," representing the cultures we are studying. Each exhibition will be curated along museum standards and posted on our common website for critique and enjoyment from the rest of the class.
Grades will reflect the in-class work we do together in discussion of our literary and visual materials, plus three exams, and the term project exhibition gallery.