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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jolynn Edwards
BIS 373
Bothell Campus

Cultural History of Rome

Intense study of the urban space of Rome as a cultural center from its origins to the modern era. Examines Roman influence over time covering the republican, imperial, and papal phases of this city as illustrated through the visual record of buildings, gardens, sculpture, mosaics, and paintings.

Class description

Rome functions on both historical and symbolic levels. We will be investigating the city's spaces as they expand and contract through history, highlighting major political events and key writers, architects and artists responding and contributing to the built Roman environment. The essential metaphor of the class is the palimpsest, in which we imagine present-day Rome as layered down to its foundations containing all the buildings, streets, aqueducts, and gardens from its beginning through time simultaneously. It is up to us to peel back the layers and come to an understanding of the city through district-by-district "close reading." In terms of urban theory, Rome is a spectacle city. Historically, it functioned as the political and religious center during ancient times, and the Christian center for Catholic Europe through the Counter Reformation and into the modern era. By the eighteenth century, when our journey will end, Rome's religious importance had been augmented as a tourist destination for artists, writers, and people of means on the Grand Tour.

Among the questions that we will address are: what makes a city great? What are the political, economic, social, legal, cultural factors that contribute to its greatness? Is Rome a consumer or a producer city? What is its position as a utopia of man's achievements or a distopia of his ills? How do we account for the continuity or discontinuity of a city that is 2500 years old? In what ways does the modern, first world city replicate Rome's historic successes and failures?

Student learning goals

become familiar with Rome's history over time

learn to recognize its extant urban monuments and analyze their importance to the growth of the cityscape and their contributions at key historical moments

become conversant in the architectural, pictorial, and sculptural languages of the city

through various class discussions and projects build up an understanding the the Eternal City in a "portrait" of Rome

articulate insights into the city's history through group discussion, analyzing assigned readings and synthesizing your knowledge

General method of instruction

We will be using lectures and discussion of readings--both in full and small groups, and group presentations for each of the first 14 districts (rioni) of the city, with each student taking a specific building or site to reveal its historical accretions.

There is an extensive password-protected website for the class to access for visual images, hotlinks to other sites, syllabus, reserve reading and video lists, and assignments.

Recommended preparation

Some European art history or history class with knowledge of architecture and chronology of political events would be helpful. We'll also be delving into literary texts, so some background in literature would be useful as well.

Class assignments and grading

There will be two exams, two short written assignments, and individual or group projects at the end of the quarter.

Oral participation, exams, written work, and rione project.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jolynn Edwards
Date: 11/14/2013