ART H 400
Courses on special topics, frequently by visiting faculty, which cannot be offered on a continuing basis. Consult art history office for subjects offered.
Our modern era, with its dizzying proliferation of images in popular culture, advertisement, and cyberspace, has often been described as a civilization of the image. Yet this modern emphasis on the visual is part of a long history in which the Middle Ages played a fundamental role. By circumventing the biblical prohibition against the making and veneration of “graven" images and by giving figural form to the divine, Medieval Christianity opened up unprecedented possibilities for visual expression. It invested images with critical roles as embodiments of power, active social agents, and instruments of knowledge and self-representation. Covering a broad chronological span from the reign of Constantine the Great to the advent of the Protestant Reformation and addressing the cultures of both the Byzantine East and the Latin West, this seminar will explore the medieval concepts of the image as well as the beliefs, practices, and attitudes surrounding the productions, reception, and use of images in this period. The seminar will investigate the medieval debates about the legitimacy of Christian visual representation, the phenomenon of iconoclasm, the rise and development of image cults, and the changing functions of image-making in different social and religious contexts. Consideration will also be given to a set of larger topics, among them the cultural construction of vision, materiality, agency, and the intersection of the verbal and the visual. Running through the seminar is the question of the ways in which medieval images variously resist or aspire to the status of art. Readings include a selection of medieval sources in translation, seminal scholarly texts, and some of the most engaging recent interpretations.
Graduate students and advanced undergraduates with a background in related disciplines such as history, religion, literature, and anthropology are welcome.
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