ARTH 009 301
Responding to Medieval Architecture
and its Arts
Instructor: Heather Grossman
TR 3-4:30

Course Description

The art and architecture of the medieval world continue to fascinate and inspire current societies and form the objects and sites of pious and aesthetic interest. The great cathedrals of Europe, such as Notre Dame in Paris, are among the most familiar of world monuments today, as they were in the middle ages. All built to satisfy particular religious, political and cultural needs and desires, such buildings are also now part of what we call "world culture". How have people used and responded to such buildings and related art objects through the centuries? In this course we will first look at the architecture as well as smaller scale objects of the medieval West (with forays into the contemporary cultures of Islam and Byzantium) in order to consider the issues surrounding their creation and use in the middle ages. We will look at objects in local collections and discuss how material culture functions in public and private, secular and religious, and luxury and everyday spheres. Next, we will turn our attention to more recent nineteenth- and twentieth-century cultural and artistic responses to these arts of the middle ages, and examine how and why modern societies have used medieval forms and aesthetics. We will look at Gothic Revival buildings in Philadelphia as well as other responses to the middle ages at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Through a series of essays which you will revise with the help of student-instructor sessions and peer reviews, you will hone your own abilities to respond in writing to the visual and material world which forms our past and current environments. You will be asked to write several short response papers to both primary texts and recent art historical scholarship to help foster your critical reading and writing abilities. In order to learn how to visually analyze and then articulate in writing your ideas about material artifacts, you will write a formal analysis paper on an object in a Philadelphia collection. Finally, you will combine your writing about visual and documentary sources with library skills in order to write a longer research paper and give an informal presentation on a building or piece of you own choosing. These varied assignments will encourage you to develop your critical thinking, writing and research skills, as well as to explore your personal writing voice.


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Last update: November 1, 2002

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