Cities and the Arts: New Orleans (Session D)
More than parade floats, cheap beads, and “Huge Ass Beers,” the arts of New Orleans encompass an enormous range of creative expression owing to its complex history. Among the most significant threads include the city’s position within French, Spanish, and American colonialism; the traffic in African slaves; the displacement of and settlement alongside Native Americans; and efforts to tame its swampy climate to serve global economic ambitions. What is the result of over three centuries of multicultural mixing and transcultural movement? If you were to survey just a few of the city’s nicknames—The Crescent City, The Big Easy, the birthplace of jazz, the northernmost Caribbean city, “the City that Bush Forgot,” or “the gateway to America’s soul”—you would find that the answers are as suggestive as they are multiple.
Our class will survey some of the most iconic examples of visual art, architecture, and material culture of New Orleans to navigate this diverse history from its founding in 1718 to the present, ten years following Hurricane Katrina. We will employ analytical concepts from art history, anthropology, folklore, and performance studies (such as creolization, diaspora, and kinesthetic imaginations) to consider how the city’s visitors and inhabitants have defined themselves and addressed one another through the things they make (from academic paintings to crafted baskets), consume (food, music, and yes, cheap beer), design (houses and churches), wear (Mardi Gras Indian suits and costume), and use to remember (documentary photography/film).
This course will include reading, short writing responses, discussion, and exams. Per university policy, this class will not distribute alcohol nor include alcohol consumption.