Graduate Seminar: Ornament, Alterity and the Long Early Modern
The Gothic, grotesque, and arabesque. These are categories that seem to undergo “resurgence” at points of crisis or irresolution. They are also early modern discourses inherited by modernism, each marking ways to engage and manage the perceived alterity of ornament (Supplement? Limit case? Indulgence? Divinity?). In numerous and often divergent ways, scholars and artists have defined the Gothic and grotesque in terms of bodily deformity, femininity, perverse hybridity, and lack of regulation and control, and to characterize the foreignness of the arabesque, and vice versa. One thread of the course will interrogate the anxieties (and perhaps latent desires) underlying the formation and recurrence of these categories related to criminality, xenophobia, misogyny, and fear of the irrational and exotic. Another thread will interrogate the capacities of abstract pattern and aniconic practices, including those associated with Islamic dynastic settings, to escape limits of location and value—to be translated across global geo-political expanse (Spanish Empire and modern Colonialism), confessional relationships (majoritarian or minoritarian religious arts), historical spaces (archaism and revival), and modes of production (hand, machine, nature, other). The seminar will draw from other fields (such as anthropology and ethno-mathematics) and encourage research in a broad spectrum of temporal-geographical fields. We are interested in sources and methods for considering the perceived uncontrollable aspect of ornament as something reproduced, disseminated, and projected into futures.