Mapping the Modern World: Cartography in the Age of Discovery, Rediscovery and Invention, 1400-1700 (Session A)
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday | 2:00 - 4:00PM
When you look at a map – whether it’s a navigational chart from the 1400s or google maps on your smartphone – you are looking at an object and image that is produced through visual design, technology, and politics. In this course, students will learn how to view, read and analyze maps at this intersection of art, science and power. We will look at road maps and maps of the heavens, maps of our world and of imaginary worlds. We’ll ask questions such as why maps created to be practical tools nonetheless include such intricate imagery and ornamentation (all those dragons and sea monsters!), how maps connect to other visual forms (such as landscape) and why maps have even found their way into paintings and other fine arts, and whether a map is supposed to represent geographic realities or use visual practices for its own world-making ends.
To best understand the long history of mapmaking and cartography, our course will span the ancient geographers of Classical Greece to the GIS and GPS technologies of our own digital days. Yet we will pay particular attention to those centuries known as the early modern era (1400-1700 CE) when cartography witnessed some of its most profound developments, both with regard to the sheer number of maps produced as well as the artistic and technological practices that came about. Though maps have long been tied to these centuries as an era of navigation and geographic “discovery,” our course will re-conceptualize the meaning of discovery to consider not the “discovery of a new world” but instead the discovery of a global world that is geographically interconnected. Alongside this notion of discovering a global world, we will likewise take into account the rediscovery of ancient mapping practices and the invention of new mapmaking technologies, especially those informed by the advent of the printing press and advances in the optical sciences. Though European mapmaking will be our point of departure, we will be sure to examine how such techniques came to interact with indigenous visual practices in North Africa, Asia and the Americas.
As part of our class, we will take advantage of map collections on campus, both the rare historical maps of the Bancroft Library as well as the California maps of the Earth Sciences & Map Library. Students will likewise be introduced to computational mapping tools of the Digital Humanities, and will have the option of undertaking a digital mapping project in lieu of a written assignment.
This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographical area (A) and Chronological period (II), based on the topic of the final research paper or project.
Meets Arts & Literature, L&S Breadth
Meets Historical Studies, L&S Breadth