Projecting Ancient Rome
Mon, Wed, Fri: 12:00-1:00pm
Projection depends on two fundamental aspects: distancing (we are not the Romans) or relating to or identifying with (we are the Romans) or sometimes a blend of both (might we be the Romans?) (Joshel, Malamud, Wyke 2001). Ancient Rome, with its emperors, splendor, cruelty and power has captured the popular imagination for centuries and has been a common genre for visual forms, especially film, since the beginning of cinema. The film industry has continued to resurrect ancient Rome on the big screen to address significant issues of contemporary culture, from national identity and civil rights, to questions of religion, gender and race. Films, such as the Italian silent classic The Last Days of Pompeii, Hollywood’s Cleopatra and Spartacus as well as Fellini’s trilogy to Rome (La Dolce Vita, Satyricon and Roma) are considered exemplary “projections” of ancient Rome. Since Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), a popular “renaissance” of films dedicated to antiquity has emerged. What is the visual rhetoric of these films? By viewing the ancient Romans through a variety of on-screen visual, this course will explore how film images are used to both entertain audiences and address political and social concerns of the present. Through readings, careful analysis of films, and class lectures, the course will examine how cinematic traditions have deconstructed and reconstructed artistic images and visual concepts of ancient Italy for the wider imagination (an imagination that varies and changes with time). The class addresses questions such as why or how do contemporary audiences relate to ancient Rome through visual media? How historically accurate are films of ancient Rome – does that matter? How powerful is cinema as a window to the past? And more importantly, how do films contribute to modern concepts of ancient Rome?
This course fulfills the following requirements for the History of Art major: Geographical area (A) or (C) and Chronological period (I) or (III), based on the topic of the final research paper or project.