Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Re-Creating the Virgin Mary in the Spanish Viceroyalties
Tuesday, Thursday: 8:00-9:30am (Remote)
IMPORTANT: Seats in this remote section have been reserved for those students who are unable to return to in-person instruction on the campus. To register in the course under these circumstances, please contact the instructor, Joe Albanese, at firstname.lastname@example.org and cc email@example.com.
From the early days of Spanish colonialism in the Americas, the Virgin Mary emerged as a divine figure who resonated strongly in the New World. Her appeal as a mother was relatable on an emotional and spiritual level in the newly conquered territories, and her likeness was quickly exploited by colonizers as they violently converted indigenous populations. In Mexico, her image appeared on the cloak of Juan Diego and inspired the widespread worship of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and in the Andes, the imagery of Mary became associated with indigenous mother deities including Pachamama. In both viceroyalties, an almost immeasurable number of devotional artworks depicting the Virgin Mary in different forms, races, and environments began to emerge in the sixteenth century. These holy images appeared on a variety of objects, including sculptures, paintings, prints, and textiles.
New-World images of the Virgin Mary can be viewed as a natural bridge linking religions and aesthetic sensibilities during the early modern period. While Mary as a holy figure originated from “western” belief systems, her new visual forms arose in large part from indigenous practices and religious objects. Her chameleonic image encapsulates the fabric of colonial Christianity–borne of religious strife, while allowing modification in its local variations. Indeed, early modern images of the Virgin Mary are fundamentally derived from cultures of violence and transformation. In this course, we will look closely at images of the Virgin Mary from the Spanish Viceroyalties of Mexico and Peru, and we will use a variety of media to carefully assess the historical and historiographic methodologies employed by scholars to analyze these artworks. We will also use Marian artworks as a window through which to explore broader issues in the Viceroyalties, including those related to religion, gender, cultural hybridity, and colonial genres of painting. Students will gain an appreciation of early modern art and historiography.
Because this is an R1B class, you will be asked to produce writing assignments frequently in order to build the composition and research skills necessary for college-level coursework. Assignments will be scaffolded and will increase in length as the semester progresses. If you follow the pace I recommend, the workload will be manageable, and you will learn a good deal about research in the humanities and this course’s specific topic. My hope is that we will discuss interesting readings AND learn writing and research skills that will be useful in other courses you may take during your undergraduate studies.