Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Seeing the World: The art and science of landscape in early modern Europe
Are there boundaries between art and science? What is the difference between representation and abstraction? How does perception interact with reality? Can visualization be objective? In this course, we will address these questions (and others) by working to understand why and how people created visualizations of the land and sea in Europe between roughly 1450 and 1800. Over the course of these centuries, European cultures changed dramatically, as did their place in the world. These were the years of the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Scientific Revolution, the rise of capitalism, political revolutions, and the dawn of industrialization. Were these changes in European life influenced by how people saw the world? Is perception influenced by culture? What can the history of art and material culture tell us about how Europeans saw the world around them and their positions in it? The materials for this course span a diverse range of landscape and seascape paintings, maps, illuminated manuscripts, drawings, scientific treatises, measurement tools, travel narratives, and scholarly literature. These materials will provide the opportunity for students to engage on their own research projects, which will result in each student writing a substantial research paper that has gone through several peer-reviewed drafts.