Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: The Aesthetic Language of Renaissance Art
Tuesday | Thursday: 12:30 - 2:00pm
Where do the words we use to talk about art come from? Many of our modern aesthetic ideas and sensibilities find their birthing ground in the language utilized to write and talk about art during the Renaissance or the Early Modern period (c.1400-1600). The Italy of Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael produced some of the earliest examples of the new genres of literature on the arts, including treatises on painting, printed dialogues on the arts, and biographies that explore the lives of artists. To find words to talk about the art of their time, authors borrowed terminology from rhetoric, optical science, poetry, and other disciplines. This course’s materials focus on keywords and concepts central to this literature, such as “genius”, “movement”, “beauty”, “order”, “ingenuity”, “nature”, "symmetry", and "proportion." Studying this critical vocabulary, forerunner to current Western art-critical vocabulary we often take for granted, will allow students to investigate a simultaneously strange and familiar aesthetic world, and provide the venue for writing about their experiences of that world through their own reception of Renaissance visual art. How are our expectations of viewing Renaissance art both different from and similar to those of its original audiences? And how does analysis of those audiences’ critical vocabulary help answer this question? Students will write a 10-12 page research paper as their final project, facilitated by several writing workshops over the course of the semester in which preparatory writing by students will be group-critiqued and peer-reviewed, and during which research skills will be developed.