Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: The Art of Death: Precolumbian Representations of Death and the Afterlife
Monday, Wednesday: 8:00-9:30am
This course will focus on how the Precolumbian people of Mesoamerica, especially the Maya and Nahua (Aztec), conceptualized, enacted, and visually represented their ideas of death and the afterlife. We will explore these societies’ responses to death — and their visions of the afterlife — in order to understand the concerns of the living. We will seek to comprehend how these communities manifested their values and ethics — indeed, how they saw themselves — through a consideration of how death was memorialized.
Since we do not have a robust corpus of documentation written by members of the cultures themselves, this class will be concerned not only with how to analyze iconography from a variety of media and engage with secondary literature, but also with how to critically evaluate the usefulness and dangers of additional sources of information found in ethnography, ethnohistory, and archaeology. These will be essential tools for the second half of the semester, during which you will develop, write, and revise a 10-12 page research paper that participates in current scholarly discussions and debates.