Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Visions of Empire, Voices of Resistance: Rome and Iberia Through Image, Text and Myth
Tuesday | Thursday: 8:00 - 9:30am
The relationship between art and power is no secret. Go to any museum and you’re likely to see a host of artworks that depict a political leader – a king, a prince, an emperor, a president. But if art can celebrate the achievement of power, can it also communicate resistance and subversiveness against a dominant political structure? Such questions will animate our course as we explore how art represents the dynamic between empires and colonies, paying particular attention to the pre-modern empires of Rome and Iberia (including Spain and Portugal). Our focus on Rome and Iberia will prompt us to examine a variety of cultures (both of the colonizers and the colonized) and the geographic spaces they inhabit: the Mediterranean Sea, Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Our attention to this diversity of geography and culture will go hand-in-hand with a comparative and interdisciplinary approach that asks how the representation – and critique – of imperial power changes depending on the medium (visual vs. textual) or the genre (portrait; myth and mythological painting; historical novel; film; etc.). The range of questions we ask will thus be of both art historical and literary importance, and will include (1) the role and reception of myth in both textual and visual representation, (2) the idea that a visual image can be read as a narrative story, and vice versa (3) and the role of the visual imagination in textual narrative as constructed through scenic moments of theatricality, descriptions that linger over objects and spaces, and ekphrastic pauses where visual art is depicted through words.
Because this is a writing intensive course, our analytical readings and viewings will work toward an end goal of communicating – with clarity and sophistication – our thoughts in writing. As this is an R1B course, we will likewise develop our research skills by dissecting scholarly arguments relevant to the study of visual culture. Furthermore, as a way to consider the relationship between the critical analysis of images and the visual presentation of such images through digital platforms, students will be given the opportunity to explore and evaluate computational tools of the digital humanities in conjuncture with their written assignments. Over the course of the semester, there will be several written assignments of varying length and that address the various challenges of written communication; these written assignments will culminate in a final research paper of ten to twelve pages.