Art and Society in Late Antiquity
Tuesday, Thursday: 3:30-5:00pm
This class has several objectives. The primary one is to teach you about the complex artistic, religious, and cultural transformations that took place in the ancient Mediterranean world in the period between Constantine’s reign (306-337) and the death of the prophet Muhammad (d. 632). The most important artistic change in this period is the emergence of Christian art and architecture, and the transformation and decline of the Classical artistic tradition. It was an uneven process. Christian architecture sprung practically overnight, but Christian iconography took longer. To understand its meandering routes one needs to immerse oneself in the period, to think like a contemporary. In this class therefore you will embark on a journey that will take you to the Roman Senate, Church Councils, battles, the Egyptian and Syrian deserts, mansions, a lot of churches, and cosmopolitan cities. You will read theology and love poetry, plan your own church, and be a Roman Senator for a day.
The class has three additional goals: to foster your analytical skills and historical thinking, and to help you improve your writing. To this end, the material includes primary sources and scholarly articles, and is presented, as much as possible, chronologically. The material is divided into three parts, one roughly for each of the centuries covered. Each part begins with a historical overview of the period, and covers a selection of the most important artistic developments. Each segment culminates with an exam, a combination between slide identifications and essays that follow the questions discussed in the lectures (there will be no final exam). The only method of becoming a better thinker and a better writer is to practice. Therefore, the class combines reading challenging texts with short writing assignments for many of the assigned readings, as specified below. These short assignments will stretch your mind and help you stay on top of the material and prepare for your exams.
This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographical areas (A) or (D), and Chronological period (I), based on the topic of the final research paper or project.