Early Medieval Art Introduction

Professor Michelli Ext 3098

Website: http://www.ariadne.org/studio/michelli/
Flaten Auditorium Art 263
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 2.05-3.00 p.m. Office Hours by appointment

Set book:
J Snyder, Medieval Art, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and Harry Abrams Inc, New York, 1989

On reserve:
J Beckwith, Early Christian and Byzantine Art, The Pelican History of Art, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England, 1979

D Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Art, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1984

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This course traces the establishment and spread of Christianity in Western Europe from around the 2nd Century AD to c.1000 AD. We are looking at a wide range of societies and their differing responses to and exploitation of Christianity. Rome, for example, which first accepted the faith, was already a literate society with a well established bureaucracy, legal system, high quality figurative art, and massive building types, and these formed the basis of the new artistic traditions which were set up for Christianity. But Christianity has an important problem with regard to figurative art: the Second Commandment forbids it. So we will not only trace the process by which new, legally validating artistic traditions were set up, but the further process by which this problematic commandment was circumvented. We will also be considering why it was necessary to do all this.

The rest of the course concerns the transmission of these artistic traditions throughout eastern and western Europe. In the Byzantine Empire religious art took on almost magical properties, dangerously appealing to a different aspect of the human psyche with, perhaps, inevitable results. We will contrast this approach with the Early Christian one to gain a better understanding of both. In Britain Christianity was transplanted to an illiterate society where the artistic validation of the faith would have been particularly important. Here, and in Charlemagne's Europe, the exploitation of art for religious and political purposes is particularly clearly seen, and it is worth comparing this repeating approach with that of Constantine in the Early Christian period, and the converted Vikings and the Ottonians in the 10th century. This is a well established use of art which is still practiced today. While all this was happening in the west, a new "chastened" art emerged in Byzantium, and we will try to trace its sources and rationale. This style (or is it a mode of thinking?), too, became well established and is still practiced today.

The power of art, the acceptance or rejection of particular styles and modes by the religious community, and the resultant introduction of new ways of conceiving of art including symbolism, revelation, magic, theater, and politics are the focus of this course.

The syllabus is divided into a series of numbered units which correspond to one class period each. The classes will be arranged around discussions of the works and readings listed in each unit. It is a good idea to learn the identifications of these works, as failure to do so seriously hampers your ability to join the discussions - and this is required and graded. Your participation will be tracked through name tags and you should think in terms of contributing twice per class if you hope for an "A".

All assignments are included at the relevant points in the syllabus (the "discussion" days), and there is a complete list at the end, together with requirements. The whole class will contribute to those discussions, with participation tracked by name tags as usual. BRING SNYDER TO CLASS on the discussion days, as we will not be using slides. You may choose any TWO of the first four topics as written assignments to be submitted on the relevant discussion day. Submit the first in the form of a 600-650 word paper plan. Be sure to take this assignment seriously, as I will refuse to grade it if it does not meet the requirements (attached and on web site). Using short notes, you really can present as much information as for a full paper. Be sure your short notes communicate clearly, because your second assignment will be submitted as another paper plan and full 2000-word paper. That paper, of course, will be written up from the plan, and the two will be submitted together. Discussion #5 is oral only, but you should still prepare for it as successfully supported suggestions for sources will be double-tagged. For the final exam prepare the topic as a paper plan and submit it at the beginning of the exam. We will then hold a tagged discussion as usual. NOTE that there will be no re-writes in this course, but your assignments will be eye-balled on receipt to check that they fulfill all the requirements. If they do not, you may resubmit within one week. I will refuse any late submissions after I have declared the assignment "dead". All written assignments are to be word-processed.

Attendance is required and tracked and is worth extra credit if your final grade is borderline. It is your responsibility to be sure that I have noted your presence in class. If you arrive late, come and check the register immediately after class before you leave. I will not accept late "corrections".

Attendance at Steensland Art Museum Exhibitions is required. Opening nights particularly recommended. A roster sheet will be in the lobby by the door. Make sure you sign it. Steensland has its own web page with calendar of events. You can get to it from the Art Department page (http:www.stolaf.edu/depts/art/) or from my site (http://www.ariadne.org/studio/michelli/) where you will find other useful documents.


Participation 1.5 points per contribution
33 classes
= 100 points = 25%
Assignments 100 points each
3 assignments including final
= 300 points = 75%
Attendance Extra credit on final grade, if borderline

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