In most Mesoamerican languages, a single word describes the activities that we would call "writing" and "painting." This seminar will investigate the interrelationships between image and text in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras before the introduction of alphabetic writing in the 16th century. The course will address both linguistic investigations of how writing systems work and art historical considerations of how images and text interact. We will also review art historical and archaeological evidence for the social conditions of textual and artistic production in Mesoamerica. We also will consider the materiality of text and image by working with facsimiles of Mesoamerican books. Each class will begin with a brief student presentation about a single object, discussing the content of its text, the relationship between text and image, and the relevance to the issues in that week's reading. Short writing assignments will help build skills in preparation for the final research paper. At the end of the course, students will have acquired a basic literacy in Aztec, Mixtec, and Maya writing systems, and will have refined their ability to look productively and write lucidly about art.
Estimated cost of materials: less than $50. E.1