First Year Seminar:
Sacred Books: Ancient Scrolls and Medieval Manuscripts
Before digital technology, before the invention of the printing press, books were written, ornamented, and illuminated by hand. This seminar concerns the ways that knowledge, specifically religious knowledge, was preserved and transmitted, through words and images, in antiquity and the middle ages. As we look at a range of "book cultures," we will consider the physical act of copying texts, the status of scribes and illuminators, and the way that powerful texts were used, displayed, housed, and honored. Beginning with ancient Egypt (studying hieroglyphics and the Book of the Dead), we will continue to ancient Greece and Rome, and then go on to the Hebrew tradition (with a focus on the Dead Sea Scrolls). Proceeding to the end of antiquity, when the scroll gave way to the codex (the book with pages), we will study Christian manuscripts, often elaborately illustrated, and end by treating calligraphically beautiful Islamic books. Students will have the opportunity to view relevant original works in University of Michigan collections.
Estimated Cost of Materials: $0-50.
Course Requirements: The grade will be based on short assignments, a research paper and presentation, and class participation. There will be no tests.
Class Format: Seminar
Textbooks/Other Materials: Christopher de Hamel, The Book: A History of the Bible; Coursepack on CTools