The Visual Arts in Medieval Society
MWF 10:00am - 12:00pm
G-026 Tisch
3 Credit Lecture
Crosslisted with MEMS 240.001

This course offers an introduction to the architecture, sculpture, manuscripts, and luxury arts of medieval Europe. We will begin with the decline of the Roman Empire and proceeding through time, charting changes in culture and the visual arts. We will look at reconfigurations of Roman art for Christian purposes, precious objects of gold and precious stones made by the "Barbarian" tribes of northern Europe, glittering books made for emperors and Kings, and engineering wonders of the great Gothic cathedrals. We will study how, through the production of art, visual cultures evolved in response to vast changes in historical circumstances, and we will examine the varying functions that art could serve, from establishing religious sanctity and political power to enabling the private practice of devotion. We will emphasize methods of interpreting works of art and consider how objects, buildings, or images may be "read" in accordance with social and cultural values.

Readings for the course will be taken primarily from Marilyn Stokstad, Medieval Art. These readings will be supplemented by short articles on individual objects or issues, or by excerpts from medieval writers as they describe the objects and issues of their time.

As part of our course, we will visit the collections of Medieval art at the Kelsey Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and Special Collections at Hatcher Library to see examples of Medieval objects first-hand. Each class will consist of lecture and discussion, and a portion of each student's grade will be based on class participation. There will be a midterm, a final exam, and a final paper addressing an object in the collection of the museum. Topics will develop out of smaller written assignments and group projects, and students will give short presentations on their object on the last day of class.

Estimated cost of materials: $50 or more, but less than $100.