HISTART 394-001

The Science of Art and the Art of Science:
Looking, Making, and Knowing in Early Modern Europe (1500-1800)

M W 11:30am - 1:00pm
3 Credit Lecture

Also listed as MUSEUMS 394-001

Today, we tend to think of the disciplines of science and art as separated by an impossible gap. Artists operate in the subjective arena of expressive culture, whereas scientists concern themselves with the rigorous pursuit of objectivity. This course takes this assumption as a point of departure only to turn it on its head: by thinking together with a wide range of objects produced in early modern Europe (ca. 1492-1800)—including the things we tend to associate with the idea of art like paintings and sculptures, but also a wide range of printed images, technological instruments, clockwork automatons, military architecture, and written accounts of ephemeral spectacles including fountains and fireworks—this class invites all interested students to learn about a context in which the roles of science and art were inextricably entangled. Set against the turbulent backdrop of physical and ideological conflict as well as the colonial expansion of European power, the narratives explored through lectures, in-class discussion, and written assignments will address the ways that making was a central component of the creation of knowledge that is central to fields we know and practice today, including engineering, botany, zoology, geology, medicine, and more.

In addition to demonstrating engagement through weekly discussion of assigned readings and short in-class presentations, participants will also be asked to produce three interrelated written assignments based on a subject of the students' choosing that is relevant to course themes.

Textbooks/Other Materials: All readings will be available on CANVAS

Course Requirements: Engagement, weekly readings and discussion (20 %), discussion leader (20 %), writing assignment 1 (15%), writing assignment 2 (20%), writing assignment 3 (25%)

Intended Audience: All interested undergraduate students

Class Format: Two 80-minute meetings per week including lecture and discussion.

Estimated Cost of Materials: $0

HISTART Distribution Requirements: Europe and the US, Early Modern

Keywords: art, science, engineering, biology, medicine