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The urge to commemorate is a timeless human impulse. Individuals, heroic acts, and historic events have been marked by mounds, architecture, images, words, and ephemera for over 5000 years. The value of the subject or focus of a commemoration changes over time. Entropy, iconoclasm, and vandalism have been seen as either positive or negative modes of destruction. Recent events have brought into high relief monuments long taken for granted as markers of the American urban landscape. Calls for the removal of monuments that have elevated individuals implicated in colonialism and racism have led to a powerful surge in alternative monument-making, and brought commemorative images back into public consciousness. Over the course of the seminar students will document and explore the concepts behind monuments and memorials in the Western tradition from their origins in the ancient Mediterranean (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Imperial Rome), and chart their reception, interpretation, destruction, and/or influence in later periods. We will also analyze the abstraction and inversion of monumental form seen in the counter monuments of the late twentieth century such as Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982) or Gunter Demnig’s Stumbling Stones project (Stolpersteine, 1992-the present), the world’s largest decentralized memorial for the victims of Nazi terror. Our consideration of historical monuments will be paired with ongoing contemporary discussions of action around the removal of memorials, and the call for creative alternatives. During the second half of the semester seminar participants will research a memorial trend or a specific monument, and investigate and parse its context and reception over time. A short presentation and a substantial paper, written in stages, will be the end result of the research project.
Format: seminar; Discussion oriented course. We will meet online but, when possible, we will meet outside.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
The requirements of the course include: attendance and participation in discussion; 3 short responses to readings or artworks related to discussions; a short (15 minute max) report on a research project; a 15-18 page paper on the research project, written in stages.
Art History majors and grad students, then any interested student
This course will fulfill the seminar requirement for the major in Art History. It can also fulfill the pre-1800 requirement should you pursue a seminar project in that area.
ARTH post-1800 Courses