CLAS 236
Demigods: Nature, Social Theory, and Visual Imagination in Art and Literature, Ancient to Modern Spring 2019
Division I
Cross-listed CLAS 236 / ARTH 530
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Embodied in satyrs, centaurs, nymphs, and other demigods is a vision of an alternative evolutionary and cultural history. In it, humans and animals live together. The distinction between nature and culture is not meaningful. Male and female are equal. The industrial revolution never happens. This course traces the history of demigods from its origins in ancient Greek art and poetry until today. We pay special attention to three points: the relationship between mythology of demigods and ancient political theory about primitive life; evolving conceptions of the environment, and the capacity of the visual arts to create mythology that has a limited literary counterpart. The first half of the course examines the origins and character of the demigods, in works of ancient art, e.g. the François vase and the Parthenon, as well as ancient texts, including Hesiod’s Theogony and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. We examine relevant cultural practices, intellectual history, and conceptions of nature, in texts such as Euripides and Lucretius. The second half of the course investigates the post-classical survival of demigods. We consider the “rediscovery” of demigods in the work of Renaissance artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Dürer, and Titian. We consider in detail the important role played by demigods in the formation of Modernism in art and literature. Key texts include Schiller, “Naive and sentimental poetry,” Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, Mallermé, “L’Apres midi d’une faun,”Aby Warburg, and Stoppard’s Arcadia. Problems include the relationship between nymphs and prostitutes in Manet, and the meaning of fauns and the Minotaur in Picasso. We conclude with demigods in popular culture such as the Narnia chronicles or Hunger Games.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 16
Expected: 12
Class#: 3173
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: attendance, participation in discussion, one short presentation on a demigod in ancient art, one longer presentation on demigods in early modern, modern, or contemporary art, and a 20-page research paper
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: first year graduate students, then second year graduate students, then advanced undergraduates
Unit Notes: pre-1600 undergraduate requirement
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
CLAS 236 Division I ARTH 530 Division I

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