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CLAS 466
Hellenistic Art and the Beginning of Art History Spring 2021
Division I
Cross-listed ARTH 466 / CLAS 466

Class Details

The Hellenistic Period (323-31 BCE) saw the small city-states of the Greek peninsula replaced by far flung kingdoms as important centers of power and culture. In the wake of Alexander the Great’s extension of the borders of the classical world all the way to the banks of the Indus River, increased trade, and the movement of individuals between Greece, Egypt, and the Near and Middle East encouraged innovations in philosophy, medicine, religion, literature and art. In fact, a revolution in artistic ideas and forms centered on the social and ethnic diversity of human experience. Royal patrons, and wealthy private citizens including an increasing number of women, commissioned artworks for cities, sanctuaries, tombs, palaces, and estates on a scale rarely seen before. And with the rise of Rome, plundered artworks of earlier periods soon became the desired objects of wealthy collectors, contributing to a mashup of stylistic influence. In this course we’ll look closely at influential works of art in bronze, marble, fresco, and mosaic, where artists push the limits of their media in order to express emotional states ranging from pathos to ecstasy, from the mental exhaustion of a defeated athlete, to the cool restraint of a powerful ruler. We’ll attempt to understand the conceptual and cultural forces that encouraged artistic innovations of the fourth century BCE through first century CE. We’ll also look for the influences of Hellenistic art on artists and writers from the Renaissance to the present day. Reading material includes ancient literature in translation, recent surveys of Hellenistic art, and recent critical essays.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 14
Expected: 10
Class#: 4020
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students are responsible, in groups of 2 or 3, for leading discussions based on selected readings. A 5-page midterm paper, and two oral reports --one 6 minutes in length, the other 15-20 minutes in length-- will help form the basis for a 15-18 page research paper on a specific artwork or concept in Hellenistic art, or the adaptation of Hellenistic artworks or themes in later periods, that will be due at the end of the semester. A museum visit may be possible, depending on circumstances.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Art majors, and then to students of any major interested in art and thought in the ancient Mediterranean world, with permission of instructor
Unit Notes: ARTH Seminar Requirement
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ARTH 466 Division I CLAS 466 Division I
Attributes: ARTH pre-1800 Courses

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