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REL 421
Picturing God in the Middle Ages Spring 2021
Division II
Cross-listed REL 421 / ARTH 421

Class Details

How did medieval Europeans imagine their God and how did they give what they imagined pictorial form? How were these pictures used, both in public and in private life, and why? Paying particular attention to the function and experience of medieval works of art, this seminar will examine the evolution of images of God, in both the Eastern and Western halves of Europe, and the problems these images often generated. Through readings and class discussion, the course will investigate, among other specific topics: the varied attitudes toward the representability of God in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity; the impact of the Roman cult of the emperor and of images of the dead on the earliest portraits of Christ; the cult of the icon, concerns over idolatry, and the destruction of images; ideas about spiritual versus physical vision and their influence on the making and viewing of pictures; the relationship of sacred images to relics, the Eucharist, and other aspects of Christian ritual; and the pictorial exploration of both the torture and sexuality of Christ. Students will also pursue an individual research project, in which they will examine in greater depth a specific depiction of divinity of their choosing, in light of what we have considered together in the seminar.
The Class: Format: seminar; Class will meet online at first but may shift to in-person if circumstances allow
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 4962
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, oral presentation, one short paper (2-3 pages), final research paper (15-20 pages)
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Preference given to Art majors and seniors.
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
REL 421 Division II ARTH 421 Division I
Attributes: ARTH pre-1800 Courses

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