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WGSS 284
From the Battlefield to the Hermit's Cell: Art and Experience in Norman Europe Spring 2021
Division II Writing Skills
Cross-listed REL 284 / WGSS 284 / ARTH 218

Class Details

This tutorial provides students with the chance to investigate in-depth three of the most astonishing works of art created during the entire Middle Ages: the Bayeux Tapestry (c.1077-1082), the Cappella Palatina (c.1130s-1166), and the Psalter of Christina of Markyate (1120s-1160s). Created within a hundred years of each other all within territories controlled by the Normans–a warrior dynasty that settled in northern France in the 10th century and then expanded north into England and south into Italy in the 11th and 12th centuries–each of these works is unprecedentedly ambitious in scale, dazzling in its material properties, and survives in its original wholeness, a rarity in the medieval world. Despite these similarities, however, each work is very different from the other two and so sheds light on very different aspects of Norman experience, across Europe. The Bayeux Tapestry, likely made by female embroiderers for a baronial hall, is a giant textile (over 70 meters long) that in gruesome and fascinating detail tells the story of the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. The Cappella Palatina in Palermo, in turn, commissioned by King Roger II, is a royal chapel covered in sumptuous mosaics that reveals through its decoration and ritual the dynamic interaction of Islamic, Byzantine, and Latin Christian traditions in the multicultural Norman kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century. And the Psalter of Christina of Markyate, a large prayerbook made for the use of a female recluse in southern England, contains 40 full-page paintings and 215 decorated initials, a vast and inventive program of imagery that through its creative profundity helped reshape private devotional art and culture for centuries to come. Through their variety, then, these three objects–an embroidery, a building, and a book–give students insight into the rich array of concerns and aspirations, from the political to the spiritual and from the public to the private, that gave substance and meaning to 11th- and 12th-century European life, for women as well as men. What is more, these three remarkable works of art have been the focus of much interesting scholarship in recent years, so an exploration of some of that literature provides a compelling introduction to the discipline of art history itself, past and present.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3975
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: First years and sophomores, but open to all.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
REL 284 Division II WGSS 284 Division II ARTH 218 Division I
WS Notes: In this tutorial, students will develop skills of critical reading and focus on how to craft clear and persuasive arguments of their own. To help them achieve these goals, they will receive timely comments on their written work, especially the five 5-7-page papers they will submit, with suggestions for improvement.
Attributes: ARTH pre-1800 Courses

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