ARTH 580
Picturing God in the Middle Ages Spring 2022
Division I

Class Details

ARTH 5– Spring 2022 Peter Low 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 as well to the materiality, experience, and manifold audiences 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 tensions manifest in or evoked by this art, including picture vs. text, symbolism vs. mimesis, and asceticism vs. splendor; the impact of the Roman cult of the emperor and of images of the pagan deities on the earliest portraits of Christ; the cult of the icon, concerns over idolatry, and the destruction of images; ideas about the relationship between spiritual and physical vision and their influence on the making and viewing of pictures; the relationship of sacred images to the Eucharist and other aspects of Christian ritual; the role of the senses beyond vision in engaging with sacred art especially in the later Middle Ages; 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 God of their choosing, from any place and any time, in light of what we have considered together in the seminar.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 12
Expected: 12
Class#: 3800
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Evaluation will be based on class participation, oral presentations, and a final research paper (15-25 pages).
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: MA students, then senior art history majors
Distributions: Division I

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