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Prospectus

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Religion and Art

Course
2013-2014

Tag(s)

HI, GC, PA

Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100-level and 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.

Description

One of the features shared by all cultures, all over the world, is that of religion. It is also the focus of much, and often highly charged, interaction between cultures and socieities: think of the colonization of the Americas, motivated for a large part by the desire to convert their native inhabitants to Christianity. This course looks at the way humans have given visual representation to the sacred in their cultures all over the world, and in all periods: from the Borobudur to Bernini’s Baldacchino in Saint Peter’s, from Greek temples to Mark Rothko’s abstract murals made in reaction to the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, from Venetian altarpieces to Damien Hirst’s skull studded with precious stones. It will focus, from a global perspective, on some key issues that arise from the use of visual representations in religion, and in particular it will study what happens when cult objects are transformed into works of art:

  • art, cult and faith

  • art, agency and divine presence

  • is art born out of religion, or religion out of art?

  • expressing the sacred and experiencing beauty

  • from cult object to collector’s item

  • the migration of religious images from one culture to another

Course Objectives

  • To acquire the knowledge and analytical skills to understand by what visual strategies the sacred is represented in a variety of cultures and periods

  • To acquire the knowledge and analytical skills to understand how these objects functioned within the cult for which they were made.

  • To learn to study how sacred representations were perceived by believers, art historians or anthropologists, that is, how they morphed from religious objects to works of art, museum pieces or decorative items.

  • To achieve these aims students will read the prescribed literature, look at religious objects in musems, choose one object to analyse in class, and on which to write their papers.

Students should have learned to identify a number of major issues that arise when the sacred is represented visually, and subsequently such representations enter the domain of art:

  • they should be able to analyse visual representations, that is identify the artistic means by which an image of the sacred was created; they should be able to build an argument about its subject matter, provenance, time of creation, and religious character (for which religion or cult was it made, how was it used, what is its present status and function).

  • they should be able to find relevant studies, on the basis of the texts provided as compulsory and suggested reading, but also by

  • they should understand how they were perceived by believers, art historians or anthropologists, that is, how they morphed from religious objects to works of art, museum pieces or decorative items, by drawing on the anthropological literature and primary sources provided, but also by independent library searches.

  • in their oral presentations in class, they should become able to present, in a brief and coherent form, a visual analysis of an art work or cult object of their choice, and identify the issues this object raises in the context of this class.

  • in their final paper they have to provide a coherent and succinct close analysis of their art work or cult object, a clear statement of the issues it raises, and a sound argument developing answers to this questions, supported by adequate use of primary and secondary sources. In it, they should draw on, and apply in new contexts, the historical material, theories and analytical methods provided by the compulsory and suggested reading.

Mode of Instruction

Seminars; museum visits; oral presentations by students, general debates on the basis of presentations and in-depth analysis by tutor of major theories and art works or cult objects.

Assessment

To be confirmed in course syllabus

Literature

To be confirmed soon.

Contact Information

c.a.van.eck@hum.leidenuniv.nl; 071 527 2693

Weekly Overview

WEEK 1 Representing the sacred across the world (1) and (2);
WEEK 2: Representing the sacred across the world (3);
WEEK 3: Art, agency and divine presence (1) and (2);
WEEK 4: Is art born out of religion, or religion out of art? (1);
WEEK 5: Is art born out of religion, or religion out of art? (2);
WEEK 6: Idolatry and iconoclasm; student presentations;
WEEK 7: Expressing the sacred, experiencing beauty.

Preparation for first session

N/A