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Gothic Architecture, In and Out of Time


Admission requirements

Similar to the admission requirements for the MA Arts and Culture.


This course is made up of two separate but interrelated sections that concentrate on two distinct traditions of European architecture grouped under the stylistic designation “Gothic.”

The first section will deal with the emergence of Gothic in the crownlands of twelfth-century France; the second section originates in a cluster of residential projects commissioned by wealthy antiquarians in eighteenth-century England. In both instances, the appellation “Gothic” was applied to the architectural developments asynchronously. Medieval monuments were first labeled Gothic in a pejorative sense by fifteenth-century Italian critics and the term was much later appropriated, this time in a laudatory and legitimizing sense, to brand a contemporary design movement. While the course is not a class on “style,” per se, careful examination of Gothic monuments – religious, courtly and civic – nevertheless offers an opportunity to interrogate the constitutive role of stylistic classification, both as a disciplinary tool and as a construct that shapes societies with its overlay of ideology and aesthetics.

The first part is taught by Dr. Elizabeth den Hartog and has as its theme the emergence and spread of the Gothic style in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the architecture and arts throughout Western Europe up to its transformation in the later Middle Ages to what Matt Cavaler has termed ‘Renaissance Gothic’. During the course, we will focus on key monuments and consider the problems of definition. How was ‘Gothic’ architecture different from the contemporary ‘Romanesque’? Where did it originate and why? And why did both styles persist side by side? The French Gothic style has been very much linked to the rise of the Capetian dynasty in France. Why then, did it make such a mark throughout Europe, and how and why (or why not) was the style transformed when it was adapted in other regions? Another question we will be dealing with is the fact that the ‘Gothic style’ does not merely refer to architecture but also to the arts of the high medieval period. This also raises clear problems of definition? What is Gothic about Gothic art?

The second part, taught by Dr. Steven Lauritano, examines the diverse ways in which medieval Gothic buildings were revived and strategically retheorized through the work of 18th- and 19th-century designers. Using a set of geographically and conceptually distinct case studies, this part of the course will track the shifting associational values of the Gothic style, with special attention to the role played by architecture in politics and society. Indeed, the Gothic Revival in architecture marks a time when, in the words of Barry Bergdoll, “issues of style became matters of state.” To better understand the motivations underpinning stylistic revival, the course will utilize a comparative framework, reading modern buildings alongside their medieval precedents. How were details of Gothic monuments selectively borrowed and modified in response to changes in architectural pedagogy and practice, new construction technologies, systems of labor and craft, and the emerging professions of archeology and conservation? How, in turn, were the Neo-Gothic designs conceived and publicized to advance new ideas about statecraft, party politics, theology, public health and urbanism? Beyond the study of individual monuments, the second half of the course will interrogate the broader concept of revival in relationship to the emergence of art history as an academic discipline. How did “style” and “stylistic analysis” develop as key disciplinary constructs, ideally suited to transhistorical modes of meaning-making?

Course objectives

  • To train your academic skills, i.e. to get an insight in the historiography of this subject

  • To learn how to find, read and evaluate critically the relevant literature;

  • To reflect and theorize on the subject;

  • To think up and work out a case study;

  • To present this case study in class with the use of powerpoint;

  • To learn how to evaluate presentations of other students and act as a referee;

  • To write an academic paper.

  • To give students an insight in how to deal with comparative art history

  • To examine historical conceptions of “style” and interrogate the constitutive role that “style” and “stylistic analysis” have played in the discipline of art history.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of two separate parts and a total of thirtheen sessions. During the first sessions of each section of the course we will provide you with some introductory lectures, discuss the pre-set literature with you and help you find a subject to write on, formulate a research question and find and evaluate the relevant literature. During the latter part of each section of the course you will be presenting your research orally and you will be required to discuss, query and assess the work of your fellow students. At the end of each section of the course, you hand in a short research paper of 2000 words, or, if you are a research master student of 2500 words.

Assessment method


  • 2 papers, 2000 words each (ResMa students 2500 words each) (each 45%) and two oral presentations (each 5%)

Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructors.


The final grade is the average of the two grades for the papers and oral presentations (45% and 5 %, 45 and 50%). A student passes the class if the weighted average is a 6.0 or higher (marks under 5.0 are not allowed) and the paper is a 6.0 or higher.


The re-sit implies rewriting one or both papers (each 50%).

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

The literature to be read for this course will be posted and made available through Brightspace.
The second part of the course will make use of Michael J. Lewis’s text, The Gothic Revival from the World of Art Series (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2002) as a general resource. It is widely available from online booksellers. The additional literature will be posted on Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. You can register until two weeks after classes have started however students are advised to register as soon as possible and preferably before the start of the course. In the case of electives: please be aware that most electives have a maximum amount of students who can enroll. Do not approach the course instructor in case the class is full. You will automatically be put on a waiting list.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Mw. dr. Elizabeth den Hartog