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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology

Painting and Architecture in Christian NE Africa: 2nd - 17th Centuries

Course Code:
15PARC012
Status:
Course Not Running 2014/2015
Unit value:
1
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year
This course looks for ways to explore imagery and space in Christian NE Africa between the beginnings of Christianity in the 2nd century and the late 18th century. After a brief review of the historical context of the area and an overview of its Christian art and architecture, we will seek to gain more intimate access to certain aspects of life and experience in these Christian communities in order to develop a deeper understanding of the visual production and spatial use by the secular, priestly and monastic communities. The discussion will draw attention to the issues of multiculturalism and hybridity that characterize the area, examining the contributions of Hellenism, Judaism and Christianity, and their interactions with groups of local African origin.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

This course looks for ways to explore imagery and space in Christian NE Africa between the beginnings of Christianity in the 2nd century and the late 18th century.

The objectives of the course are to introduce students to historical contexts of the introduction of Christianity to the area and how it affected indigenous art and architecture. By gaining insights into certain aspects of life and experience in these Christian communities, students will attain a deeper understanding of the visual production and spatial use by the secular, priestly and monastic communities.

Through the discussion issues of multiculturalism and hybridity that characterize the area, students will examine the contributions of Hellenism, Judaism and Christianity, and their interactions with groups of local African origin.

Reflecting on such topics will help train students to apply skills in analysing different historical situations including the present-day society where multiculturalism and religious conflict are of great topicality.

Students will also learn to question seeming ‘givens’ about Christian iconography as seen from a Eurocentric point of view.

Outcomes and acquisition of key skills:

  • Students will learn about North-eastern African culture, with an emphasis with religious art and architecture through lectures.
  • They will familiarise themselves with Christian iconography as adapted by artists in North-eastern Africa through memorisation of key images, reinforced by preparation for slide quizzes.
  • Through lectures and essay assignments they will be trained in using methodologies for approaching art of interaction of western belief systems and non-western cultures.
  • A crucial aspect of the course is to acquire skills in critical reading of the literature and primary sources (according to their language abilities) related to Christian art in North-Eastern Africa.
  • They will gain confidence in expressing scholarly ideas in writing through creating research essays on specialised topics related to themes introduced in the course.
  • Finally, through unassessed learning opportunities, students will acquire skills in seminar presentation and sharing their understanding of material in class discussion sessions.

Method of assessment

3 x Coursework (60%) 2 x Slide Test (15% each)

Suggested reading

  • Barasch, Mosche, Icon.
  • Belting, Hans, Likeness and Presence.
  • Besançon, Alain, The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm.
  • Burton-Christie, The Word in the Desert.
  • Canar, Daniel, Wandering Begging Monks: Spiritual Authority and the Promotion of Monasticism in Late Antiquity.
  • Elsner, Jás, Art and the Roman Viewer.
  • Frank, Georgia, The Memory of the Eyes:Pilgrims to Living Saints in Christian Late Antiquity.
  • Frankfurter, David, Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance.
  • Gonzalez, Valerie, Beauty in Islam: Aesthetics in Islamic Art and Architecture.
  • Green, Peter (ed.), Hellenistic History and Culture.
  • Hawting, G.R., The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam.
  • Maguire, Henry The Icons of Their Bodies.
  • Otto, Rudolf, The Idea of the Holy.
  • Saint John of Damascus On the Divine Images.
  • Schimmel, Anne Marie Deciphering the Signs of God.
  • Vasunia, Phiroze, The Gift of the Nile: Hellenizing Egypt from Aeschylus to Alexander.