This course introduces students to art and material culture from the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries in Europe and beyond. The focus will be on the expansion of scientific knowledge and the resulting philosophical and artistic responses that occurred during the age of exploration as Europeans encountered new cultures and lands. Organized both chronologically and thematically, the course will explore major and lesser-known artisans whose images were the basis for the production of knowledge. From famous paintings that feature objects collected abroad to drawings of newly discovered plant species, students will develop their visual literacy skills and gain an understanding of the history of the Early Modern era. The course will cover such topics as collecting exotica, anatomy and gender, the role of women in artistic and scientific production, and the history of racialized imagery in Europe while exploring the relationship between Europe and Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Students will learn together through lecture and discussion, reading and interpreting critical and art historical texts as well as primary documents, and engaging in participatory and experiential exercises.
Field WorkCountry: China
Date: February 5, 2020
For this course on the intersections between science and visual culture in the early modern world, we will visit several Classical Gardens in the city of Suzhou. There are dozens of preserved gardens, most of which were built in the Ming and Qing dynasties (between 1400 and 1700) and several are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We will explore at least three of these gardens to discover the choice of layout, types of plants grown, and the function of buildings and other elements, such as rocks and water features. While visiting the gardens, we will discuss the relationship to philosophy and religion, particularly the idea of unity and harmony in Taoism that influenced garden design and structure. We can compare the structure and function of Classical Gardens to early modern examples in Europe.
Objectives: Students will gain firsthand experience of Classical Gardens in Suzhou to better understand the design and function of these spaces. We will discuss the philosophical, literary, and religious traditions within the gardens and early modern Chinese culture. Students will write a short paper (4-5 pages, 12 pt Times New Roman Font, double-spaced, 1 in margins) analyzing the experience and making comparisons both between the different gardens we visit and examples we cover in the course as well as connecting the experience to course readings.
1. Gain firsthand experience of several Classical gardens in Suzhou
2. Be able to compare the layout and design of the gardens to other examples discussed in class and contrast with European garden design in the early modern era
3. Analyze the importance of philosophical, literary, religious, and scientific traditions that influence garden design and produce a short paper about the experience