John Cabot University: the Academic Experience

Graduate Course Descriptions


AH 600 Practicum in Art-Historical Research and Problem Solving (Course Type: Methods)

Required of all MA students, this course provides a full immersion in research from the primary record: paintings, buildings, maps, prints, documents, ground plans, photographs, historical guide books, archaeological excavations, and more. The course also offers instruction and practice in archive and library navigation, documentation and record-keeping, object handling, and bibliographic, digital, and technical resources for the professional art historian. The Fall 2017 Practicum will focus on reconstructing the material and human history of John Cabot University’s Guarini Campus and its immediate environs through time, culminating in an exhibition of the findings.

AH 601 Case Studies in Art-Historical Practice (Course Type: Methods)

In this team-taught course students read and analyze exemplary works of art-historical scholarship. Readings are selected to illustrate the diverse methods developed for studying the arts of different eras, with their distinct problems and bodies of evidence, and to bring out possibilities for useful methodological borrowings across traditional chronological boundaries.

AH 611 Ancient Roman and Mediterranean Mural Painting (Course Type: Topics-Ancient)

This course examines mural painting in the Greek and Roman world, from the Aegean Bronze Age to Late Antiquity. The range of subjects depicted within these paintings is vast and includes mythological themes, portraits, scenes of ritual, historical moments, religious scenes, landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes, garden views, the still life, and scenes of everyday life. Together we will study the cultures that created and enjoyed these works, in an effort to understand the paintings' social and cultural contexts, as well as their roles in society, the ideals and values that they represented, and the manner in which they were received. The course also investigates the relationship between the cultures represented, in order to recognize and comprehend practices of continuity and emulation. We will apply formal analysis to aspects such as iconography, technique, and representation of space and style for each painting studied, and, in each case, we will also consider architectural context and the intended experience of the viewer. To augment our understanding of this ancient artistic medium, we will study, as well, the pertinent ancient sources, whose written passages offer information about everything from technical processes to criteria for choosing certain colors or images. The course will also provide a history of the rediscovery of the important examples studied, as well as a review of scholarly research, to date. The course is taught with a combination of class lectures and visits to the relevant museums and archaeological sites.

AH 631 Illuminated Manuscripts: Codicology for Art Historians (Course Type: Topics-Late Antique/Medieval)

Books written and decorated by hand are, one could credibly argue, the densest self-contained repositories of cultural information of any objects created by humans during the pre- and early modern eras. As subjects of art-historical study, however, illustrated and decorated manuscripts conceal an untold peril for the image-loving researcher: the danger of treating painted elements in isolation from the immensely rich stories embedded in any manuscript’s non-pictorial elements—materials, physical construction, scripts, scribal hands, textual contents, and even DNA (literally!). This course introduces graduate students to the study of manuscripts as whole objects, with first-hand analysis of medieval and early Renaissance books in historic Roman libraries.

AH 651 The Erotic Renaissance (Course Type: Topics-Early Modern)

An overview of all human artistic production could be explored through two essential themes, eros and thanatos, love and death. A study of the former must historically include a moment when love and its representation – in literature, music, and art – is unabashedly a focus of cultural interest: the Cinquecento. The songs of the troubadours, easily blurred in hymns to the Virgin, are sung in a clear, intimate and formal language in the Trecento by Petrarch, but rise to a full chorus of visual imagery in the 16C, when artists in the Italian peninsula give them full figural form.
This course will investigate amorous imagery, given both spiritual and secular/sexual form, by artists such as Raphael, Giulio Romano, Bronzino, Correggio, Parmigianino, Titian, Veronese and many others. Contrasts and complexities abound, as artists, in the period from about 1490-1540, explore new topics and genres. Within the church, the erotic language of the Song of Songs continues from its roots in the Middle Ages to find more innovative and sensual expression. From a new savvy intellectual audience, erotic subject matter is encouraged, in imitation of the freer aspects of antique literature, and in the service of a society of sophisticated diversion. With the invention of print-making, the discourse concerning human sexuality finds media that can be disseminated.

AH 671 Visual Culture: Concept to Valorization (Course Type: Topics-Modern/Contemporary)

This course studies valorization in and through visual culture. The example of Rome is the fulcrum for discussions of the larger evolving visual culture field. The structuring of visual dimensions will be analyzed according to historical, philosophical, economic, and communication principles, concluding with critical reception. The course is tailored to each student’s individual professional interests. All fields are welcome. Case studies will be drawn from museum, publishing/editorial, advertising, urban requalification, artisanal/maker culture, art market, gallery, the auction house, as well as interaction with living visual artists. We will establish partnership with other universities, both in Italy and beyond. Rome will be used as a case study and model for global practices. In the final four weeks, each student will prepare a presentation of his/her unique practicum or research project.

AH 710a The Syntax of Public and Private Space in Ancient Rome (Course Type: Research Seminar-Ancient)

The course draws on two aspects with a keen impact on the current debate in Ancient Art/Classical Archaeology: space and viewing. That is, the configuration and engagement with the diverse types of space that constituted the ancient world, as well as the role of the viewers that formed the audience and users of these spaces. The focus on public and private will provide a prism through which to examine urban and domestic topographies, as well as the associated activities, patronage, and adornments, which may have shaped the experience of these spaces.

AH 730a Constructing Identities: Christian Funerary Art in Late-Antique Rome (Course Type: Research Seminar-Early Modern)

The seminar examines self-representation during a seminal period in the history of Christianity through a first-hand examination of the rich corpus of catacomb paintings and sarcophagi in third- and fourth-century Rome and still extant in the city. The most significant corpus of biblical imagery to have survived is first attested in these monuments and formed a basis for Christian pictorial narrative for centuries. Its original function, however, was arguably, at least in part, to signal a Christian identity in a predominantly non-Christian society. At the same time, patrons of funerary art in Rome who had converted to Christianity also undoubtedly sought to visualize and so commemorate their Roman identity. Although the latter was not necessarily at odds with their religious allegiance, through a careful examination of the imagery and contemporary written sources, the seminar will explore the complex and often challenging visual, religious, cultural and social negotiation that was involved in constructing a composite self-image that was at once revolutionary and entirely traditional, a pattern of mediation that has affected Christian self-representation to this day.

AH 750a Vice and Virtue in Post-Tridentine Rome (Course Type: Research Seminar-Early Modern)

Recent studies have connected artistic practice in Baroque Rome to issues of decorum, social deviance and even criminality (in the works of Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Guido Reni, for example). There has also been increasing scholarly attention to the influential architecture of the city’s social institutions, such as hospitals, hospices and prisons, as well as the charitable organizations that oversaw them. When these avenues of research are united, an alternative image of Rome emerges, one that challenges prevailing ideas of the Baroque city and the function of its spectacular illusionism. This seminar explores the relationship between social control and Rome’s visual and spatial environment in the post-Tridentine era, particularly the ways in which the papacy, secular governing bodies and religious organizations sought to impose discipline and order. The objects of study will include canonical works, such as paintings by the best-known practitioners of the time, as well as prints, ephemeral liturgical instruments and displays, and often neglected buildings in the city.

AH 770a Modernity and Loss: Nineteenth Century Art and Rome (Course Type: Research Seminar-Modern/Contemporary)

Seemingly left behind by modernity, art in Rome in the nineteenth century is distant from conventional art-historical narratives of Modernist development. Rome was relatively untouched by modern industrialism, urbanization, and the consequent upheavals to social organization. Instead the city retained—until the Unification of Italy that made Rome the new Capitol¬—much of its traditional life, not to mention its vivid signs of the past in the still-present remains of Ancient, Renaissance, and Baroque splendour. Similarly, fundamental changes to art patronage and audiences, new roles for artists, and altered habits of vision and aesthetic discourses were comparatively absent from the Roman scene (at least until late-century). This ‘sleepy’, ‘backward’ environment held a strong attraction for many artists, often coming from other 19th century capitals.

This course proposes that many of these artists and movements might be considered an alternative modernism. Groups such as the Nazarenes and the artists of il Purismo, for example, not only formed avant-gardes of a certain type, they too, reflected critically on modernity. Similarly, the work of expatriate Americans Elihu Vedder and William Wetmore Story, the watercolors of German-Italian Ettore Roesler Franz, or the Roman commission of Edward Burne-Jones suggest complex and modern conceptions of history, time, and change—not just simple romanticism. Thus, while these artists and many others in Nineteenth-century Rome are frequently relegated to categories that imply entrenchment in tradition or simple rejection of the modern, their practice has much to teach us about about modernity's relationship to loss, trauma, and nostalgia¬—thus also broadening conventional modernist discourse. The course will study their conscious strategies for critical art making, imaginative conceptions of the past, and formal experimentation.