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COURSE NAME: "World Art II: Visual Culture of the Medieval World"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Silvia Armando
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 4:30-5:45 PM

This survey course focuses on the art and architecture of Europe, the Mediterranean, and Western Asia from c. AD 400 to c. AD 1300. The course investigates the arts of the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic areas of western Asia, North Africa, and Europe, with brief considerations of the arts of sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent, East Asia, and pre-Columbian America. Special attention will be given to religious traditions and to the languages of art (i.e. the symbolic codes) developed to serve, express, and enrich those traditions. The chief objective of the course is to equip students with a mental map of artistic developments of the period in their broader cultural-historical contexts. The course will also assist students in cultivating basic art-historical skills, in particular description, stylistic analysis, and iconographic and iconological analysis.

The course will maintain a traditional focus on the so-called Latin West, Byzantium and the Islamic world, while also considering case-studies from China, Japan, South East Asia and Africa. The main aim is to provide a firm understanding of related artistic traditions and to develop basic art-historical skills.

Art and material culture will be analyzed within their cultural and historical contexts. How did secular and religious powers affect the creation of artifacts and monuments? Which kind of messages were these intended to convey? Which role did previous or contemporary traditions play in artistic production, and how did this change across time and space? But also: how can archaeological discoveries and other material evidence improve our knowledge of the past? What can the materiality of an object and the technique of its making reveal?

Connections between distinct geographical areas will also be explored through specific readings. These will reveal unexpected contacts and interchanges among distant cultures and traditions that were usually studied in isolation. Crossing conventional boundaries of historiography and examining a variety of methodological approaches will, in this way, improve the ability to think critically.

Finally, the study of medieval art is currently undergoing an essential and global reconsideration: nineteenth- and twentieth-century narratives were too often affected by racist, orientalist, colonialist or gender-biased interpretations, and the debate about how the history of medieval art should be expanded or rewritten is today extremely animated. Acquiring a basic awareness of these discussions, the course will approach both artistic phenomena and related bibliography with a fresher and more critical perspective.


Beside acquiring a general knowledge and understanding of medieval artistic developments, students will:

·       improve their skills in describing, contextualizing and interpreting monuments, artifacts and material culture

·       improve their critical reading skills

·       learn how to orient themselves with a variety bibliographical materials and methodologies

·       engage in oral presentations and in-class discussions

·       write concise and effective texts about artifacts and monuments


Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Gardner's Art Through the Ages : A Global History , Vol1 16th Edition Kleiner, F. et alEngageISBN-13: 978-1337696593 or ISBN-10: 1337696595   

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
A short guide to writing about ArtSylvan BarnetPearson Prentice Hall9780136138556  More recent editions of the volume are fine.
Professionalism and academic participation 10%
Oral presentations of lessons At the end of each lesson, the instructor will ask one student to prepare, for the next meeting, a brief presentation (8 minutes max.) concerning what was analyzed in class.5%
Mid-term examClosed book, in class. Format: slide identification, term definitions, description and contextualization of selected artworks. Scheduled October 2nd20%
Critical review and discussion of specific readings At the beginning of the course students will receive a list of further readings intended to deepen issues and topics presented in class. Each student will choose an article/chapter of her/his interest, on which she/he will write a critical review (800 words max. excluding bibliography; more details about this assignment will be given during the introductory lessons). After having completed the review, students will present the papers in class (5 mins) and moderate the following discussion. There will be three meetings during the semester: every time ca. 7-8 students will be presenting, then discussing their related readings. Students who will not be presenting a review for that specific meeting, will be however asked to read one of the articles and to participate to the discussion preparing 2-3 questions to submit to the audience. Critical reviews are due respectively on Oct. 7th, November 6th and Nov. 27th. Discussion meetings will be held on Oct.7th., Nov. 13th and Dec. 2nd.15%
Two short entriesTwo catalog entries dedicated to an object or monument (basic historical information, visual and critical analysis; each entry should count 1000 words max. excluding bibliography and images. Further directions will be provided in class). Due October 21st and November 20th respectively20% (5+15%)
Final examClosed book, in class. Format: slide identification, term definitions, description and contextualization of selected artworks. All content from the course, including student presentations in class, will be considered. Scheduled between Dec. 9th and Dec. 13th30%
 Power Point presentations to support students’ assignments will be posted via Moodle after each class.  

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Class meetings are mandatory. Attendance counts heavily in the professionalism grade, determines how many quiz  grades you can drop, and has a guaranteed impact on your success on exams and other assignments.

A major exam (midterm or final) cannot be made up without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1
Sept. 2nd – Sept. 4th          Course overview. Calendar, assessments and assignments.

Week 2
Sept. 9th – Sept. 11th        Late antiquity

Week 3
Sept. 16th – Sept. 18th      Byzantium – unit 1

Week 4 
Sept. 23rd – Sept. 25th      Islamic world – unit 1

Week 5 
Sept. 30th                          General review
Oct. 2nd                             Mid-term Exam

Week 6 
Oct. 7th                              Discussion of readings. Late Antique, early Byzantium and Islam
                                          Critical review is due today for discussion moderators
Oct. 9th                             Carolingians

Week 7 
Oct. 14th                                 Ottonians
Oct. 16th                            Islamic world – unit 2

Week 8 
Oct. 21st                                  Islamic world – unit 2                                      Catalog entry 1 is due today
Oct. 23rd                            Byzantium – unit 2

Week 9
Oct. 28th                            Byzantium – unit 2
Oct. 30th                            Romanesque

Week 10
Nov. 4th                                   Romanesque
Nov. 6th                             Gothic    Critical review is due today for next week discussion moderators

Week 11
Nov. 11th                            Late Medieval Italy
Nov. 13th                            Discussion of readings. Byzantium, Islam and the Latin world 800-1300 CE

Week 12
Nov. 18th                                 South East Asia
Nov. 20th                            China                                                                  Catalog entry 2 is due today

Week 13
Nov. 25th                            Japan
Nov. 27th                                  Africa        Critical review is due today for next week discussion moderators

Week 14
Dec. 2nd                                      Discussion of readings. Connections: trade and cultural exchange
Dec. 4th                                 Final revision

Week 15
Dec. 9th – Dec. 11th             Final Exam scheduled between Dec. 9th and Dec. 13th