2023-2024 Catalog

ARTH 247 In Memoriam: Art and Death in the Medieval and Early Modern World

Death: the final frontier. Concern for the universal fact of death—and what might lie beyond it— has inspired art all over the world since the dawn of recorded time. In premodern societies, tombs, sanctuaries, and monuments, created a tangible and ever-changing link between this life and the next. This course proposes an in-depth exploration of the topic of death during a period of significant cultural change: the medieval and early modern periods (1000-1800). Taking up a wide geographical lens, this class will be organized thematically to engage with topics like relics, the macabre, visions of the last judgment, and even early scientific anatomy.  We will also explore how variegated cultural practices related to death interacted during a period of European global expansion and colonization. Historical inquiries will also open up to present-day debates around displaying burial arts and human remains in today’s museums and relating to European imperialist practices of looting, theft, and displacement. Readings, discussions, lectures, assignments, and visits will investigate objects, sites, and practices to develop visual and material literacy and question the complex relationships between art and death in the premodern world. Students will come away with a sense of just how much great eternal can actually change over time.


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Global Connections
  • Fine Arts
  • Pre-1800