Art H 400: Naked Renaissance -- The Body and Representation in Renaissance Italy
Professor Stuart Lingo
Office: Room 361, School of Art
Office Hours: Mondays 3-5 and by appointment
e-mail (preferred contact): firstname.lastname@example.org
We still carry many assumptions the art and culture of the Italian Renaissance. The very term refers to the "rebirth" of Greco-Roman antiquity that is held to be a defining feature of Renaissance culture, and we generally believe that this achievement created a "canon" of art that remained dominant until modernity. This canon is often thought to be based on an appeal to "naturalistic" representation that foregrounds "classical" and "idealizing" characteristics. In this narrative, Renaissance art is presented monolithically as a foil to the innovations of Modernism, and can even appear bland to the modern viewer, who is conditioned by the experience of modern and contemporary artistic inventions. At the center of the Renaissance attempt to "revive" ancient artistic culture, however, was a daring experiment. This experiment was the attempt to make the human body the center of artistic style and meaning. Such an endeavor could never be unproblematic in post-antique Western culture, and indeed the Renaissance experiment, far from creating a canon of representation that held sway until modernism, was vigorously contested from its very inception. In this class, we will explore the radical nature of the Renaissance attempt to put the nude at the center of art in a manner not attempted since Greco-Roman antiquity, and consider its unsettling effects on period culture -- and its ongoing implications for our own relation to art and representation.
The course is conceived to engage students on a journey of intellectual discovery at a high level while remaining accessible even to students with little background in the study of Renaissance art. Class meetings will focus on discussion of shared readings, while course assignments focus on two in-class essay exams and a short research paper.