FOCUS Course

Graduate Seminar on Sacred Images

Professors Mark Fullerton and Fritz Graf
Winter Quarter 2006 * Wednesday 1:30 to 4:30

Overall aim: to understand the role of images in religious discourse and religious ritual in the Mediterranean world, including the theoretical and methodological issues involved.

Procedure: after a short period of familiarization with the main theoretical work in the field, case studies will clarify the issues and test the theoretical approaches. The cases studied will be selected from the entire Mediterranean area and from a wide range of epochs, with the center of interest in the epoch from early Greek to (early) Byzantine periods.

Requirements: Each student will be expected to participate in class discussions and will lead the class discussion of at least one reading. Each student will research a topic and present a seminar report during the last three weeks of the course. A seminar paper will summarize the results of this report and incorporate the class discussion of the report; this paper is due March 13.

Meeting one: The contemporary discussion of images.

Meeting two: The ancient discourse: Greek and Latin terminology; ancient discussions on the role of images (criticism: Heraclitus, Chrysippus; evolutionary theories: Varro, Clement of Alexandria, Pausanias; the allegorical compromise: Plutarch, Porphyry); the Jewish and Christian contribution and continuation of this discourse (see also meetings six and seven, during which some of the Jewish-Christian debates will be considered.)

Richard L. Gordon, "The Real and the Imaginary. Production and Religion in the Greco-Roman World," Art History 2 (1979) 5-34.

Deborah Tarn Steiner, Images in Mind. Statues in Archaic and Classical Greek Literature and Thought (Princeton: PUP, 2001). Pp. 3-26; 56-79; 89-104.Chapter 1.

Peter Stewart, Statues in Roman Society. Representation and Response (Oxford: OUP, 2003) chapter 1.

Meeting three: What is a "cult image," and did such a thing exist? (issues involved: consecration of images, cult of images, cult image vs. dedicatory image; most exciting case: Athena Parthenos and the Old Image).

Meeting four: Non-anthropomorphic (or not fully anthropomorphic) images (issues involved: the term "aniconism"; the role of anthropomorphism and the collective representation of divinities, incl. vase paintings of divine statues vs. divinities; case study: the herm and Hermes)

Meeting five: Powerful images: miraculous images in the pagan world; images in theurgy and magic (issues involved: ritual vs. aesthetics; is power compensation?; conceptualization of magic; image and ritual outside a sanctuary; case studies). Guest expert on the topic: Sarah Iles Johnston

Meeting six: Miraculous images in Christian discourse; hostility to images and iconoclasm (issues involved: monotheism and images; case studies: the iconoclast controversy?). Guest expert on the topic: Anthony Kaldellis

Meeting seven: Parallel cases from around the Mediterranean, according to faculty and student interests.

Meetings eight, nine and ten: presentations (four presentations per meeting)

Notes(1) Several faculty members both in ancient studies (Anthony Kaldellis, Tim McNiven) and in (early) modern and folklore (Maureen Ahern, Elizabeth Davis, Barbara Haeger, Dorry Noyes) have signaled their interest in participating both in discussion and in brief presentations of their current work during Meeting Six. Both faculty and students will have the possibility to present papers in Siena; most of them will receive at least partial funding for the trip from Focus Program funds.