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University Bulletin
Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Art History (ART H)

ART H 426 (US;IL) Iconoclasm: Powerful Images and their Destruction (3) Iconoclasm: exploring the political, religious, and social motivations behind the destruction of powerful imagery throughout history.

ART H 426 Iconoclasm: Powerful Images and their Destruction (3)

(BA) This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements.

Images have been granted extraordinary powers in many human societies, and their purposeful destruction has been a recurrent feature of political, religious and social strife around the world. This course explores how and why humans have granted such power to images, and the subsequent reactions that have resulted in periodic outbreaks of iconoclasm. Topics include the historical specificity of image destruction, the role of art and its detractors in precipitating the Protestant Reformation, and the manipulation of iconoclasm in modern mass media. Victimized images covered may include the bronze bust of Sargon (3rd millennium BCE) and early Renaissance altarpieces through the statues of Saddam Hussein and beyond. We will read primary and secondary materials ranging from Biblical texts to letters to the editor in the New York Times. Through careful consideration of iconoclasms' historical contexts, we will explore art's ability to function as a societal lightning rod. This course has two major objectives: to introduce students to a subject matter that holds great relevance for our time, and to train them in the methods and ethics of scholarly research.

This course fulfils elective and 400-level requirements in Art History and General Education (US and IL), but it is intended also to complement concentrations in History, Visual Studies, Religion, and Communications. It would be offered every two to three years. Evaluative criteria include analytical reading and discussion, written components such as critical essays and a research projects, and analysis of relevant current events and their media coverage. Requires a classroom with digital audio-visual capability. Course may include museum visits or field trips where appropriate.

General Education: None
Diversity: US;IL
Bachelor of Arts: Arts
Effective: Summer 2009
Prerequisite: 3 credits of Art History in any area

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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