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History and Theory of Arts and Media A, 2015-2016

Course code:

History and Theory of Arts and Media A

Arts, Culture and Media
Propedeuse (first year)
Barend van Heusden, Alejandra Wah, and Vincent Ros
Semester 1, block 1
Tuesday 11.00-13:00; Heymanszaal, Academy Building
Thursday and Friday (see schedule)


This course provides an overview of developments in the arts, from their earliest verbal,
visual and performative expressions to the recent emergence of new media and the ongoing
collapse of the traditional boundaries between art genres. Developments in the arts are
determined by the interplay between historical events, social changes and transformations in
world views. Rather than approaching the individual arts in isolation (film, theater, literature,
visual arts, music), we will mainly study them in their interconnection. The focus will be on
the relation between the arts and:
- changes in the social-economic and/or cultural context
- technological innovations and other changes that affect the medium in which the
work of art is expressed, such as the human body (tattoos), a material object
(sculptures, buildings), spoken and written language (the voice, the book), analogue
and digital means for recording and storing material (vinyl, dvd), etc.
This course does not pretend to cover all areas and all traditions in the rich and complex
history of the arts. Instead, we will focus on a number of cultural transformations that have
affected and shaped the Western-European tradition. This implies that most of the important
developments in Eastern-Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa and Oceania will fall outside
the scope of this course.
By the end of the course, the student will be expected to have mastered a series of academic
skills, which will be trained and assessed in oral and written assignments during the seminars.
These skills include:
clarity of expression in speaking and writing
time management (dealing with pressure and deadlines)
making individual and/or collective assignments and discussing them with fellow
exploring academic sources (summarizing the arguments, approaching these sources
critically, etc.)
In addition, the student is expected to have gained:

an overview of the historical developments of arts and media in the WesternEuropean tradition (assessed in the two final exams)
a better understanding of in the topics of the bachelor Arts, Culture and Media
(assessed in the two final exams)
an impression of the key questions and problems relevant to the study of Arts, Culture
and Media (assessed in the weekly assignments)


History and Theory of Arts and Media is divided in two separate parts. Part A will cover the
developments in arts and media from the Paleolithic era to the Renaissance. Part B will start
with the Renaissance and will conclude with the present era. If you fail to complete part A,
you can still attend part B.
This course provides a basic understanding of the history and theory of arts and media. This
will lay the groundwork for the modules on Film, Music and Theater, and it will complement
the courses Aesthetics and Arts Theory and Art and Cognition.
- Sayre, Discovering the Humanities (2nd or 3rd edition) for self-study.
- The material discussed during the seminars (see the program below). This material will be
available on Nestor.
Two hours of lectures and two hours of seminars in the course of 7 weeks.
The lectures will focus on the historical developments of arts and media, and the way in
which historical societies have reflected on these developments. The first lecture will
introduce a general framework for thinking about the interconnection between historical and
theoretical perspectives on art and media. The remaining lectures will focus on a series of
transformational moments, each of which will be put in its historical context.
Preceding each lecture, students are expected to have read the corresponding chapter from
Sayre. These chapters will not, or only tangentially, be discussed in the lectures, but must be
considered as self-study.
The aim of the seminars is to expand on the lectures by working on an assignment, and by
discussing the reading material in smaller groups. Each seminar will be directed by one of the
lecturers. Two kinds of seminars are being offered: two seminars in Dutch (group 1 and 2)
and two international seminars in English (group 3, 4, 5 and 6). Each student is already
enrolled in one of these groups.
In preparation of each seminar the student is expected to study the relevant reading
material(s) in depth, and to prepare the assignments. During the seminar the student is
expected to participate actively in the discussion.

Requirements for enrolling in the exams
Attendance to the lectures is not obligatory. Students are required, however, to attend all
seminars. Exceptions to this rule can only be made in case of emergencies or other urgent
problems. In that case, the student should inform the lecturer. Students that fail to attend
more than one seminar without notice, will be excluded from enrollment in the exams and
will be requested to quit the course. In order to optimize group discussion, students are
required to properly prepare for the seminars by studying the material(s) and completing the
weekly assignments. Failure to do so will be regarded as an unattended seminar.
Repeat course (for those who take this course for the second time)
Students who repeat this course, and have already met the requirements for the exams in a
previous year (attendance, participation, and the weekly assignments), do not have to attend
the seminars. However, they are encouraged to attend the lectures. They are also invited to
participate in the seminars, as long as the groups are not too crowded (when in doubt, ask one
of the lecturers). Nota bene: students who decide to participate in the seminars have to meet
the standard requirements for the exams.
The exams
The students understanding of the lectures and the reading material will be assessed in one
practical assignment and two complementary exams:
a) a short essay (800-1000 words) in which two works of art from different periods are
compared (this will cover 30% of the final grade)
b) a multiple choice test about Sayres book Discovering the Humanities (this will cover
40% of the final grade);
c) a written exam for which you will be asked to write a series of short essay-answers
about the attended lectures and the articles read (this will cover 30% of the final
grade). Nota Bene: make sure to make notes of the lectures and to keep up with the
required reading for the seminars.
In order to pass the course the following conditions have to be met by the student:
- he/she has to gain at least a 5 (out of 10) for the essay
- he/she has to gain at least a 5 (out of 10) for the multiple choice test
- he/she has to gain at least a 5 (out of 10) for the written exam
- the (mean) sum of these three assessments should yield at least a 5,5 (out of 10)
Students can resit the exams in the exam period at the end of the first semester (the exam
period of block 2).

1. Sparks of Humanity (week 36)
September 1/2, lectures
September 3/4, seminars
Reading material
Sayre: Chapter 1, The Prehistoric Past
How Art Made the World, episode 1 (streaming on Nestor, in Films)
Introduction to the assignment Art then, and now
2. Athens: The Birth of Western Philosophy (week 37)
September 8/9, lectures
September 10/11, seminars
Reading material
Sayre: Chapter 2, The Greek World
How Art made the World: episode 2 (streaming on Nestor, in Films)
First presentation of the project Art then and now
The Myth of Medea - BBC documentary (streaming on Nestor, in
3. Rome: The Quest for Power and Empire (week 38)
September 15/16, lectures
September 17/18, seminars
Reading material
Sayre: Chapter 3, Rome
How Art made the World: episode 3 (streaming on Nestor)
Hlscher: The semantic system: premises and structure (Nestor)
4. Constantinople: Byzantium's Struggle to make God Tangible (week 39)
September 22/23, lectures
September 24/25, seminars
Reading material
Sayre: Chapter 4 The Flowering of Religion
How Art made the World: episode 4 (streaming on Nestor)
Auerbach: Odysseus scar (Nestor)
5. Cordoba: Islam and the Medieval West - Contact and Conflict (week 40)
September 29/30, lectures
October 1/2, seminars
Reading material
Sayre: Chapter 5 The Early Medieval World
How Art made the World: episode 5 (streaming on Nestor)
Burckhardt: Perennial values in Islamic Art (Nestor)
Allen: Aniconism and figural representation in Islamic art (Nestor)
6. Paris: The Late Medieval Church and the Rise of the University (week 41)

October 6/7, lectures

October 8/9, seminars
Reading material
Sayre: Chapter 6 The Gothic and the Rebirth of Naturalism
Oppenheimer: Frederick II, Giacomo da Lentino, and the Earliest
Sonnets (Nestor)
7. Florence: The Invention of 'Perspective' in Italian Renaissance Art (week 42)
October 13/14, lectures
October 15/16, seminars
Reading material
Sayre: Chapter 7 The Renaissance
Deadline and Final Paper Presentations
Exam period block 1
Week 43 and 44
The resit will take place in January 2015 during the exam period of Block 2.