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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Undergraduate Course: Visions of the Buddha: Religious Art in Medieval Japan (HIAR10163)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryManga and anime only scratch the surface of Japanese visual and material culture which has flourished for six millennia. This course focuses on medieval artistic production in Japan to investigate the ubiquitous presence of Buddhism, to uncover not only the religious but also the socio-political motivations, to question modern assumptions of Buddhism, and to reveal the continued importance of critical themes at work in this art to our own contemporary society. The course is thematically structured as a series of two-hour seminars incorporating lectures, class discussions, and group activities.
Course description Investigating the visual and material culture of medieval Japan offers an opportunity to explore the deployment of Buddhism for intriguing and poignant reasons do with political authority, gender politics, soteriological goals, fears of death and retribution, and the drive to create something beautiful and powerful. In effect, these are concerns that still face us today. This course analyses the objects presented in lectures and in your readings not only as aesthetic and religious works, but also as icons embodying the particular socio-historical contexts of their production. We grapple with issues of style, iconography, economics, patronage, belief systems, labour, and gender. In order to flesh out these connections, a crucial part of the course will be reading and discussing interdisciplinary and primary source documents. Small group activities are designed to help you experience the subject from different pedagogical perspectives. Our goal is to tell a story of religion, history, literature, and politics with art at its centre, revealing the indispensability and interconnectedness of visual culture to the fabric of medieval Japan.

As a two-hour per week seminar course, the start of each class will be lectures which will draw out certain points from the required readings, provide visual accompaniment, and present additional information to augment the week's theme. The second half of the class will be student-led open discussions of the readings and assigned topic and small group activities that spark and reinforce new learning.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have completed at least 3 History of Art courses at grade B or above, and we will only consider University/College level courses. **Please note that 3rd year History of Art courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces. These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  24
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Formative Assessment Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 24, Revision Session Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 150 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1 x 2000 word essay 50% - submitted weeks 8-10
1 24 hour online exam 50%
Feedback Students are given feedback on formative assessment as follows:

You will be asked to prepare a spoken presentation to deliver to the class, and will be supported to develop this in one-to-one meeting beforehand, and will receive verbal feedback at one-to-one meeting afterwards. The presentation is designed to assist you in developing your understanding and improving your performance for the summative assessment.

Summative assessment:

Written feedback on student essays will be provided within 15 days.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)24 hour online examination paper0:05
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate the ability to engage in substantive enquiry and critical analysis of the diverse visuality and many functions of Buddhist art in medieval Japan;
  2. Develop a solid foundation of knowledge of core Buddhist tenets and major works and monuments of Buddhist art in medieval Japan;
  3. Demonstrate developed skills of visual enquiry, analysis, and communication using a wide range of objects and primary sources;
  4. Critique the scholarly literature and locate their own place within the developing field of knowledge.
Reading List
Heine, Steven and Pamela Winfield, eds. Zen and Material Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017

Hirasawa, Caroline. Hell-bent for Heaven: Painting and Practice at a Japanese Mountain. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Hurvitz, Leon. Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma. Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2009.

Leidy, Denise Patry. The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to Its History and Meaning. Boulder: Shambhala, 2009.

O'Neal, Halle. Word Embodied: The Jeweled Pagoda Mandalas in Japanese Buddhist Art. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2018.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Visual and critical analysis;
Clear thinking and the development of an argument;
Independent research;
Presentation and communication skills;
Organization and planning.
Course organiserDr Jiemin Fang
Course secretaryMrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460
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