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

Undergraduate Course: Stars, Robots, and Talismans: Science, Magic & Medieval Islamic Visual Culture (HIAR10166)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course offers an investigation of the arts and material culture of science and magic in early and medieval Islamic societies, c. 650-1350, across a range of media. The course is structured as a series of two-hour seminars, focusing each week on individual objects representing different functions and media (architecture, metalwork, manuscript illumination/diagrams, etc.
Course description This course examines the visual and material culture of the exact sciences and magic in early and medieval Islamic societies (c. 650-1350). While we now tend to think of art, science, and magic as distinct spheres of endeavour, they have been closely intertwined in the past, and were given spectacular material expression in early works of medieval Islamic visual culture. We will consider objects, manuscripts, and architecture that unite these realms, from talismans to a medieval machine for predicting the future, the celebrated early analogue computers known as astrolabes, and a whole array of automata (early robots), which we know through descriptions, diagrams and paintings in medieval illustrated manuscripts. We will explore new and old ideas, engage with complex issues and discuss the rewards (and challenges) of working with objects that unite science, magic, and visual culture to illuminate history.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: History of Art 2 (HIAR08012) OR ( Architectural History 2a: Order & the City (ARHI08006) AND Architectural History 2b: Culture & the City (ARHI08007))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Printing: c. £10-20
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  20
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Formative Assessment Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Revision Session Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1 x 2500 word essay 50% - submitted weeks 8-10
1 x 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, in addition to a one-to-one meeting.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)24 hour online examination paper0:05
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Look closely at early and medieval Islamic works of art and material culture pertinent to the exact sciences (especially astronomy and engineering) and to magic (divinatory practices), and begin to explain why they look the way they do, their social and historical contexts, and how they relate to other areas of contemporary artistic production
  2. Read primary sources (in translation), theoretical, and scholarly texts skilfully and with understanding, and use these in conjunction with the objects to build independent arguments
  3. Present your own ideas clearly and well in writing and debate
  4. Prepare and organize your work effectively to deadlines
Reading List
Alaoui, Brahim. L'âge d'or des sciences arabes: exposition présentée à l'Institut du monde arabe, Paris, 25 octobre 2005-19 mars 2006. 1er éd. Arles: [Paris]: Actes sud; Institut du monde arabe, 2005.
Al- Jazari. The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. Donald R. Hill, transl. and ed. Dordrecht, Boston,: Reidel, 1974.
Banu Musa. The Book of Ingenious Devices (Kitab Al-Hiyal). Donald R. Hill, transl. and ed. Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel Pub. Co., 1978.
Hasan, Ahmad and Donald R. Hill. Islamic Technology: An Illustrated History; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Hill, Donald. Islamic Science and Engineering. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993.
Leoni, Francesca. Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2016.
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
KeywordsIslamic Art,medieval,art and science,magic
Course organiserDr Glaire Anderson
Course secretaryMrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460
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