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

Undergraduate Course: Envisioning the 'Foreign': European Depictions of Non-European Places and Cultures c.1550-c.1750 (HIAR10181)

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
SummaryThis course examines depictions of non-European places, peoples and flora and fauna produced by European (primarily Dutch and English) artists in the period c.1550-c.1750. The classes will focus on objects and images produced through encounters with the foreign, which we will investigate using both modern critical (e.g. post-colonial) approaches and period texts (e.g. travel accounts, poetry). The course is structured as a series of two-hour seminars, of which at least one will be a gallery or museum visit.
Course description The increasingly globalised character of the world has been identified as a defining trait of the early modern period. European nations' colonial and trading ventures in the Americas, Asia and other parts of the globe led to the 'discovery' of unfamiliar peoples, plants, animals and materials that fascinated and perplexed audiences at home. Artists and skilled craftsmen, and the paintings, prints, maps and furnishings that they produced, played a key role in bringing these novelties to a wider audience. Slavery and the commercial activities that relied upon it (e.g. sugar manufacturing) were foundations of European expansion, ones that also occasionally leave their mark in the historical record.

While the material examined in the course is often strongly shaped by an assumption of European superiority, it also expresses complex attitudes towards the foreign. The images and illustrated books produced by the English in Virginia and the Dutch in Brazil were partly intended to encourage home investment in the outpost settlements and to announce the power and ambition of the colonising power. At the same time, they reveal a genuine interest in the plants, animals and topography of these places and in the culture and religious practices of their inhabitants. Equally, Asian civilizations and products were highly regarded for their sophistication and technological prowess, as evidenced by how they are represented in allegorical images of the Four Continents, in still life paintings and in city views.

Some key issues addressed by the course include:

How early modern Europeans used visual materials to investigate, and negotiate their relationships with, non-European cultures.
What advantages images offered for making known unfamiliar peoples, places and flora and fauna.
How visual materials helped to produce the distinct categories of the curious, the exotic, the foreign, the 'savage', and the 'civilized'.
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 Museum or gallery visit (these costs may be covered by the department)
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History of Art courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. As numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge of some of the main varieties of European imagery depicting non-European places and cultures.
  2. Apply their knowledge of the historical, art historical and historiographical frameworks which relate to representations of non-European places and cultures in order to offer persuasive interpretations of a range of visual materials.
  3. Present their views effectively, both orally (in seminar and museum presentations or discussion) and in writing.
Reading List
Larry Silver, 'Europe's global vision', in A companion to renaissance and baroque art ed. Babette Bohn and James Saslow (Oxford, 2013), pp. 85-105 [e-book online]

Benjamin Schmidt, Inventing exoticism: geography, globalism, and Europe's early modern world (Philadelphia, 2015) [Main Library (STANDARD LOAN) - 2nd floor CB203 Sch.]

Michael Gaudio, 'Savage marks: the scriptive techniques of early modern ethnography', Engraving the savage: the New World and techniques of civilisation (London, 2008), pp. ix-xxv [e-book online]

Jerry Bentley, 'Early Modern Europe and the Early Modern World', in Between the Middle Ages and Modernity: Individual and Community in the Early Modern World, ed. Charles Parker and Jerry Bentley (2007), pp. 13-32 [Main Library (STANDARD LOAN) - 2nd floor CB358 Bet.]

J. B. Harley, 'Texts and contexts in the interpretation of early maps', in The new nature of maps: essays in the history of cartography ed. Paul Laxton (Baltimore, 2001), pp. 31-49 [Main Library (STANDARD LOAN) - 2nd floor GA201 Har.]
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Visual and critical analysis;
Clear thinking and the development of an argument;
Independent research;
Presentation and communication skills;
Organisation and planning.
KeywordsForeign,exotic,curious,early modern,non-European places,America,Asia,Africa,Four Continents
Course organiserDr Thomas Balfe
Course secretaryMrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460
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