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

Postgraduate Course: Performance and Spectacle in Early Modern Europe (HIAR11102)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines the early modern spectacle in Europe, c. 1500-1750, considering the themes of ritual, festival, performance, rhetoric, illusion, commemoration, and propaganda, and confronting the particular challenges of studying the ephemeral as an art historical subject. Particular attention is focussed on the visual components of spectacles, including scenographies, decorations, costumes, and ritual objects, and the relationship of these events to the built or natural environments in which they take place.
Course description From the chaos of carnival to the theatrical productions of Venice, from religious devotions and festivals to the triumphal entries and state funerals of rulers, performance and spectacle in many ways define European culture from the Renaissance through the eighteenth century. As subjects of art historical study, spectacles and the scenographies created for them can provide a crucial missing piece for fully understanding the visual culture of the period. In this course we will examine a number of spectacle genres, evaluating how they actively engage participants as 'performers' and make use of symbol, image, text, ritual, memory and illusion for a variety of ends, including communication, devotion, celebration, political and religious persuasion and propaganda. As we study the visual components of these events--ephemeral scenographies, decorations, ritual objects, costumes, fireworks and other types of display--we will consider their relationship to the built spaces and the works of art and architecture with which they formed a 'total environment' partly permanent, partly ephemeral. Finally, we will consider the complex and often interchanging roles of performer, public and patron.

After several thematic sessions providing a foundation for the topic, weekly seminars will be built around a spectacle genre. Examples will be studied using a core reading set from relevant scholarship and translated primary sources, complemented by readings on cultural and historical context as well as critical theory. Class time will be divided between study of readings and analysis of images, video and audio clips, as appropriate. Where possible, guest lecturers will be invited from the History and Music departments, or local arts organisations, to offer their expertise. As opportunity arises, you will be taken to attend a live performance or rehearsal or will be shown a video of a performance of an early modern work, to evaluate it in relation to historic and contemporary theatrical practice. We will also incorporate the examination of production elements, such as set designs and stage costumes held in local collections. You will be encouraged to undertake independent investigations of spectacles in preparation for their assessed project, and this work will be supported in seminars as we discuss research strategies for studying ephemeral subjects and the challenges they present: the use of archival records, diaries, and commemorative publications (including engravings and other images); the lack of surviving material evidence; and the problem of historical distance.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
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 a detailed understanding of the early modern spectacle: the major genres, their components, functions and key themes.
  2. Assess the place of ephemeral objects and events as subjects of art historical study, using a wide range of resources.
  3. Critically evaluate the scholarship on spectacle and the existing theoretical frameworks.
  4. Develop new approaches to the topic through case studies, including contextual analysis, comparison between works and periods, and direct engagement with objects and primary sources.
  5. Collaborate with a team on the research and analysis of an event or object, and present this research using text, objects and visual aids.
Reading List
Checa Cremades, Fernando and Laura Fernández-Gonzalez, eds. Festival Culture in the World of the Spanish Habsburgs, 135-53. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015.
Cohn, Samuel Jr., Marello Fantoni et al., Late Medieval and Early Modern Ritual: Studies in Italian Urban Culture. Turnout: Brepols, 2013.
Gillgren, Peter, ed. Performativity and Performance in Baroque Rome. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2012.
Schraven, Minou. Festive Funerals in Early Modern Italy: The Art and Culture of Conspicuous Commemoration. Burlington: Ashgate, 2014.
Strong, Roy. Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals 1450-1650. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1973.
Warburg, Aby. The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity: Contributions to the Cultural History of the European Renaissance, ed. Steven Lindberg. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 1999.
Warwick, Genevieve. Bernini: Art as Theatre. London/New Haven: Yale, 2012.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Research and inquiry : The course is an opportunity for students to engage with new research and make new and potentially important contributions to an active, developing field of study.

Intellectual autonomy: Through the formative project and assessed work, students take initiative and demonstrate a high degree of autonomy in choosing their research subject and in conducting this research, from the critical evaluation of the scholarly discourse to seeking out objects for analysis and primary sources.

Outlook and engagement: Students are expected to draw upon their own experience in both the seminars and in the formative and assessed projects, demonstrating the relevance of the topic and its connections with the historical examples outside Europe as well as the contemporary world of performance and spectacle worldwide.

Communication: In both seminar discussions and in their presentations, students must engage in effective communication in expressing their ideas and in presenting their research findings.

Enquiry and lifelong learning: Students who are inspired by this topic will be encouraged to continue to pursue it as they undertake advanced research, such as their MSc dissertations and PhD projects, thus contributing to its growth within and apart from the discipline of art history.

KeywordsBaroque,spectacle,festival,performance,scenography,early modern
Course organiser Course secretaryMrs Anna Johns
Tel: (0131 6)51 5740
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