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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Spring 2010

AMS 325 • Religion and Visual Culture in the US

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29780 MW
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
BUR 130

Course Description

This is a course about religious things. It focuses on artifacts, or what some scholars have called "visual culture," and it considers how religion mediates artifacts and artifacts mediate religion. More specifically, the course introduces students to religion and visual culture in the United States since the nineteenth century. The religious artifacts we analyze include paintings, drawings, sculptures, architecture, film, video, clothing, tattoos, greeting cards, holy cards, holy water, advertisements, prayer beads, domestic furnishings, memorials, billboards, gardens, yard shrines, and cemeteries. Several religions are represented: We look at Protestant outsider art, Latina Catholic paintings, Jewish New Year postcards, Plains Indians' drawings, and Buddhist inspired video art. We will visit the Blanton museum, tour an East Austin studio, view videos and films, and analyze images in each class session. In the first few sessions, we ponder the meaning of key terms, like “religion” and “visual culture” and students refine their ability to interpret religious visual culture by focusing on one popular religious image. In this thematically organized class, we then consider a variety of religious artifacts associated with ever widening social spaces—the body, the home, the garden, the mall, the congregation, the shrine, the museum, the theater, the prison, the neighborhood, the nation, and the world. We end the course by returning to where we began, as students offer their own definitions of key terms and propose their own strategies for interpreting religious visual culture.


Possible Texts David Morgan and Sally Promey, eds., The Visual Culture of American Religions Colleen McDannell, Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America David Morgan, The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing about Art, Other assigned readings will be posted to the Blackboard site.


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