Rabun M Taylor
Associate Professor — PhD 1997, University of Minnesota
T C 302 • Roman Art And Society
TTH 1100am-1230pm CRD 007B
This course will examine Roman social values by way of one of the most abundant resources surviving from antiquity, art. More widespread — and sometimes more honest — than the literature that has survived down to our own time, fashioned images and constructed spaces made cultural messages available to people of all classes, fortunes, and occupations. To the aristocratic connoisseur of Greek culture just as to the simple slave serving him dinner, to the gladiator and to his wealthy patroness, to the prostitute and the prefect, visual representation communicated the values of a complex and vibrant society. Sometimes the language of this communication is cryptic and puzzling. Students will work to find meaning in a diverse array of artworks aligned with a number of major themes. These may include politics and ideology; portraits and personal identity; death and commemoration; the roles and status of women and minorities; sexuality and eroticism; life in the private sphere; urban spectacle; and religious devotion.
Among the course activities will be included likely field trips to the Blanton Museum, which houses a collection of modern casts of Greek and Roman sculpture, and the San Antonio Museum of Art, home of one of the finest collections of original Roman art in the nation. Students will have the opportunity to give presentations, examine objects in depth, and formulate topics of discussion.
Texts/Readings: (Subject to change)
M. Beard and J. Henderson, Classical Art: From Greece to Rome
J. Clarke, Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans
E. D’Ambra, Roman Art
E. Mayer, The Ancient Middle Classes
P. Stewart, The Social History of Roman Art
P. Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus
Oral communication. 20%
Written exercises and papers. 40%
Final evaluation. 20%
Class participation. 20%
Visit to San Antonio Museum of Art and attendance at University Lecture Series
About the Professor:
Rabun Taylor specializes in the fields of Roman Archaeology, Urbanism, Roman Material Culture, and Greek and Roman Art. He has conducted fieldwork in Greece and Italy. His research and other work focuses on Greek and Roman art, architecture, archaeology, urbanism, social history, and material culture. His recent publications include Roman Builders: A Study in Architectural Process (2003); and The Moral Mirror of Roman Art (2008). He is currently the co-author, with Katherine Rinne, of a forthcoming book on the urban history of the city of Rome.
T C 302 • Roman Art And Society-W
TTH 1100-1230pm CRD 007A
T C 302: First-Year Honors Seminar: Roman Art and Society
Unique number: 43540
TTh 11-12:30, CRD 007A
Professor Rabun Taylor, email@example.com
Office hours: Waggener Hall 14b, T 2-4, Th 2-3, or by appointment
E-reserves password: augustus
Rome is forever before our eyes. It is not just in our museums, or in archaeological sites across the Atlantic. It resides in our public buildings and gathering places, our churches and cemeteries, our coinage, our art, our homes, our entertainment. Rome is both us, and the Other; near, and distant. Therefore the purpose of this course is twofold: to explore Roman life as mediated through its material remains, and to explore the ways in which it has been twisted, straightened, smoothed, and roughened to accommodate modern Western values and aesthetics. More widespread — and sometimes more honest — than the literature that has survived down to our own time, Roman imagery and built space made cultural codes available to people of all classes, fortunes, and occupations. To the aristocratic connoisseur of Greek culture just as to the simple slave serving him dinner, to the gladiator and to his wealthy patroness, to the prostitute and the prefect, visual representation communicated the values of a complex and vibrant society. Sometimes the language of this communication is cryptic and puzzling. We will work to find meaning in a diverse array of artworks aligned with a number of major themes, such as politics and ideology; portraits and personal identity; death and commemoration; the roles and status of women and minorities; art and ideology; urban spectacle; and religious devotion. But rather than try, in vain, to remove the filter of our own cultural prejudices and predispositions, this course will shine a light on them. Thus a recurring theme will be to find strands of the Roman in our own material and intellectual heritage, to probe their histories, and thereby to seek a better understanding of our own attitudes and beliefs.
The seminar format allows for flexibility in assignments and a wide variety of approaches to learning. Although the syllabus provides the general outlines for the course (including major due dates), I will issue more precise assignments on a week-to-week basis. These may consist of readings (some from your textbooks, others from e-reserves), short writing exercises, or fieldwork—interviews, attending lectures outside class, reporting, examining artworks, buildings, etc. You will be evaluated on the basis of your class participation, written assignments, presentations, a research paper, and a final exam. Your formal presentation at the end of the semester will be on a topic related to your research paper. This is a Writing Flag course, so you will be writing papers or essays in several different formats and lengths. They break down as follows:
1. Informal responses to readings or other assignments, posted on Blackboard.
2. Professional-style review of readings for the first two weeks of class. 2 pages.
3. Review of a University Lecture (see below). 2-3 pages.
4. Essay on the Battle Cast Collection or sculpture cast collections in general, based on your research and interaction with other students. 4-5 pages. Rewrite optional.
5. Descriptive analysis of a work of Roman art. 3 pages. Rewrite required.
6. Research paper. 8-10 pages. Rewrite required (exemption possible in exceptional cases).
Here are some primary examples of the kind of fieldwork you will be undertaking in this course:
Field trip to the San Antonio Museum of Art Roman art collection. We will arrange to do this on a Saturday or Sunday in the first half of the semester. If you can return to the museum later, ether alone or with a group, you will be encouraged to make use of this wonderful collection in your research. Here you will encounter a feast of “real” Roman art, brought up from the earth. You will find, perhaps to your surprise, that virtually none of these objects can be traced back to their archaeological contexts. That fact alone tells us a great deal about what was valued, and what wasn’t, in our own cultural past. Yet so much information is preserved in each item (some of it easy to decode, some not) that you will find yourself trying to think like a Roman.
Investigating the Battle Cast Collection. This remarkable collection of plaster casts of Classical sculpture commissioned for UT by William Battle in the early 20th century is now in the possession of the Blanton and Stark Museums. The history and nature of cast collections, the part they have played in educating generations of students in Classical culture, and their subsequent devaluation and reevaluation in academic contexts will be a central issue in this course. For this exercise, you will become historians and reporters, fanning out around campus conducting interviews and research, digging up the history of the collection and framing your findings within European and American intellectual history. Periodically, we will return to questions that have haunted Western intellectuals for centuries: Wherein lies originality, and wherein imitation? What is an “original,” and what value does it hold exclusively? Do those “real” Roman artworks in San Antonio seem so real when we realize that almost all of them were copies or derivatives of lost “originals,” themselves produced from casts—that is, if they aren’t simply modern fakes, or imaginative restorations?
Attending a University Lecture. You will be required to attend and write about one of the lectures in the University Lecture Series. I will have more to say about this when the series is announced.
Class participation and attendance: 20 percent
Report and presentation: 25 percent (10 and 15 respectively)
Written descriptive analysis of a Roman artwork: 10 percent
Other writing assignments and quizzes: 15 percent
8-10-page research paper: 20 percent
Final exam: 10 percent
Final exam: Probably Saturday, May 15, 7-10 p.m. Exact time will be confirmed.
M. Beard and J. Henderson, Classical Art from Greece to Rome (Oxford 2001).
E. D’Ambra, Roman Art (Cambridge 1998).
Themes and readings listed here are approximate. I will refine the assignments over the course of the semester.
Week 1 (Jan. 19-21): Greetings and introduction.
For Thursday, read: D’Ambra 9-37.
Week 2 (Jan. 26-28): Reading Roman art.
For Tuesday, read: Beard & Henderson 1-63. If you’re unfamiliar with mythical names or stories cited in the text, consult Wikipedia (which is OK for quick lookups ONLY) or—even better—an authoritative general guide, such as the Oxford Concise Guide to Classical Literature.
Week 3 (Feb. 2-4): Writing workshop.
Tuesday or Thursday: 1-hour presentation by the Undergraduate Writing Center.
For this week, you will write a 2-page (double-spaced) review of your readings for weeks 1 & 2.
Week 4 (Feb. 9-11): Production I: Roman artists and patrons.
Tuesday or Thursday: Battle casts. Meet at Blanton Museum entrance.
For Tuesday, read: Stewart, “Who Made Roman Art?” in The Social History of Roman Art (Cambridge 2008), 10-38 (e-reserves).
For Thursday, read: E. Bartman, “Sculptural Collecting and Display in the Private Realm,” in E. Gazda, ed., Roman Art in the Private Sphere (Ann Arbor 1991), 71−88 (e-reserves).
Week 5 (Feb. 16-18): Production II: Art and imitation.
For Tuesday, read: Beard & Henderson 65-105.
Week 6 (Feb. 23-25): Production III: Casts vs. originals.
This week will be devoted to your reports related to the Battle Cast Collection.
For Tuesday, read: S. Miller, et al. Plaster Casts at Berkeley (Berkeley 2005), pages 1-20. Skim the rest. Link: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/2ch893d5
Week 7 (March 2-4): Roman portraits and personal identity.
2-3-page essay on the value of casts vs. originals due this week.
Possible readings: D’Ambra 25-37 (review), 93-112; Beard & Henderson 205-38.
Week 8 (March 9-11): Art and ideology.
Draft of descriptive analysis due this week.
Possible readings: Beard & Henderson 147-202.
Week 9 (March 23-25): Death and commemorative art.
Possible readings: D’Ambra 112-25; M. Koortbojian, “In commemorationem mortuorum: Text and Image Along the ‘Streets of Tombs,’” in J. Elsner, ed., Art and Text in Roman Culture (Cambridge 1996), 210-233; J. Whitehead, “The ‘Cena Trimalchionis’ and Biographical Narration in Roman Middle-Class Art,” in P. Holliday, ed., Narrative and Event in Ancient Art (Cambridge 1993), 299-325.
Week 10 (March 30-Apr. 1): Art and social status.
Final descriptive analysis due this week.
Possible readings: D’Ambra 39-57; B. Kellum, “The Spectacle of the Street,” in B. Bergmann and C. Kondoleon, eds., The Art of Ancient Spectacle (Washington, DC and New Haven 1999), 283-99; J. Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph (Oxford 1998), 91-101.
Week 11 (Apr. 6-8): City and spectacle.
Possible readings: D’Ambra 70-80; J. Clarke, “Spectacle: Entertainment, Social Control, Self-Advertising, and Transgression,” in Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans (Berkeley 2003), 130-59; H. Morales, “The Torturer’s Apprentice: Parrhasius and the Limits of Art,” in Elsner, Art and Text, 182-209.
Week 12 (Apr. 13-15): The roles and status of women.
Paper drafts due Thursday, April 15.
Possible readings: Selections from D. Kleiner and S. Matheson, eds., I Claudia: Women in Ancient Rome (Austin 1996); M. Wyke, “Woman in the Mirror: The Rhetoric of Adornment in the Roman World,” in L. Archer, et al., eds., Women in Ancient Societies: An Illusion of the Night (New York 1994), 134-51.
Week 13 (Apr. 20-22): Presentations.
Week 14 (Apr. 27-29): Presentations.
Week 15 (May 4-6): Presentations.
Final papers due.
Some religious holidays may conflict with class sessions. If you expect to miss class because of a religious holiday, you will be allowed to make up any assessed work you missed on that day. But you must notify me at least 14 days in advance. For religious holidays that fall within the first two weeks of the semester, the notice should be given on the first day of the semester.
STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES:
The University of Texas at Austin provides, upon request, appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259 or 471-4641, or go to http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/ssd. Keep in mind that this course is heavily oriented toward visual information.
Scholastic dishonesty will not be tolerated. It includes any kind of cheating; for more information, contact Student Judicial Services at 471-2841, or go to http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/sjs/scholdis.php.