Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Art History


Art and Art History 401. Seminar

The study of particular periods, special topics or individual artists. A list for the following year is announced each spring. Subjects are chosen to meet the needs and interests of the particular group of art history majors.

Fall 2017

Bodies: Dead or Alive

This seminar explores issues related to the image and display of the human and monstrous body (in particular, the Devil). Key questions follow: Is there a nexus between the representation of humans and devils? At what point does one end and the other begin? To what extent does psychology and physiology determine the fashioning of bodies and how are these perceptions linked to historical, social and cultural differences as a prelude to the creation and performance of one’s identity(ies)? How is appearance tied to essence? Conversely, to what extent do fakes and forgeries miss this essential link?

Finally, how have issues of display and conservation enhanced or detracted from our appreciation of the representation of the body, dead or alive, in situ or in a museum? Methodological perspectives used to inform our discussions will be wide-ranging, including gender studies, reception theory, semiotics, social art history, iconography, problems in connoisseurship/conservation, formal analysis and psychoanalytical theory. Objects will be drawn almost exclusively from Northern Europe, from the Middle Ages through the Early Modern period and into the Nineteenth Century. Media will include manuscripts, sculpture, prints, stained glass, and painting in order to assess the influence of materials on representation and to ground our discussions in the object. The theme for this seminar and its construction was derived from a co-mingling of the many art historical and theoretical interests of each of the senior art history majors enrolled in the course.