MLA Proseminar: Violence in the Ancient Mediterranean World

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ARTH 525 941
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The Greek and Roman world was fascinated by representing humans and beasts enduring physical and psychological pain, and images of violence inflicted by mortal and supernatural beings alike. These often highly striking images occur in art of all kinds, consumed both privately and publicly, emerging in the domestic, religious, military and political sphere. They had a range of aims, from affording emotional catharsis, building political cohesion or enforcing social norms, to generating religious awe or confidence in empire -- and giving entertainment. (The Roman world staged spectacles of real violence in the arena, which we can look to for comparison.) As we explore this corpus, we can ask: what might be the roots of such preoccupation with the art of violence and pain, in the `Classical tradition’ and its post-antique legacy? many modern cultures exhibit similar fascination: how far can modern reactions to and theories about such images be guides to reconstructing ancient viewership? How can ancient texts and history help us in this interdisciplinary project? No prerequisites. For those without background in the Greco-Roman world, or in art history and archaeology,  this class is also a practicum in learning those cultures and disciplines. The course welcomes students' potential contribution from their own experience, including expertise across the humanities and sciences such as other ancient studies, literary studies, history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and gender studies.

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