The Medieval Castle in Britain (First Year Seminar): Fortresses, Technology, and Power

Spring 2015

ARTHIST 89S-02 | MEDREN 89S-01

Matthew Woodworth

Th 3:05-5:35pm| The Wired! Lab (Smith, Bay 11, A233)

This class investigates the evolution of the British castle from the Norman Conquest through the end of the Tudor dynasty (i.e., 1066-1603). It begins with the mighty eleventh-century ruins scattered along the coast of Wales — the greatest surviving fortifications in the world, and the inspiration for those seen in Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. The course then surveys the development of British military architecture over the next five and half centuries. Dramatic changes in ground plan and topography were matched by sweeping changes in style, architectural fashion, materials, and the machinery of war. Students will use 3D modeling to map the location of castles in the British landscape, as well as make digital reconstructions (both external and internal) of how a vanished or ruinous castle would have appeared in its heyday. Formalist and technological concerns will be approached holistically and symbiotically: How did the appearance of the “ideal” castle change over time, and how did it adapt to new regimes, weapons, and economic forces? We will also investigate the historical accuracy of popular “siege engine” computer games such as Stronghold, Age of Empires, and Medieval: Total War.

This course is open to first year students only. Due to popular demand, a special topics course has been created for other students. More information is available here.

Medieval Castles of Europe

Fall 2016


Edward Triplett

TTH 1:25-2:40pm | Wired! Lab (Smith, Bay 11, Rm A233)

This special topics course investigates the evolution of medieval castles in Europe. Students will use 3D modeling to reconstruct vanished or ruinous castles as they may have appeared in their heydays.

The Mendicant Revolution

Fall 2012, Fall 2014

Caroline Bruzelius

This course examines the impact of two new religious orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans (mendicant friars), on cities, architecture, literature, painting and sculpture.

In the early 13th century, two men, Francis and Dominic, started religious movements that had a profound impact on the world. Although their institutions were different in many ways, they shared some common goals: outreach to the public through public sermons aimed at converting heretics, a spiritual vocation dedicated to imitating the poverty of Christ and the Apostles, and a focus on people living in cities. This became a profoundly urban movement, engaging with laymen in the public spaces of cities (squares, piazzas, markets) as well as in the private spaces of homes. Because of their public role, friars became immensely popular and influenced many aspects of late medieval life. Their use of imagery in painting and sculpture initiated new trends in the representation of sacred themes, for example. The importance of sermons as a mode of outreach to the public led to the invention of new types of texts, such as concordances, popularizing saint’s lives. They created a new type of urban convent for their communities that were often flanked by public piazzas for preaching.

Motion Graphics in Film & Video

Spring 2014


Raquel Salvatella De Prada

WF 1:25-2:40 pm Social Science 229

This course explores motion graphics and post-production techniques to use in broadcast design, video and film production. Students first learn basic compositing using layers, animated text as well as keyframing and masking. Students then move to more advanced topics that include stabilization and tracking, green screen, rotoscoping, paint tools, color correction, 3D layers and special effects that can add exciting and creative touches to each student project, whether it is a film, documentary, visual experiment or animation. Importing media from a wide variety of applications, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier and Final Cut Pro is also covered.
Knowledge of editing software such as Final Cut Pro or Premier is required and familiarity with Photoshop and Illustrator is helpful. Instructor consent required.

The Museum Inside Out

Spring 2012

Caroline Bruzelius, Mark Olson

Elizabeth Baltes and Alexandra Dodson, TAs

Medieval sculpture often “floats” on white walls of museums with no suggestion of the richness of its historical context. The goal of this course was to explore the possibilities afforded by new media to inflect the presentation, mediation, and reconstruction of the original context for a work of art.

Using the collection of Medieval Sculpture in the Nasher Museum of Art as our laboratory, we reflected on how digital tools — laser scanning, photogrammetry, geo-mapping and restorative 2D/3D digital modeling — can offer non-invasive meditations on objects to assist visitors in their understanding of an object, its original setting, its history, its materiality. In other words, we aimed to trace what Appadurai calls “the social life of things.” Finally, against the uncritical embrace of new technology, we have been particularly interested in reflexive critical work on our own practices of visualization.

The course projects are multi-semester interventions with the goal of presenting student-designed digital models for the future exhibition of the Brummer collection, including an emphasis on the Brummer brothers as agents and dealers in the art market at the beginning of the twentieth century.

New Media, Memory, and the Visual Archive

Fall 2014

VMS 565S

Mark Olson

Wed 10:05am-12:35pm The Wired! Lab

Modern memory is first of all archival. It relies entirely on the specificity of the trace, the materiality of the vestige, the concreteness of the recording, the visibility of the image.
– Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire”

Is modern memory, as Pierre Nora claims, archival? If so, then individual and cultural memory might depend crucially on the material technologies of inscription and storage that constitute contemporary archives. New media technologies afford novel ways of recording and archiving the stuff of cultures and societies – narratives, images, ideologies, administrative records, and other forms of information or data.

An emerging body of work, both theoretical and artistic and informed by media studies and visual studies, has begun to interrogate the media-specificity of particular mnemotechnologies. The aim of this course is to engage and extend their work as we explore the impact of new media on the changing nature of archives as technologies of cultural memory and knowledge production.

Our major analytical themes include: medium specificity and the “storage capacity” of new media; the database as cultural form; the body and image as archive; new media and the documentation of “everyday life”; memory, counter-memory and the politics of the archive; archival materiality and digital ephemerality. Our primary focus will be on archives of visual artifacts (image, moving image) but because “there are no visual media” we must consider the role of other sensory modalities (what McLuhan calls differential sense ratios) in the construction of individual, institutional and collective memory.

Drawing on a range of theories and sources, we will examine the “art of memory” (art as technics) embedded in our modes of inscription, archivization, and representation, as well as in theories of mind and learning. At stake are competing claims about the mnemotechnics of new media technologies, contrasting the possibilities and pitfalls of prosthetic (and perhaps posthuman) memory with struggles over the nature of historical memory under digital conditions.

Paris: A City and Its Culture 1850-1930

VMS 338

Neil McWilliam

This class looks at Paris as an urban space and as an artistic center. It explores the city as a physical environment that has to be understood in terms of varied populations, economic activities, and cultural representations. Viewing Paris as a subject for art as well as a major center for training and exhibition, the class will include a research project that uses new technologies to map the growth and development of artistic activity in the city.

Reconstructing Ancient Worlds

Fall 2013


Maurizio Forte


What did the Parthenon look like in the 5th century BCE? How spectacular was the view of the Giza Pyramids in third millennium BCE Egypt? The extraordinary growth of information and digital technologies in archaeology raises new questions about research methodology, knowledge and the dissemination of culture. In particular, the technologies of 3D data recording and representation such as computer vision, photogrammetry, and 3D laser scanning create information that has a complexity unimaginable a few years ago and whose codes of representation still must be defined and investigated. We do not adequately understand the cognitive processes that connect the geometric complexity of models with their representation. The key element on which we construct our codes, our maps, is the perception which first selects what is high-priority information and then transforms it into knowledge. The course aims explores these multidisciplinary issues, methods and technologies in the field of virtual and cyber archaeology and, more specifically, it is focused on the reconstruction and communication of the past through virtual reality and computer graphics.

Rock, Paper, Chisel: The Materiality and Context of Medieval Art

Spring 2015

ARTHIST 290-03 | MEDREN 290-1-01 | VMS 290S-01

Alexandra Dodson

TuTh 11:45am-1:00pm | Nasher 119

Medieval artworks were not made for museums. They were created as components of architectural complexes, or as equally functional objects with didactic, narrative, or other practical purposes. We will explore the historical contexts of works of medieval art, seeking to understand these works as they were meant to be seen and used. We will focus on the art of Western Europe from approximately 300-1400 AD with some consideration of that of the Middle East. Discussion of be the “lives” of the artworks we study, including illuminated manuscripts, gothic cathedrals, tombs, stained glass, and altarpieces, along with the stones and pigments that comprise them, and the tools that made them.

Roman Frontiers

Fall 2013


Tolly Boatwright

This advanced graduate seminar explores life along the geographical peripheries of the Roman Empire, as well as the very concepts of Roman frontiers. We turn to archaeological, epigraphic, literary, numismatic, papyrological, and whatever other evidence we can find. Our goal is not simply to investigate diverse specific communities, cultures, or archaeological phenomena; we will also read and evaluate secondary scholarship, some using more theoretical approaches. This comparative, analytical work should enable us to see Roman data and concepts with fresh eyes.