Medieval art class makes return for spring semester

Art history professor Jean Givens will teach ARTH 2198, Monsters and Marvels in Medieval Art, next semester. (Courtesy/UConn Art History Faculty website) 

With the spring 2016 semester course selection in full swing, ARTH 2198 Monsters and Marvels in Medieval Art makes its return for students of all majors and semester levels.

ARTH 2198 is a variable-topics class, meaning the content of the course changes each time it’s offered, according to the student admin system. Monsters and Marvels in Medieval Art is typically offered annually as a spring class and is the first of “a series of planned 2000-level art history classes,” History of Art professor Jean Givens said.

The course deals with how medieval artists often misrepresented Africans, Mongols and Muslims as “outrageously foreign” and “subhuman.” Non-Christians and Europeans also faced stigma in that they were seen as groups beyond social control. Students will discover what this imagery says about social attitudes in the Middle Ages and how scholars have addressed these issues through art, Givens said.

The course is open to all students and has no pre-requisites. Givens said she is “always glad to have a mix” of students from different major areas in this course. 

This is the second time Givens will teach Monsters and Marvels in Medieval Art.

“On one level, the class deals with the medieval origins of anti-Semitic and racist imagery,” Givens said. “But as I found when I taught the class last year, discussion naturally touches on modern perception.”

The intention for this course is to aid students in transitioning from broad 1000-level art courses into more involved 2000-level courses that allow for deeper discussion of both art and the tools art historians utilize, Givens said.

“The topic struck me as interesting in that it raises issues we’re still dealing with today, (such as) how often difference is stigmatized as bad,” Givens said.

A screenshot from Student Admin shows the details of ARTH 2198, Monsters and Marvels in Medieval Art which will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. (Screenshot/Student Admin)

Students who take ARTH 2198 will develop the visual literacy skills necessary for deep artistic analysis of works and render them into their appropriate social contexts. This will be an essential skill applicable to meditating many types of art in class and in daily life, Givens said.

“(These skills are) important whether you’re addressing high art or considering the pictures published in the New York Times,” Givens said.

Givens said she is looking forward to seeing how this year’s class of students addresses the issues laid out in the course.

“(In the past) I was really interested in the thoughtful ways students connected this historical material with modern attitudes,” Givens said. “And I’ll be looking forward to how the new group addresses these issues.”


Molly Stadnicki is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at molly.stadnicki@uconn.edu. She tweets @molly_stadnicki.