The legacy of ancient Israel and Judah, the civilizations that produced the Bible, is vastly out of proportion to its tiny geographical size and relatively short duration. In this course, I will tell the story of the rise and fall of the two states whose culture would eventually give rise to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, focusing on the six key crises that shaped their geopolitical destinies. We will consider not only key stories of the Bible, but also the vast amount of archaeological evidence that has accumulated in the past century or so. The course will be informed by the archaeological study trips I regularly take with undergraduate students. Students in this course will have the option to purchase a large full-color map of the land of the Bible for use during lectures.
This course examines the history of the Russian Empire through the life and work of one of the world’s greatest writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky’s life coincided with dramatic changes in the nineteenth century: industry developed at breakneck speed; empires colonized the world outside of Europe; nationalists gained unprecedented power; science promised endless progress; and, political radicals turned to violence and terror. His work explores many of the fundamental moral, philosophical, spiritual and political questions these changes posed, questions that typify Russian—and European—modernity. The life and work of Dostoevsky, therefore, is an illuminating lens through which to view major developments in the history of the Russian Empire and the modern world. Drawing on a variety of literary, historical and artistic sources, lectures will pay particular attention to Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment as a way of addressing larger questions about Russia. Reading the novel prior to, or in conjunction with, the course is recommended.
The 18th century was a time of travel in Europe. The major wars of Louis XIV ended with his death, and Napoleon’s rise was far in the distance. While periodic conflicts took place between the Great Powers, most of the major cities were open to visitors. Travelers flocked to see the new sights and to attend and participate in the numerous civic and religious festivals, which transformed the city square and were enlivened by specially composed music and spectacular fireworks. (This class will not meet on April 2) To document these events, a new genre of painting arose in the form of Vedute, or “view.” Artists such as Canaletto, Panini, Hubert Robert and others documented the renewed architecture and appearance of the cities, as well as the dramatic celebrations which attracted the visiting throngs. The core of the idea for this course is a marvelous exhibition, "Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe", which was initiated by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and has traveled to Minneapolis and will open at the Cleveland Museum of Art at the end of February. The focus of the exhibition is the pageant of these historical events. However, in this course we will expand this idea in order to focus on the major cities of Europe—London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Prague, to name a few, and the artists who provided our visual knowledge of them today.
Lying in the middle of the Massif Central, the ancient province of the Auvergne has a spectacular landscape of mountains formed by extinct volcanoes, some with dome-shaped peaks, others topped with craters. The scenery is sometimes rugged, sometimes pastoral with emerald green slopes dotted with the reddish-brown cows of the local Salers breed. Ancient villages of dark lava stone sit perched on peaks, clinging to slopes, or nestled in river valleys. The perfectly preserved village of Salers has a main square surrounded by eye-catching historic mansions and a web of narrow streets lined with old houses. The town of Le Puy-en-Velay lies in a basin punctuated by volcanic pinnacles, one of which serves as a pedestal for a 10th century chapel. Steep, cobbled streets lead to the cathedral listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and departure for a main pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Along the pilgrim routes are some of Europe’s finest Romanesque churches, renowned for their sculptural decoration, which is often enigmatic, but always captivating. Châteaux are scattered all over the Auvergne, some owned by the same family for centuries. They range from defensive fortresses to Renaissance or Classical-style residences filled with fine period furniture, paintings, and tapestries. Americans will find of particular interest the Château de Chavaniac-La Fayette, birthplace of the hero of our Revolution. This richly illustrated course will cover the history, architecture, gastronomy, and gorgeous landscapes of the Auvergne, a region unknown to most foreign visitors.
In this class, we will explore several early Christian Gospels from the perspective of modern academic scholarship, with an emphasis on their historical and social context. This course will focus primarily on the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The final two weeks are devoted to examining several non-canonical texts such as the Gospels of Thomas, Philip, Judas, and Mary. We will read the relevant ancient texts together in translation and explore themes of conflict and diversity within emerging Christianity as it developed from an apocalyptic Jewish sect into a separate religion composed primarily of non-Jewish followers. While it is to be expected that everyone will enter with varying assumptions and expectations about the Bible in general, and the New Testament in particular, it should be noted that we shall adopt a historical approach with respect to all of the texts we will cover, including those of the New Testament. This means we will be examining them in their original historical, cultural, and social contexts. Please note, therefore, that we will not be reading these texts from confessional or devotional points of view.
Building bridges not walls is seemingly a modern cry, but building bridges is one of the oldest creations of civilized man and often, an artistic one as well. Bridges often define a particular place. Bridges often define a particular place. Who can think of San Francisco, London, Sydney, Florence, Venice, Prague, or Brooklyn without the image of their famous bridge? In this four-session class we will look at the history, art, architecture, and engineering of the bridges. We will consider a plethora of famous bridges and their builders —Gustave Eiffel, Thomas Telford, John Roebling, Santiago Calatrava and perhaps the greatest of them all —Isambard Kingdom Brunel. (Classes will meet Monday and Wednesday: June 11, June 13, June 19, and June 20)