2016 is the 300th anniversary of the birth of the English garden designer and Architect, Lancelot “Capability” Brown. During his long, productive and versatile career, Brown changed the face of the English landscape, designing more than 250 parks and gardens, moving hills, creating lakes, making rivers flow in a serpentine manner and utilizing the inevitable “ha ha” to surreptitiously separate the decorative and bucloic livestock from invading the house itself. At Stowe, Blenheim, Chatsworth, Wobirn Abbey, Bowood, Weston Park, and dozens of other well-known estates, Brown transformed much of the English countryside into the park-like appearance that is still apparent in large parts of the landscape today. In the final session of this 4-week summer course, we will examine Brown’s influence on later figures—not only in the world of garden design—but in the paintings of Turner and Constable and poetry of Wordsworth.
The River Rhine, flowing through the heart of Europe, is many things to the many people who have lived along its banks since prehistoric times. Arising high in the heart of the Swiss Alps, the river flows almost 800 miles through scenic landscapes and industrial environments until it reaches the North Sea through a broad and complex delta. For most of its length the river forms a vital navigable waterway, its vessels carrying goods deep inland from the sea. The Rhine forms (or has formed) political and cultural boundaries of half a dozen nations, for more than 2,000 years. The banks of the river, and its tributaries, are lined with some of the most historic cities in Europe—Basel, Cologne, Utrecht, Mainz Rotterdam—and some of the most attractive as well—Strasbourg, Koblenz, Speyer, Colmar The Middle Rhine, the most famous and scenic section of the river, is famous for its dramatic elevations, steep vineyards, magnificent vistas and dozens of (mostly) medieval castles and fortresses redolent of the romantic tales made famous by the poetry of Byron, the music of Wagner, the paintings of Turner and the tales of uncounted travelers who made the Rhine a place of pilgrimage in the 18th and 19th centuries. And in the 20th century, the Rhine, a symbol of German nationalism, figured heavily in both World Wars and the period between. Today the Rhine still fulfills its role as a major transport artery of commodities, as well as a popular tourist venue with “enriching surprises around every bend”. In this 10-week course we will take a detailed look at all aspects of the Rhine, its major tributaries and the surrounding lands: geography, geology, 2,000+ years of history from the Romans to the present day, and an in-depth consideration of the buildings, churches, and historic sites of the many notable and picturesque cities and towns which line the banks of the river, and embellish this beautiful and historic area of Europe.
The history of modern France dates from the 16th century, with the reign of the “Renaissance Prince” King Francis I and the country’s complicated relationship with America begins then as well. This “connection” develops and multiplies throughout the subsequent reigns of “The Louis”—Louis XIII, XIV, XV, and XVI, during the 17th and 18th centuries. This period of interaction, acquisition, and consolidation culminates in the events surrounding the American and French Revolutions and the Napoleonic Period, during which France played a vital role in American independence and growth into a major international power. The symbolic figure of this latter period is the Marquis de Lafayette, whose activities in, and support of, the American revolt proved decisive in the victory. His subsequent return and yearlong tour of the United States, helped to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Revolution, and cemented US and French relations. It will form the climax of this course, which will include French exploration and settlement, the French and Indian War, and the Louisiana Purchase —all in the context of the history and growth of France, as well as America.
Renowned for their gastronomic and wine culture, the regions of Champagne and Burgundy are richly endowed with historic monuments and splendid museums. On this journey from the plains of Champagne to the hills of Burgundy, we will begin in the city of Reims with its magnificent Gothic cathedral, the site of royal coronations for over a thousand years. We will then travel to the Burgundian countryside where countless châteaux dot the countryside, from feudal fortresses perched on hilltops to elegant Renaissance-style palaces filled with paintings, tapestries, and antiques. We will discover the abbey of Cluny in southern Burgundy, a fountainhead of monasticism with a network of 1,500 dependent monasteries that stretched across Western Europe. Exploring Dijon, Burgundy’s capital, will be a delight for art lovers, history buffs, and gastronomes. Among the city’s many treasures are the ornate tombs of two dukes of the Valois dynasty, who were great collectors and patrons of art. We will complete our journey south of Dijon, where the fabled wine road of the Côte d’Or leads to Beaune, renowned for it’s spectacular 15th century charity hospital. Join us for this spectacular journey and exciting exploration of the heart of France.
This course is a study of Russia’s 1917 revolutions, which overthrew a three-hundred-year-old dynasty and gave birth to the first-ever socialist state. Arguably, no other set of events had a greater impact on the history of the modern world; understanding the Russian Revolution is essential to understanding the world today. We will consider the events of 1917 in the context of the explosive social transformation and cultural creativity that characterized the first decades of the 20th century. In Russia, the period included three revolutions (1905, February 1917, and October 1917), and three wars (Russo-Japanese War, World War I, and the Russian Civil War). Turmoil and violence went hand-in-hand with utopian optimism in the future of humankind. We confront the history of the Russian Revolution through the works of revolutionaries, tsarist officials, poets, artists, and filmmakers who shaped the Russian revolutionary period. Besides this course, throughout the year in 2017 their will be a number of public cultural events taking place in Houston—concerts, plays, symposia, and lectures—marking the centennial of the Revolution.
Just as stone monuments were (and still are) constructed in an effort to awe and impress, the more ephemeral garden came to play a critical role in demonstrations of political identity and displays of cultural prowess. The impulse to create a garden has proven to be nearly universal throughout human history—produced by political and cultural elites, those who were able to craft an influential aesthetic vision or were wealthy and powerful enough to lay claim to large territories, command landscape architects, employ artists and engineers, commit vast sums of royal treasure and demand the labor of untold numbers of humble workmen. Garden history can be understood in many cases as political and imperial history, illustrating the degree to which the culture of designed landscape was used for creating, declaring, and reading social and political claims. In this class, while understanding the garden as art form and sacred space, we will focus closely on the relationship between landscape and power, in a globally-comparative context, emphasizing the complexity and dynamism of the imperial pleasure garden tradition. • Gardens of the Ancient World (Persia, Greece and Rome) • Gardens of Islamic Spain • Gardens of Central Asia and India • Gardens of China and Japan • Gardens of the Renaissance/ formal French gardens • English gardens and the Rise of the Public Park
My initial experience with the British country house was in the summer of 1970, when I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks visiting several of the most famous examples. I even spent one of those weeks living in one of them, an extraordinary experience in its own right. Since then, over the past five decades, my wife and I have visited at least 200 country houses in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The whole “business” of the British country house has changed markedly since the 1970s. There are many more important houses now accessible, and the presentation and amenities have improved noticeably. The most famous houses are often owned and shown under the auspices of the various national trusts or other heritage organizations; however, some of the most exceptional are often lesser-known houses with extraordinary collections still in situ. While there have been some highly publicized and unfortunate content sales in recent years, it is not an exaggeration to state that the British country houses still hold some of the greatest collections of the fine and decorative arts ever assembled. This four-session course will look at many varied aspects of the British Country House. In addition, it will be based on the personal experiences of 50 wonderful years of exploring, visiting and being entertained and amazed. (Note: This is a 4 session class that will meet within a two-week time frame on Mondays and Wednesdays: June 12, June 14, June 19, June 21)
Egypt was antiquity's antiquity. Put another way, we are closer in time to Cleopatra VII, the last of the pharaohs, than she was to the building of the Great Pyramid. Against the backdrop of this vast time scale, we will examine the stories of eight of Egypt's greatest rulers—including two extraordinary ancient women—beginning with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt in the Early Dynastic Period and ending with the irresistible ambitions of Cambyses II of Persia, Alexander the Great, and Caesar Augustus, each of whom added Egypt to his world empire. Along this 3,000-year journey we will learn about art and architecture, mythology and religion, decisive battles, palace intrigues, burial practices, literary masterpieces, the science of modern Egyptology, and the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone. We will consider the impact and meaning of Egyptian civilization to later observers, from the Hebrew Bible and Plato to Shakespeare and Freud.
“Now shalt thou feel the force of Turkish arms Which lately made all Europe quake for fear.” So spoke the Emperor Bajazeth in Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan poem, "Tamburlaine" (1587), an observation accepted by most Europeans. The Ottoman Army was the largest in Europe, its Navy ruled the shipping lanes of the Eastern Mediterranean, and its capital Istanbul was five times the size of Paris. At its height the Empire extended from the Middle East and North Africa to Greece, the Balkans, and Central Europe to the very gates of Vienna. In the words of a 17th century historian, the Ottomans accept “no other limits than the uttermost bounds of the earth,” and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ranked the Ottoman Turks as a far greater threat to Christianity than Martin Luther. If the Ottomans and its emperors were dangerous threats, they were equally the object of admiration and fantasy, and Europeans found themselves eager to establish trading and diplomatic relations with them. Travelers and merchants were inevitably drawn toward Ottoman lands by their fascination with the Orient and the lure of profits: new goods such as pottery, carpets, silks, fashion, and art as well as new words such as candy, sugar, turquoise, tulips, and Shakespeare’s Othello. This course will examine the Ottoman Empire and its influence from its origin in the 13th century through its destruction on the battlefields of the First World War, an event that gave birth to much of the unstable Middle East
In this class, we will explore the texts of the New Testament from the perspective of modern academic scholarship, with an emphasis on their historical and social context. Doing so will require us to become familiar with both the rich diversity within Second Temple Judaism and the Hellenistic world of the Roman Empire. This six-week course will focus primarily on ancient Jewish understandings of the Messiah, the historical Jesus, the Gospel tradition, Paul the Apostle, and the formation of the New Testament canon. 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 to a separate religion composed of non-Jewish followers. Come explore these fascinating and foundational texts of earliest Christianity. While it is to be expected that everyone will enter with varying assumptions and expectations about the Bible in general, it should be noted that we will adopt a historical approach to the texts of the New Testament—examining them in their original historical, cultural, and social contexts. (Please note, that we will not be reading these texts from confessional or devotional points of view.)
This course examines systems of forced exile in modern history, how they worked and why states devised them. Forcing someone to leave home for political reasons is an ancient practice. However, over the last several hundred years political authorities have become more effective than ever at exiling large numbers of people. We will focus on six cases in the last two hundred years: Britain, Tsarist Russia, France, the United States, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union. New ideologies such as nationalism, racism, and the idea of progress, together with new technologies such as photography, modern transportation, and race science, came to be powerful tools used by states for social control. Lectures will include eyewitness accounts, photography, art, and film produced by exiles and the people who forced them from their homes.
Beginning in the late 19th and into the early 20th century, Japan took its place in international affairs in a remarkable way and very short time period. Unfortunately for the people of Japan, and for the countries bordering on the Pacific Ocean, this rapid expansion took a disastrous turn in the 1930’s, leading to war and destruction. This episode of history tends to dominate the vision that we in the West have of Japan since many of our fathers or grandfathers fought in WWII. But there is much more to be said about Japan and its art, culture, and historical significance in the wider world. During an eight-week series of lectures, we will explore these other dimensions, beginning in prehistory. Though the Japanese people adopted much of their early culture from the Far East Mainland, they adopted it to suit a different aesthetic. The transition from separate clans to imperial control dominated the first millennium. A thousand years ago, the royal court and attendant nobility formulated much of the tradition that carries through to the present. The adoption of Buddhism played a significant role in allowing the artistic tradition to flourish during this time period as well. Then, beginning at the end of the 12th century, the rule of military took tradition, art, and culture off into new directions. Only in the 19th century did the shoguns abandon their control, leading to a rapid modernization and embrace of new technologies, new forms of art, and international recognition. After WWII, Japan again performed an economic about-face, creating for itself a new position in world affairs. We will explore and discuss all of this with the goal of generating an appreciation for Japan’s art and culture and an understanding of its history.
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.
On December 10, 1989 the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in “the struggle of liberation of Tibet and the efforts for a peaceful resolution instead of using violence.” He is now renowned throughout the United States, and the world, for his patient and peaceful approach to life. Why is this? What is Tibet and why is it important? What is Tibetan Buddhism? Drawing from both primary literature from Tibet and India, as well as secondary scholarship about this region, this class critically examines these questions in regards to Tibet’s development as a sovereign nation, its assimilation of Buddhism, and its historical interactions with nations such as India and China. The goal of this class is twofold—to better understand Tibet and Tibetan peoples while developing a deeper appreciation for this region’s rich cultural and religious offerings.
The stellar rise of Jews in German society and the inconceivable end of German Jewry unfolded within the short span of one and a half century. When 14-year-old Moses Mendelssohn entered Berlin in 1743, he was subjugated to countless humiliating laws and regulations. Could he have ever imagined that about 150 years later one of his co-religionists, shipping magnate Albert Ballin, would regularly dine with the German Emperor in his palace, and that Albert Einstein was only one of numerous Jewish scientists to win the Nobel Prize? In no other country with the exception of medieval Spain were Jews so quickly and completely integrated into society than in Germany—the same country where they also faced complete destruction. The pinnacle of German achievements in science, the arts, and industry at the end of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century would not have been possible without the “German Citizens of Jewish faith” as they called themselves. Did the highly lauded “German-Jewish symbiosis” turn out to be a deadly self-delusion? How could a barbaric rule of only 12 years extinguish what had been part of German history for 2000 years? There is new Jewish life on German soil and numerous congregations sprout all over Germany. Is this a new beginning or a continuity of Jewish history in Germany? What does it mean to be a Jew in Germany in the year 2018? The course will trace and analyze the last 200 years of Jewish history in Germany and try to find answers to these questions.
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.
We live in an increasingly interconnected world, where ones' values and actions influence and are influenced by others. If we look at the spread of information, ideas, media, capital, and cultural artifacts we can see the boundaries and borders that have historically separated one country or one group from another are becoming more and more penetrable. As people come together from different backgrounds, understanding how societies are based around fundamental patterns of culture becomes essential at all levels of human interaction, from the interpersonal to the international. In this course, we will unpack the concept of culture. Drawing on insights from anthropology, psychology, business communication, political science and international relations, we will explore the different ways to answer the question, "What is culture?" In this course, we will be introduced to various dimensions and processes of culture like values, perspectives, traditions, and interpretations of time and space. Our goal will be to engender curiosity and empathy, while advancing intercultural understanding.
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)
Vladimir Putin is often depicted in our media as the latest in a long line of Russian autocrats, part of an unbroken tradition in Russia of authoritarian rulers oppressing their people. But is this an accurate way to understand Putin, one of today’s most consequential leaders? Does it make sense historically, or does it obscure important dimensions of Russia’s past, and lead us to misunderstand Russia’s present? This course examines the lives and times of several of the most significant rulers in Russian history—Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander II, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Putin—as a way of better understanding Russia today.
Most of us endured, as high school or college students, a history class that largely consisted of dates, names, and events, and required skills in memorization, but little else. In this course, we will explore the history of modern America—from the post-Civil War decade and the nation’s rise as an industrial-military power through the Great Depression, the world wars, the Cold War and its attendant proxy wars, the Civil Rights Movement, and forward. Because history isn’t just a visit to a “wax museum,” our focus will be on the ways in which people participated in and responded to the events they were experiencing. Our aim will be to explore vital themes of the nation’s past to help us think about how they are relevant to understanding America and Americans today. Anybody can learn what happened and when; it’s harder to understand why something happened. Why is the United States of 2018 the way it is? Why does the nation have the social structures, cultural diversity, economic inequality, and political divisiveness that it does? How did it get that way? Why does myth often outweigh reality? Why do policies and political rhetoric often contradict key American values? What does it mean to be an American in 1877? 1929? 1952? 2018? History is powerful. Who writes it, who controls the narrative, who interprets it, how they interpret it, and what political use they make of it is the essence of power. During our weeks together, we will discuss events and developments that you may/may not already know about or that you may/may not view as controversial, shocking, or contentious, but that are important nonetheless. The study of the past is not static, but is constantly being reshaped by new sources and perspectives. Without deep historical understanding, a society shares no common memory of how and why it developed the way it did, thereby restricting informed choices for the present and future.