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University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA 90089-0012)
David Albertson (Project Director: September 2009 to August 2013)
NEH Enduring Questions Course on the Power of Visual Images

The development of an undergraduate seminar on the significance of religious and secular images in ancient, medieval, and modern times.

How do images point beyond themselves to the invisible? When do they succeed and fail? Given the preoccupation with "vision" in the history of western culture, what are the limits of visual representation? In this course students will reflect on the power of images in western culture, as well as their own visual literacy, by studying ancient, medieval and modern texts about images, vision and transcendence. Because images can make the invisible momentarily real, religious traditions are frequently concerned to promote or police their use. Readings will address the primacy of vision in Plato's philosophy; holy images in Byzantine culture; mystical images in medieval Christianity; and Renaissance theories of perspective. We will also consider contemporary analyses of visual culture, from religious icons to iconic product logos to computer icons. Students will visit a church, a museum and contribute research projects to a public course website.

Project fields:
Philosophy of Religion

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Education Programs

$24,933 (approved)
$24,933 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2010 – 12/31/2012