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Ancient Greek and Roman Art: Approaches and Perspectives

Freshman Seminar

Wednesdays 2:00pm–4:30pm

College of Arts & Science, New York University

Clemente Marconi, James R. McCredie Professor of Greek Art and Archaeology and University Professor

Spring 2016



The field of art history has been a key institution in the shaping and consolidation of national identities in Europe and North America between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is even more so in the case of Greek and Roman art, because of the deep engagement that several modern nations have had historically with “classical” antiquity. As a result, the study of Greek and Roman art has been marked by a variety of approaches, bound with the different social, political, and cultural developments within individual countries and under the influence of various disciplines such as Sociology, Semiotics, Gender Theory, Anthropology, Reception Theory, and Hermeneutics. The first goal of this seminar is to explore key aspects of Greek and Roman Art, and to assess the current state of the discipline by reviewing its current larger theoretical implications, methodologies, and directions of research. The second goal will be to learn how to approach works of Greek and Roman art, by taking advantage of the extensive collection in the Metropolitan Museum.

Grading and Assignments:

  • The grades of A and A- are given for outstanding work.

  • The final grade will be based on averaging the grades received on the class presentations (30%), participation in the discussions (10%), the museum presentation (30%), and the final essay (30%). All of these individual grades will be weighted equally, except for the final essay, which will count as twice any other grade.

  • Class participation will have a substantial impact on the final grade, as this is a seminar. Participation involves presentation and discussion of readings in the classroom, and presentation and discussion in the museum. You are expected to complete your readings before class and come prepared to discuss the material. Each participant in the seminar will be required to join the class discussion.

  • Attendance is mandatory and required. The university recognizes the following as excused absences: documented illness, family emergency, and religious observance. You have to email in advance if you face one of these situations.

  • Class presentations: For sessions numm. 2–12, three participants will prepare brief (30–40 minutes) oral presentations—with slides, using Powerpoint—on the readings for the day, and lead the class in discussion. To structure these presentations and discussions, the presenters should prepare a few open-ended questions to bring into the discussion at appropriate moments. Reading assignments will be decided at the end of the first session. For the same sessions, the other participants will write a one-page (1,800–2,000 characters) reflection on the same readings. These statements will be handed in at the end of each class and will be returned lettered with comments by the instructor.

  • Museum presentation: For sessions numm. 13–14, students will prepare brief (15 minutes) oral presentations of works of Greek and Roman art at the Metropolitan Museum. The works will be selected from a list provided by the instructor and they will represent the subject of the final essay.

  • Final essay: The final essay will consist in the description, formal and iconographic analysis, and social- and cultural-historical interpretation of a work of Greek and Roman art at the Metropolitan Museum. The work will be selected from a list provided by the instructor. The final essay will be fifteen typed pages (space two), plus illustrations. A first draft, including description and annotated bibliography, is due on 3/2 (num. 6). The final version is due (by email, as a pdf file) on 5/4 (num. 14).


Four books are recommended. The first three as a general introduction to Greek and Roman art and the last to the Greek and Roman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum:

  • The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Art and Architecture, edited by C. Marconi (Oxford University Press, 2015)

  • A History of Greek Art, by M. Stansbury-O'Donnell (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015)

  • A History of Roman Art, by S. L. Tuck (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015)

  • Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by. C. A. Picón, J. R. Mertens, E. J. Milleker, C. S. Lightfoot, and S. Hemingway (Yale University Press, 2007)

Office Hours:

To be decided at the beginning of the term.


Schedule of Classes (Wednesdays, 2:00pm–4:30pm):

1/27 1. Introduction


2/3 2. Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece and Rome

  • Steiner, D. 2015. "Greek and Roman Theories of Art." In Marconi 2015, 21–40.

  • Wilson Jones, M. 2015. “Greek and Roman Architectural Theory.” In Marconi 2015, 41–69.

  • De Angelis, F. 2015. “Greek and Roman Specialized Writing on Art and Architecture.” In Marconi 2015, 70–83.


2/10 3. Connoisseurship

  • Borbein, A. 2015. “Connoisseurship.” In Marconi 2015, 519–540.

  • von Bothmer, D. 1987. "Greek Vase-painting: Two Hundred Years of Connoisseurship." In Papers on the Amasis Painter and His World, 184–204. Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum.

  • Neer, R. 2005. "Connoisseurship and the Stakes of Style." Critical Inquiry 32: 1–26.


2/17 4. Formal Analysis

  • Kunze, C. 2015. “Formal Approaches.” In Marconi 2015, 541–556.

  • Neer, R.T. 2010. The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pp. 70–104.

  • Squire, M. 2013. "Embodied Ambiguities on the Prima Porta Augustus." Art History 36.2: 242–279.


2/24 5. Iconography and Iconology

  • Isler-Kerényi, C. 2015. “Iconographical and Iconological Approaches.” In Marconi 2015, 557–578.

  • Neils, J. 2001. The Parthenon Frieze. New York: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 125–171.

  • Zanker, P. 1988. The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, transl. A. Shapiro. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Pp. 239–264.


3/2 6. Social History

  • Fehr, B. 2015. “Sociohistorical Approaches.” In Marconi 2015, 579–601.

  • Tanner, J. 2006. The Invention of Art History in Ancient Greece: Religion, Society and Artistic Rationalisation. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 67–95.

  • Stewart, P. 2008. The Social History of Roman Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 10–38.


3/9 7. Gender Studies

  • Vout, C. 2015. “Gender Studies.” In Marconi 2015, 602–620.

  • Kampen, N. 1996. "Omphale and the Instability of Gender." In Sexuality in Ancient Art. Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Italy, ed. N. Kampen, 233–246. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

  • Stewart, A. 1997. Art, Desire, and the Body in Ancient Greece. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 133–155.


3/16 No Class: Spring Break


3/23 8. Anthropology

  • Ferrari, G. 2015. “Anthropological Approaches.” In Marconi 2015, 621–636.

  • Bérard, C. et al. 1989. A City of Images: Iconography and Society in Ancient Greece, trans. D. Lyons. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Pp. 20–50.

  • Belting, H. 2011. An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body, trans. T. Dunlap. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Pp. 84–124.


3/30 9. Reception

  • Squire, M. 2015. “Theories of Reception.” In Marconi 2015, 637–661.

  • Faedo, L. 2015. “The Post-Antique Reception of Greek and Roman Art and Architecture.” In Marconi 2015, 417–439.

  • Settis, S. 2006. The Future of the 'Classical,' transl. A. Cameron. Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press. Pp. 34–73.


4/6 10. Semiotics and Agency

  • Hölscher, T. 2015. “Semiotics to Agency.” In Marconi 2015, 662–686.

  • Lissarrague, F. 1990. The Aesthetics of the Greek Banquet: Images of Wine and Ritual, transl. by A. Szegedy-Maszak. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Pp. 107–139.

  • Hölscher, Tonio. 2004. The Language of Images in Roman Art. Translated by Anthony Snodgrass and Annemarie Künzl-Snodgrass, with a foreword by Jaś Elsner. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 10–46.


4/13 11. The Debate about Cultural Property

  • Miles, M. M. 2015. “Greek and Roman Art and the Debate about Cultural Property.” In Marconi 2015, 499–515.

  • Chippindale, C., and D. Gill. 2000. “Material Consequences of Contemporary Classical Collecting.” American Journal of Archaeology 104: 463–511.

  • Felch, J., and R. Frammolino. 2011. Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Pp. 9–38.


4/20 12. Displaying Greek and Roman Art

  • Cohen, B. 2015. “Displaying Greek and Roman Art in Modern Museums.” In Marconi 2015, 473–498.

  • Caskey, M. 2011. “Perceptions of the New Acropolis Museum.” American Journal of Archaeology 115.3: 1–10.

  • Strazzulla, M. J. 2009. “War and Peace: Housing the Ara Pacis in the Eternal City.” American Journal of Archaeology 113.2: 1–10.


4/27 (or weekend, if best for class) 13. Metropolitan Museum of Art


5/4 (or weekend, if best for class) 14. Metropolitan Museum of Art

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