Spring 2021

Visual Culture of the Islamic World

Listed in: Architectural Studies, as ARCH-152  |  Art and the History of Art, as ARHA-152  |  Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-142


Yael R. Rice (Section 01)


(Offered as ARHA 152, ARCH 152 and ASLC 142) This introductory course explores the art, architecture, and urban planning of the Islamic world, from the origins of Islam in the seventh century C.E. to the contemporary moment. It follows a basic chronology, but is structured primarily around thematic issues central to the study of Islamic visual culture, including, but not limited to: the primacy of the written word, geometry and ornament, optics and perception, sacred and royal space, the image and aniconism, Orientalism, modernity and tradition, and artistic exchange with Europe, China, and beyond. The class will focus on the relationships between visual culture, history, and literature by analyzing cities, buildings, and objects such as the caliphal capitals of Baghdad and Cairo, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the palace of the Alhambra in Granada, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Suleymaniye complex in Istanbul, illustrated manuscripts and photography from Iran, and contemporary art from New York City, alongside primary and secondary texts. Films, museum websites, and recordings will supplement assigned readings and lectures. No previous background is presumed, and all readings will be available in English.

This remotely taught course will incorporate synchronous and asynchronous community-building small-group activities, cutting-edge digital approaches to the study of architecture and objects, and, when possible, visits to local museum collections. Students who are unable to attend synchronous class meetings will be accommodated.

Spring semester. Professor Rice.

If Overenrolled: Priority to ARHA and ASLC majors, then selected from class level in order to achieve a range of students across the disciplines.


Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Writing, Fine Arts for Non-majors, Online Only, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020