Fall 2023

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 course, a gateway class for the study of art history and architectural studies, introduces the art, architecture, and urban planning of the Islamic world, from the origins of Islam in the seventh century to the contemporary moment. Among the questions we will address are: When, how, and why was the Qur’an first copied as a written text? Why does the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, completed in 691–2 A.D., closely resemble Christian churches and shrines from the same period? Why did medieval Europeans judge objects from the Islamic world, especially those bearing Arabic script, to be sacred in nature? How did commercial and diplomatic exchanges with China and Viking Scandinavia impact the arts of Central Asia and the Middle East during the premodern period? What can contemporary comic books tell us about the visual logic of fifteenth-century Iranian manuscript painting? And how have nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists used photography and film to address the legacies of colonialism and Orientalism? We will attempt to answer these questions through close and careful analysis of objects in a range of media, from silver and rock crystal to silk textiles and video; cities and architectural sites in Spain and India, and the many places in between; and primary and secondary texts. Films, museum websites, musical recordings, and visits to the Mead Art Museum and Amherst’s Archives and Special Collections will supplement readings, lectures, and discussions. No previous background is presumed, and all readings will be available in English.

No enrollment cap. Fall semester. Professor Rice.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on visual analysis, close reading, written work, group work, in-class exams, and field trips. Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.

ARCH 152 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM FAYE 113
Th 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM FAYE 113


Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2023, Spring 2025