For class on Wednesday, 4 February, I have put together an online “tour” of the premodern world for those of you in my ‘Games of Thrones’ class (which I have e-mailed to all of you). In all likelihood, few of you in class have been to Europe or had substantial, visceral encounters with arts and artifacts from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Hence, the basic gist of this activity is that I want you to “experience” the premodern world, at least insofar as that is possible through fragments offered on and through the internet. Unfortunately, there is a significant difference between experiencing such objects and places first hand as opposed to a mediated forum, but all the same, this activity will (I hope) help to attune you to our period of discussion and get you immersed in the period in a different and insightful way. In simple terms, in this Blog post I want to hear your (carefully focused) thoughts about the experience. I’m hoping that your posting offers us some sense of both your intellectual and emotional response to the places, spaces, and artifacts under consideration. By exploring the sites and “stuff” of this era and then writing about it, I hope that this activity helps you to register the relationships between time and place that are part and parcel of the very idea of the “premodern”, and in turn my wish is that you form some meaningful realizations about how specific places or works fit in a larger context and suggest certain ideals.
In more specific terms, I want you to respond to two particular “objects” in particular ways. Your response should broadly be broken down into two sections: 1) a section on a place, and 2) a section on an object or artifact. You should select a place and artwork that really piqued your interest, or that you found especially powerful in some way, shape, or form. Then, your response should offer some thoughts about just what these places/things seem to “mean” in your estimation. On the subject of your place/space, which location have you chosen, and why? What really stands out to you about it, and why is it so important and interesting? More to the point, what does your chosen place/space suggest to us about the premodern world and the people who lived there? Regarding your piece of art, you might track similar ideas and questions, as well as thinking about the minutiae of your chosen artifact. For instance, who created it, and when? What are central characteristics of that individual artists’ style, or how does this object suggest the stylistics of the day? How do you think it would have been used and understood by individuals in premodern society, and how might we reflect upon it from a twenty-first century perspective?
Overall, then, what have you LEARNED by exploring your selected places/objects, and what do they seemingly TEACH us about the premodern culture(s) of Western Europe??