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Course, academic year 2023/2024
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Iconology: Art-historical and Philosophical Aspects of Reading the Cultural Phenomena - YBAJ223
Title: Iconology: Art-historical and Philosophical Aspects of Reading the Cultural Phenomena
Guaranteed by: Programme Liberal Arts and Humanities (24-SHVAJ)
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Actual: from 2023
Semester: winter
E-Credits: 3
Examination process: winter s.:
Hours per week, examination: winter s.:1/1, Ex [HT]
Capacity: 10 / 10 (10)
Min. number of students: unlimited
4EU+: no
Virtual mobility / capacity: no
Key competences:  
State of the course: taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Teaching methods: full-time
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
enabled for web enrollment
Guarantor: Mgr. Ondřej Váša, Ph.D.
Teacher(s): Mgr. Ondřej Váša, Ph.D.
Class: Courses available to incoming students
Incompatibility : YMSMK028PV
Is incompatible with: YMSMK028PV
Annotation -
Last update: Bc. Veronika Kučabová (05.06.2023)
What does Botticelli’s Venus have in common with the contemporary Instagram stars? How did the influential renaissance concept of “figura serpentinata” become a pornographic backbone of contemporary sexual imagery? How did Michelangelo’s infernal orgies survive into the present time, disguised as the images of destruction? While addressing these questions, the course will provide a practical introduction to iconology as it has been defined and practiced by Aby M. Warburg and Ernst Cassirer in the 1920s and 1930s. Concerning their mutually influenced methodology, the course will interpret the critical aspects of the “nameless science” by (and while) exposing and analyzing complicated genealogy of the specific spectrum of surprisingly interrelated images like selfies, underwear advertising, cloud imagery, abstract painting, war atrocities or hygiene-related illustrations.
Syllabus -
Last update: Bc. Veronika Kučabová (05.06.2023)

GENERAL OVERVIEW (selected topics):

  • Introduction: Representing Human Body

SECTION I.: From Renaissance to William Hogarth

  • Between Plato and Ficino: philosophical origins of “figura serpentinata”

  • Between Michelangelo and Lomazzo: (de)erotizing bodies

SECTION II.: From William Hogarth to hygienic imperatives

  • Lomazzo’s influence on Hogarth

  • Movement and eroticism in Hogarth’s “The Analysis of Beauty”

  • Unexpected consequences of Hogarth’s mistakes: William Hogarth as the father of the “modern line”

  • Hygienic discourse of the 18th century: clean outlines of the healthy bodies

  • Art Nouveau and its implications: “figura serpentinata” runs wild

SECTION III.: 20th and 21th Century Aftermaths

  • “Cloud turn” in art: the demise of the line and the victory of the flesh

  • Uncomfortable bodies: architectural drawing imperatives

  • Fascist reactions: individual erotic wilderness vs. hollow social bodies

  • Figura serpentinata and the contemporary anatomical imagination: spirituality held in check

  • Between war and pornography: contemporary survivals of the renaissance concepts

Course completion requirements -
Last update: Bc. Veronika Kučabová (05.06.2023)

75% attendance, active participation in discussions, final essay on an individually selected topic

Learning resources -
Last update: Bc. Veronika Kučabová (05.06.2023)

Selected Basic Literature:

  • CASSIRER, E.: The Logic of the Cultural Sciences. Five Studies. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000. ISBN: 0-300-08114-6

  • HESTER, H.: Beyond Explicit. Pornography and the Displacement of Sex. New York: SUNY Press, 2014, ISBN: 9781438449609.

  • HOGARTH, W. The Analysis of Beauty. Ilkley: Scolar Press, 1969. ISBN: 0-85417-523-7

  • MAES, H. - LEVINSON, J.: Art and Pornography: philosophical essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN: 0198744080

  • MAURER, E.: Manierismus: figura serpentinata und andere Figurenideale des Manierismus. Studien, Essays, Berichte. Zürich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2001, ISBN: 9783858237910

  • WARBURG, A.: A Lecture on Serpent Ritual. Journal of the Warburg Institute, No. 4, 1939, pp. 277-292. ISSN: 09592024

  • WIND, E.: Warburg’s Concept of Kulturwissenschaft and its Meaning for Aesthetics. In: PREZIOSI, D. (ed.). The Art of Art History. A Critical Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 189-194. ISBN: 978-0-19-922984-0

  • WOOD, CH. S., NAGEL, A.: Anachronic Renaissance. New York: Zone Books, 2010. ISBN: 978-1935408024

The excerpts and documents we will be working with will be available to download via SIS.

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