Jerrilynn Dodds

BA, Barnard College. MA, PhD, Harvard University. Work has centered on issues of artistic interchange—in particular among Christians, Jews, and Muslims—and how groups form identities through art and architecture; special interest in the arts of Spain and the history of architecture. Author of Architecture and Ideology in Early Medieval Spain and NY Masjid: The Mosques of New York and co-author of Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture, among other books and publications. Dean of the College, 2009-15. SLC, 2009–

Current undergraduate courses

First-Year Studies: Art and History

FYS

The visual arts and architecture constitute a central part of human expression and experience, and both grow from and influence our lives in profound ways that we might not consciously acknowledge. In this course, we will explore intersections between the visual arts and cultural, political, and social history. We will ask in what ways works of art can be used as documents for understanding history and will seek to understand how different approaches to the interpretation of art can be used to reveal different kinds of understanding of the conditions and concerns of the people who created them and of their audiences. What meaning did these works originally convey, and how did they communicate—both consciously and unconsciously? We will also discuss a number of issues of contemporary concern; for instance, the destruction of art, free speech and respect of religion, and the art market and the museum. Our work will include analysis of images and readings from the works of art historians, historians, social scientists, philosophers, and theorists. We will endeavor to understand the work from the point of view of its creators and patrons, as well as its changing reception by audiences throughout time. To accomplish this, we will need to be able to understand some of the languages of art. The course, then, is also a course in visual literacy, the craft of reading and interpreting visual images on their own terms. Students need to be able to schedule time on some Saturdays to take the college van to Manhattan to do assignments or attend the occasional class at various museums in New York City.

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Florence: Portrait of a City Through Art, Architecture, and Urban Planning

Fall

In this course, we will chart the history and development of the City of Florence, Italy, from the Roman period through the 19th century, with particular attention given to the Renaissance period. We will discuss the interaction of the city with the extraordinary artists and architects whose works helped to transform it: Giotto, Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bramante, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Bronzino, and many others. We will also consider the interaction of the arts with Florence’s powerful intellectual figures, as well as its ecclesiastical, political, and civic leaders—figures such as Machiavelli, Vasari, Savonarola, Ficino, Dante, and, of course, the Medici.

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Islamic Art and Society

Spring

This course will explore the architecture and visual arts of societies in which Islam is a strong political, cultural, or social presence. We will follow the history of some of these societies through the development of their arts and architecture, using case studies to explore their diverse artistic languages from the advent of Islam through the contemporary world. We will begin with an introduction to the history surrounding the advent of Islam and the birth of arts and architecture that respond to the needs of the new Islamic community. We will proceed to follow the developments of diverse artistic and architectural languages of expression as Islam spreads to the Mediterranean and to Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, exploring the ways in which arts can help define and express identities for people living in multi-confessional societies. We will then draw this exploration into the present day, in which global economics, immigration, and politics draw the architecture and artistic attitudes of Islam into the global contemporary discourse. Our work will include introductions to some of the theoretical discourses that have emerged concerning cultural representation and exchange and appropriation in art and architecture. One of our allied goals will be to learn to read works of art and to understand how an artistic expression that resists representation can connect with its audience. And throughout this course, we will ask: Can there be an Islamic art?

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Previous courses

Islamic Art and Society: 632-2013

Fall

This course will explore some of the cultural, political, and social meanings that can be drawn from the history of the art and architecture of Islamic polities and of other pluralistic societies in which Islam has played a part. We will seek to understand the relationship between the religion of Islam and the arts produced in lands where Muslims are among the creators of visual culture, using works of art and architecture as documents of social and political meaning. The course will begin in Arabia in the seventh century and continue to the Mediterranean, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, and Asia. Finally, we will look at the arts of Islam as a contemporary global phenomenon, including Islamic arts in Europe and America.

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