Lecture 1. Orient AND Rome: New Answers to a Very Old Question

This lecture poses our fundamental historiographical question: what are the origins of medieval European architecture?  In Part I, it rehearses the conventional answer—that medieval art and architecture continue western, classical traditions; but it confronts that answer with the realization that we simply haven’t sufficiently conceived the late antique and early medieval world as one in which the East and the West were strongly interconnected.  By surveying some of the magnificent structures of the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ built in the East (e.g. Armenia and Syria), Part II demonstrates the limitations of the conventional answer: that many cultures to the East shared in the heritage of classical Rome and Greece.  The final section of the lecture surveys the career of Europe’s first professor of non-western art history, Josef Strzygowski, whose 1901 book, Orient or Rome? forced open discussion of our question.  It shows that Strzygowski’s travels and connections to other cultures allowed him to ‘see’ non-canonical, non-western monuments and to include them in his history, and thus to open up an essential discussion—even though Strzygowski himself drifted into wild polemics and racist forms of thought.

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Lecture Notes