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Mountains in European and African Art and History

ARHA 296
Fall 2013
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: ENVS 296
Course Cluster: African Studies

This course is a comparative study of mountains as artistic inspiration, focusing on the Atlas of northwest Africa and the Alps in Europe. We begin with Berber holy mountains and associated religious traditions in Morocco. Across the High Atlas, Moroccan influence provided the cultural link from southern Europe and the Maghreb to West Africa. We then turn to medieval Europe. There, passes through the Alps and the Black Forest were conduits for the transit of men, goods, and cultural forms. Mountains were not barriers but passageways that linked cultures. In 16th- and 17th-century Europe, Netherlandish artists--Breughel, Seghers, Ruisdael, Jos de Mompers--first gave full expression to the grandeur, far beyond a human scale, of Alpine scenery. Gradually, mountains came to be viewed as places of aesthetic beauty and as manifestation of the sublime.
Romanticism, in the visual arts, poetry, and music, captures the experience of the Alps as both symbol and physical manifestation of the transcendent. Constable and Turner depict mountains in England's Lake District and the Alps as their primary subject matter. A deeper understanding of landscape painting may be had through the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge. This transition coincided with the birth of mountaineering as a sport. We will read selections from narratives of climbing expeditions--Leslie Stephen, Mark Twain. The late 19th-century colonization of West Africa led to exploration of the interior. For the first explorers of the Futa Jalon of Guinea (Hecquard, 1850; Noirot, 1881), sketching these mountains was a form of documentation. After World War One, mountaineering took on a heightened spiritual dimension for men who had survived the horrors of trench warfare. In Austria and Germany, climbing was identified with the cult of physical prowess and, sadly, with National Socialism and antisemitism. In fact, however, the development of climbing and skiing in the Alps owes much to Austrian and German Jews. In art, too, during the first decades of the 20th century, mountains were an important source of spiritual inspiration for painters whose work is central to the evolution of modern art.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ART
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on DEC-01-2022
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