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FA 0050 Medieval Art (Spring 2013)

FA 0050 Medieval Art

FA 0050 Medieval Art

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

248 Biddle Hall

T-TH 11:00 a.m.-12:20 p.m.

Spring 2013


Dr. Valerie S. Grash, Associate Professor of Fine Arts

Office: 230B Biddle Hall

Phone: 269-7164       



Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:30-2:00 p.m., and by appointment.



This course is designed to be a thorough examination of the art and architecture created during the period known in Europe as the Middle Ages. This period commences with the emergence and legalization of Christianity in the late Roman Empire, and concludes with the arrival of the Bubonic plague (Black Death) in the fourteenth century. Our focus will be on understanding not only the creation of specific monuments, but most importantly, placing them in a cultural context. Societal conditions that affected their design and meaning will be examined through readings, discussion and visual/contextual analysis.

At the conclusion of the course, you will:

  1. Possess a strong understanding of the various periods and cultures that make up the medieval period.
  2. Recognize and comprehend the function, appearance and meaning of significant monuments.
  3. Understand the terminology and various techniques used to create art and build architecture.
  4. Critically examine and articulate complex academic arguments made by scholars of medieval art.
  5. Formulate an argument based on personal observation and thought regarding the lingering impact of the Middle Ages on western culture.

Required textbook

Marilyn Stokstad, Medieval Art. Second Edition (ISBN 978-0813341149) Westview Press, 2004.

Course Web Site:

Additional textual and visual materials for this course (including monuments and terms covered in lecture); additional required readings; your grades; and pertinent announcements concerning class meetings and examinations are found at:

Cell Phones:

Be certain your cell phone is put away and turned OFF, as it is both annoying and disruptive to the entire class when it rings. Anyone sending or receiving text messages will be asked to leave-this course deserves your full attention. If you can't do that, drop the class immediately. 

Notice Regarding Course Changes:

I reserve the right to modify the timing, order and content of the course schedule. It is your responsibility to attend class and be aware of any changes. Check the course website regarding any class cancellations should they become necessary due to adverse weather conditions or other situations.


Course Policies

Faculty Statement:

My role is to facilitate learning through lecture and clarification of specific points through questioning and discussion, whether in the classroom, during office hours or via electronic correspondence. It is your responsibility to attend class, take accurate notes and approach me with any questions and issues for clarification in a timely manner.


While there is no attendance policy for this course, be forewarned that what you will be tested on is discussed thoroughly in class. Even with the textbook, nothing replaces viewing the images projected on screen. Therefore, regular attendance is necessary to succeed in this course. In addition, as classroom discussion and participation is expected, poor attendance will adversely affect you if it comes down to a borderline decision on your final grade.

Notes and Note Taking:

Under no circumstances do I provide notes for missed classes. It is your responsibility, if you miss a class, to acquire the lecture notes from a classmate. Class assignments and announcements are available on the course website. You may tape-record lectures as long as you do not disturb others in the class.

Makeup Exams:

I give make-up exams only in cases with legitimate, documented reasons (death in the family, personal hospitalization, required fieldtrips, etc.). In such cases, inform me in advance and provide written confirmation of your absence. Do not assume every absence is excused or warrants special consideration. The alternative make-up exam (all essay questions) must be taken within one week of the scheduled test; only one makeup exam per student will be permitted. No one can make-up the final exam, which must be taken at the scheduled time.

Late Assignments:

No extensions are granted for class assignments. Due dates are clearly noted on the syllabus at the beginning of the semester. You should start each assignment in a timely manner and even complete assignments early. Illness or any other excuse has no bearing on the fact that your work was not turned in on time. Any assignment not turned in by the due date will not be graded, thus earning 0 points for the work. No exceptions are permitted so do not ask!

Academic Integrity:

Please read carefully the Academic Integrity Guidelines in your student handbook. They will be followed to the letter in this course. There is ZERO tolerance for cheating or plagiarism. Any time that you use another person's words or thoughts as your own without giving them proper credit is plagiarism, including copying and pasting from the Internet. Any instance of cheating or plagiarism will result in an automatic "F" (0 points) for that assignment, and steps will be taken, according to the University's Academic Integrity Guidelines, to receive an "F" for the course and for action leading to expulsion from the university. I will not permit re-writing any suspected plagiarized assignment.


If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Health & Wellness Services (OHWS), G-10 Student Union Building, (814) 269-7119 to schedule an appointment as early as possible in the term.  OHWS will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

Grading and Course Requirements

Overall, you can earn 500 points during the semester. On this scale:

500-490 (A+)   489-465 (A)                464-450 (A-)

449-440 (B+)   439-415 (B)                 414-400 (B-)

399-390 (C+)   389-365 (C)                364-350 (C-)

349-300 (D)      299 and below (F)

Your grade will be determined in the following manner:

Examinations (375 points):

There will be three exams during the semester (February 12, March 26, and April 24), each worth 125 points. The format will be multiple choice, and essay questions drawn from class notes and readings. The final will not be comprehensive, but will cover only the material since the previous exam.

Quizzes (60 points):

Four quizzes will be given during the semester, each worth 20 points. Only your three highest scoring grades will count towards your 60 point total, which means the lowest score will be dropped. No missed quiz can be made up, regardless of why you were absent. The quizzes will cover the following areas: the Bible (January 22); monasteries and monasticism (February 19); Islam (February 28); and cathedral architecture (April 4). Prior to each quiz, you will be provided with a study guide to help you prepare for what will be covered.

Critical Article Review (25 points):

In order to adequately prepare you for academic research, and assess your ability to comprehend and critically evaluate scholarly material in an articulate manner, you will be required to read and respond to a scholarly article. This exercise will not only challenge your writing abilities, but also demonstrate your capability to research and form opinions from material you read. You will be assigned an article to read, and then produce a 2-3 page review paper that outlines the author's main thesis and supporting arguments. Further guidelines for this assignment are found on the course web site under "Assignments." Due date: March 7.

Reflective Essay (40 points):

The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate that you can relate the material we have covered in class to the contemporary world. As a unique and diverse era in human history, the Middle Ages have inspired modern visual culture in many ways-in the form of film, cartoons and video games, as well as architecture and even fashion. From a proposed list of topics (or working in conjunction with the professor to form one of your own), you will write an essay that reflects upon the continuing meaning(s) of medieval art and culture in today's world. The finished product will be 4-5 pages long, typewritten in 12-point and double-spaced, with illustrations as appropriate. It must satisfy specific guidelines regarding technical requirements and layout, as well as fulfills a rubric that provides a list of points you are expected to address (found on the course web site under "Assignments"). Due date: April 16.

Course Schedule

January 8         Course Introduction

January 10       The Bible and Its Importance in the Medieval World


January 15       The Late Roman Empire and Early Christianity

January 17       Christian Structures of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries


January 22       Eastern Orthodox Icons and Ivories  *Quiz 1

January 24       Byzantine Art in the Age of Justinian: Ravenna and Constantinople


January 29       Nomadic Tribal Art in Western Europe

January 31       Scandinavian Art: Vikings to Stave Churches


February 5       Celtic Art and the Arrival of Christianity to Ireland

February 7       Manuscript Illumination and Intellectual Developments


February 12     Exam I

February 14     Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renovatio Romani Imperi


February 19     The Beginnings of Monasticism: Plan of St. Gall *Quiz 2

February 21     Monasteries in Western Europe during the Middle Ages  


February 26     Ottonian Art and Architecture 

February 28     The Rise of Islam and Its Influence on Western Architecture  *Quiz 3


March 5           Feudalism and the Emergence of Castle Architecture 

March 7           Romanesque Sculpture and Painting  * Critical Article Review due


March 12         No Class-Spring Recess

March 14         No Class-Spring Recess


March 19         Schools of Romanesque Architecture

March 21         Schools of Romanesque Architecture


March 26         Exam II

March 28         William the Conqueror and Anglo-Norman Romanesque                 


April 2             Abbot Suger and the Emergence of "Year 1200" Style

April 4             Notre Dame at Chartres  *Quiz 4


April 9             High Gothic Cathedrals: Structural Analysis

April 11           Louis IX and the Rayonnant Style


April 16           Gothic Outside of France: England, Germany and Italy  *Reflective Essay due

April 18           The Late Middle Ages and the Impact of the Bubonic Plague



Final Exam:   Wednesday, April 24, 3:00-5:00 p.m.


Last Reviewed: January 7, 2008