Medieval Studies

Glenn Peers


ProfessorPh.D., Johns Hopkins University

Professor, Department of Art & Art History
Glenn Peers

Contact

Interests


Byzantine Art

Biography


Peers earned my Ph.D. in the History of Art from The Johns Hopkins University, and, while on leave in 2000 – 01, he earned a Licentiate in Medieval Studies from the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in the University of Toronto. He has been a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin since 1998. 

Subtle Bodies: Representing Angels in Byzantium (2001), was published by The University of California Press, and his examination of frames and framing in Byzantine art, Sacred Shock: Framing Visual Experience in Byzantium, was published by Penn State University Press in 2004. Current projects include art and identity amongst Christians of the medieval eastern Mediterranean, philhellenism in Renaissance France, and Byzantine manuscripts, like the eleventh-century Psalter, Vat. gr. 752 (with Barbara Crostini), and the extraordinarily diverse cultures of the pocket empire at Trebizond in the late Middle Ages. 

An exhibition that I curated, Under Gods, work of the British photographer Liz Hingley at the Visual Arts Center took place in the fall of 2012. Please see http://utvac.org/exhibitions/liz-hingley-under-gods 
Byzantine Things in the World was held at the Menil Collection in the summer of 2013, and an edited volume by that same title was published to accompany it (published by the Menil and distributed by Yale UP). 

During the 2007 – 08 academic year, Peers was a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and during the 2011 - 12 academic year, he was a Whitehead Professor at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. For the summer semester 2014,he was a Senior Fellow at the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. During the 2015-16 academic year, Peers will be a member of a research team, “Poetics of Christian Performance,” gathered at the Israel Institute for Advanced Study, Jerusalem. 

Courses


T C 302 • Iconoclasm And Idolatry

42435 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CRD 007B

Description:

The power and seductiveness of things have been revealed consistently through attacks and accusations against them. Things—art, propaganda, objects in the world—have often been challenging to our assumptions of control and to our fear of others’ power. This class examines incidents and explanations of iconoclasm, the willful destruction of images or objects, in order to understand more fully the roles art has played in various cultures in the past and in the present. It also takes as themes theoretical or religious proscription of images (such as the second commandment), historical conditions of aniconism, and active vandalism that reveals the political, religious and social power of art.

 

The class takes an historical approach and will examine moments of iconoclasm from the past (for example, in eighth-/ninth-century Byzantium and Early Modern Europe). It will also look at apparent connections between monotheism and iconoclasm, and so it will raise the question of iconoclasm’s necessity in human cultures. It also looks at local instances of iconoclasm (and idolatry), like the campus’s confederate-war statuary. By looking at the history of the power of images and of counter-reactions to it, the class will attempt to answer some questions about our own suspicion—and sometime hatred—of things we make and call art.

 

The class also examines why human societies so often invent ‘idols,’ the object of iconoclasms’ actions. Idols are the things and ideas we put too much stock in, love too much, make too real. From the Golden Calf to social conventions, we have consistently wanted and been warned against too much desire for things and ideas, and the class takes this cycle of love, suspicion and hate as a central theme.


Texts
(selections will be made from the following):

David Rieff, In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies, New Haven-London, 2016

Kalman P. Bland, The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials of the Visual, Princeton, 2000

Zainab Bahrani, The Infinite Image: Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity, London, 2014

Marina Warner, “Falling Idols: Public Monuments, Islamic State, and Contesting the Story of the Past,” Frieze 174 (October 2015): 224-30

Carlos M.N. Eire, War against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin, Cambridge, 1986  

Idol Anxiety. Ed. Josh Ellenbogen and Aaron Tugendhaft. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011.

Freedberg, David. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Gamboni, Dario. The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution. London: Reaktion Books, 1997.

Dale B. Martin, Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation, Louisville-London, 2006

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, Cambridge, MA-London, 2016

 

Assignments:

Students will be asked to write two papers, which will include an initial statement of research, peer reviewing, and opportunity for re-write, and a take-home test, which will deal with the readings and discussions over the course of the semester. Each of these components (2 papers, I final test) will be worth 30%.  I stress concise argumentation so the papers will likely carry limits of 1500 words. Presentations and discussion will be factored into a participation grade of 10%.

The class carries flags in writing, ethics and global studies.

About the Professor:

Glenn Peers, Professor of Art and Art History. Never having been to a museum before I was 18, I have always experienced the power and enigma of art very strongly, and I try to communicate something of the beautiful strangeness of art in all my classes. I always find art has some exciting excess even after the best class discussions. I’ve continued to explore those qualities in curatorial work that I’ve been doing the last several years, a new departure for me, and so encounters with art, real and immediate, are important for teaching too, in my opinion. I began my graduate career and early publishing on topics related to medieval theories and practice of iconoclasm, and I am continuing to think through these positions, but now from a very strong view to explaining the material and experiential strangeness of art. I get a lot of pleasure from teaching first-year students, especially those who, like me, may not have had the privilege of meeting art head-on before college.

 

ARH 329N • Art And Arch Of Late Antiquity

20170 • Fall 2017
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM DFA 2.204
(also listed as MES 342, R S 353)

This course aims to introduce a period of great complexity, the transitional period between the Classical and Medieval worlds. The designation 'Late Antique' is necessarily vague because the transition was drawn out and often without firm definition. The exchange among cultures in this period was dynamic, and this course examines the art of Late Antiquity as a contest of cultures. In this period, art was an effective means of self- definition for Christians, pagans, Muslims and Jews alike.

This course examines the tentative beginning of a Christian art and architecture beginning around 200. It follows the progress of this new art through its attempts at incorporation and alterations of pagan and Jewish art, and it follows the growth of this visual identity to its fully Christian realization into the seventh century. This broad period encompasses changes that profoundly affected the history of Europe thereafter: a truly Christian art and architecture supplanted the old forms of the pagan world. Meanwhile, Jews within the empire and Persians outside were each contending with the Roman past that allowed them to assert their own statuses and identities.

The course ends with an examination of another process of supplanting and appropriation: the Islamicization from the 630s of large parts of the formerly Christian world of the Eastern Mediterranean. The Roman Christian world was itself overthrown by the forces of Islam from the east, but as Christians had not erased the past, neither did Muslims. A dynamic and compelling culture grew out of these opposing forces, a culture that has lessons of accommodation and antagonism useful for us today.

T C 302 • Iconoclasm And Idolatry

42910 • Spring 2017
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CRD 007B

Description:

The power and seductiveness of things have been revealed consistently through attacks and accusations against them. Things—art, propaganda, objects in the world—have often been challenging to our assumptions of control and to our fear of others’ power. This class examines incidents and explanations of iconoclasm, the willful destruction of images or objects, in order to understand more fully the roles art has played in various cultures in the past and in the present. It also takes as themes theoretical or religious proscription of images (such as the second commandment), historical conditions of aniconism, and active vandalism that reveals the political, religious and social power of art.

The class takes an historical approach and will examine moments of iconoclasm from the past (for example, in eighth-/ninth-century Byzantium and Early Modern Europe). It will also look at apparent connections between monotheism and iconoclasm, and so it will raise the question of iconoclasm’s necessity in human cultures. By looking at the history of the power of images and of counter-reactions to it, the class will attempt to answer some questions about our own suspicion—and sometime hatred—of things we make and call art.

Texts and Readings:
Selections will be made from the following:
Bevan, Robert Margare. The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War. London: Reaktion, 2006.
Brubaker, Leslie. Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2012.
Idol Anxiety. Ed. Josh Ellenbogen and Aaron Tugendhaft. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011.
Freedberg, David. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Gamboni, Dario. The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution. London: Reaktion Books, 1997.
Plate, S. Brent. Blasphemy: Art That Offends. London: Black Dog, 2006.
Preziosi, Donald, Art, Religion, Amnesia: The Limits of Credulity. Hoboken: Routledge, 2013.
Wandel, Lee Palmer. Voracious Idols and Violent Hands: Iconoclasm in Reformation Zurich, Strasbourg, and Basel. Cambridge-New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Assignments:
Students will be asked to write two papers, which will include an initial statement of research, peer reviewing, and opportunity for re-write, and a take-home test, which will deal with the readings and discussions over the course of the semester. Each of these components (2 papers, I final test) will be worth 30%. I tend to stress concise argumentation so the papers will likely carry limits of 1500 words. Presentations and discussion will be factored into a participation grade of 10%.
The class can carry flags in writing, ethics and global studies, and if the class is approved, I would certainly pursue them.

About the Professor:
Glenn Peers, Professor of Art and Art History. Never having been to a museum before I was 18, I have always experienced the power and enigma of art very strongly, and I try to communicate something of the beautiful strangeness of art in all my classes. I always find art has some exciting excess even after the best class discussions. I’ve continued to explore those qualities in curatorial work that I’ve been doing the last several years, a new departure for me, and so encounters with art, real and immediate, are important for teaching too, in my opinion. I began my graduate career and early publishing on topics related to medieval theories and practice of iconoclasm, and I am continuing to think through these positions, but now from a very strong view to explaining the material and experiential strangeness of art. I get a lot of pleasure from teaching first-year students, especially those who, like me, may not have had the privilege of meeting art head-on before college. 

ARH 383 • Art Of The Crusades

20125 • Spring 2015
Meets W 9:00AM-12:00PM ART 3.432
(also listed as MES 386)

This class examines art and architecture produced when medieval Christians sought to claim and then possess land considered holy or dispossess non-Christians of desirable land. It takes the Holy Land experience of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as the center of this medieval phenomenon of crusading, but it treats areas of the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean also conquered and controlled by crusaders, like Cyprus, Greece and Sicily. It also looks at art and architecture produced in Western Europe in reaction to successes and failures of crusading. Such issues continue to resonate at a time of conflict and competition in the Middle East still, and the art history of the Middle Ages is an important means for understanding contemporary events.

T C 302 • Images Of Hellenism

43715 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CRD 007A

Description:

This class examines the traditions of Hellenism in art and culture from the age of Homer to the twentieth century.  We will focus on paradigmatic monuments of Hellenic culture (Mycenae, Parthenon, Venus de Milo, Hagia Sophia, and other less well-known monuments like late medieval Crete, the work of Makriyiannis and modern painting), all the while making connection to significant works of literary culture (Homer, Sophocles, Thucydides, Paul the Silentiary, the Patriarch Photius, Cavafy, Elytis and Seferis, for example).  We will study these works of art and literature not only to appreciate the extraordinary achievement of Hellenism from the pre-historic to the modern period, but also to understand the dynamic relationship of art and literature in that tradition—and in our own.

 

Objectives:

1. To gain a basic understanding of some key concepts concerning history of art and architecture.  To do so, learning about styles and formal elements of art and architecture will be key, but further extracting meaning from those styles and elements will be the ultimate skill learned.

2. To learn to look at art works carefully and to articulate meaning from looking.

3. To have gained an understanding of – and appreciation for – the history of the Hellenic traditions and its meaning for our society and culture.

 

Texts/Readings:

Virginia Woolf, “On Not Knowing Greek

Simon Goldhill, Who Needs Greek? Contests in the Cultural History of Hellenism (passages)

Simon Goldhill, Love, Sex and Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes Our Lives (passages)

A. A Donohue, Greek Sculpture and the Problem of Description (passages)

The Odyssey (passages)

Sophocles, Antigone

Mary Beard, The Parthenon (passages)

Jennifer Neils, The Parthenon Frieze (passages)

Judith M Barringer, Art, Myth, and Ritual in Classical Greece (passages)

Cultural Responses to the Persian Wars: Antiquity to the Third Millennium (passages)

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (passages)

J. J. Pollitt, Art and Experience in Classical Greece (passages)

Greg Curtis, Disarmed: The Story of the Venus de Milo (passages)

Peter Fuller, Art and Psychoanalysis (passages)

Christian Scripture and Apocrypha (passages)

Anthony Kaldellis, The Christian Parthenon: Classicism and Pilgrimage in Byzantine Athens (passages)

Cyril Mango, The Art of the Byzantine Empire, 312-1453: Sources and Documents (passages)

Richard Brilliant, My Laocoon: Alternative Claims in the Interpretation of Artworks (passages)

Ioannes Makriyiannis, Memoirs (passages)

 

Assignments:

One take-home exam 30%

Two papers (1000 words each) 60% (30% each)

Attendance & Participation  10%

 

About the Professor:

Glenn Peers, Department of Art and Art History - I came to Byzantine art history by way of ancient Greek literature: I was a Classics major who was moved during my junior-year abroad to look at Byzantine art.  I work on theoretical aspects of Byzantine art, and on social and art historical ramifications of diverse faiths in the medieval Mediterranean.  I always keep the Hellenic tradition in for foreground, and I teach this class as history engaged with the present and with this place--that is, Texas--through class visits to the Ransom Center, the Blanton Museum, the Stark Center, and to the Menil Collection in Houston.

ARH 363 • Art Of Late Antiquity

20610 • Fall 2013
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM DFA 2.204
(also listed as C C 340, R S 357)

This course aims to introduce a period of great complexity, the transitional period between the Classical and Christian worlds. The designation, 'Late Antique' is necessarily vague because the transition was drawn out and often without firm definition. The exchange between cultures in this period was dynamic, and this course attempts to examine the art of Late Antiquity as a contest of cultures. Art was in this period an effective means of self-definition for Christians, pagans and Jews alike. This course examines the tentative beginning of a Christian art and architecture beginning around 200. It follows the progress of this new art through its attempts at incorporation and alterations of pagan and Jewish art, and it follows the growth of this visual identity to its fully Christian realization in the seventh century. This broad period encompasses changes that profoundly affected the history of Europe thereafter: a truly Christian art and architecture supplanted the old forms of the pagan world. The course ends with an examination of another process of supplanting and appropriation: the Islamicization of large parts of the formerly Christian world of the Eastern Mediterranean. The Roman Christian world was itself overthrown by the forces of Islam from the east, but as Christians did not erase the past, neither did Muslims. A dynamic and compelling culture grew out of these opposing forces, a culture that has lessons of accommodation and antagonism useful for us today.

 

Texts:

Averil Cameron, The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity. A.D. 395-700, 2d ed., London-New York: Routledge, 2012. [available as e-book] {= C}Nicola Denzey, The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women, Boston: Beacon, 2007. [BR 195 W6 D46 2007] {= D}These texts and all other readings are on reserve in the Fine Arts Library.

 

Grading:

1. Students will write two (2) TESTS, each worth 20% of the final grade.2. Students will write two (2) ASSIGNMENTS, each worth 25% of the final grade.3. Class participation is worth 10% of the final grade.

C C 383 • Art & Arch Late Antiq, 200-750

29776 • Spring 2005
Meets T 9:30AM-12:30PM ART 3.432
(also listed as REE 385)

C C 383 Studies in Classical Civilization:

Studies in various aspects of Greek and Roman literature, history, and culture.

REE 385 • Late Byzantine Art (13-16th C)

41524 • Spring 2004
Meets W 9:00AM-12:00PM ART 3.432

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