This interdisciplinary and cross-historical seminar will open perspectives onto the subtle mysticism in works of literature, art, architecture, and poetry. Considering phenomena of vernacular mysticism and the problem of mimesis in verbal and visual representation, we will follow the themes formulated by Giotto and Dante in the Duecento and Trecento through their subsequent history of reception and transformation. After introductory sessions on Giotto and Dante in their relationship to Augustine and to mysticism, the seminar will focus on the nineteenth and the twentieth century as well as on the present day.
Our readings will include contemporary literature on Giotto and Dante as well as examples from poetry, painting, photography, film, and music of more recent decades engaging with the sophisticated agenda set by their respective greatest cosmological works, Dante’s Commedia and Giotto’s Arena Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni) in Padua. We will discuss questions of authorship, ownership, authority, power, humility, media and media criticism, visual / textual representations of the transcendent or incommensurable, visual knowledge, and approaches to Dante’s and Giotto’s perpetual modernity.