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Course Description: This course consists of two parts:

J. M. W. Turner, Boats at Sea, c. 1835-40I. Romantic Landscape (7 weeks) This part of the course attends to the specificity of Romantic landscape during the so-called British “long 18th century” or (in art history) “great century”–i.e., to the unique contribution of Romanticism to an era when in great part landscape was art and art was landscape. Rivaled perhaps only by the novel, with which it was on intimate terms, landscape was the epic of the times. It was the familiar of that other great Romantic epic form: autobiography. This part of the course concentrates on the writings of the Wordsworth circle and the paintings and watercolors of John Constable and J.M.W. Turner. These materials are developed against a backdrop that includes 18th-century writers and painters, the aesthetic theories of the picturesque and sublime, and the history and theory of “descriptive” genres (including georgic and locodescription).

II. New Forms of Landscape (3 weeks) Whether developed in conceptual, metaphorical, or virtual form, navigable space–and often specifically landscape–is important to the contemporary artistic imagination. Paul Baran, Centralized, Decentralized, and Distributed Networks, 1960The course will conclude by making the transition through late-nineteenth-century landscape photography (Carlton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge) to modern and contemporary forms of landscape imagination, including “land art” and new-media art. Materials include: the work of Robert Smithson, James Turrell, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long, Charlotte Davies, John Klima, and Sue Thomas as well as such forms as computer games and satellite imagery. The wager of the course is that we can learn something about the use of landscape as a major form of the social imaginary if we juxtapose Romantic poets and artists walking through nature and contemporary poets and artists browsing or navigating the networks.

The course is supported by an Online Image Gallery (login required).