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Intro to the Visual Culture of American Religions

Due to the introductory nature of the course, we will survey a variety of objects from a number of American religious traditions. Each week we will center our attention on a different type of object and a different model of intellectual inquiry. In the first section of the course, “Tools of Art Historical Interpretation,” we will learn basic skills of visual analysis through our examination of Northwest Coast aesthetics, African-American Bible quilts, New England gravestones, and Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ. Then, we will use these interpretive tools to examine religious “ways of seeing” that characterize particular traditions and at certain historical moments. In Part III, we will analyze how objects are used by a variety of traditions to mediate different temporal moments, geographic locations, and cultural contexts. In the end, we will recognize the manifold ways objects shape religious beliefs and practices and inflect ways of seeing and knowing,


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

Kristin Schwain

University of Missouri-Columbia

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Intro, Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, The Arts

Catholic, General Comparative Traditions, Indigenous, Islam, Judaism, Protestant
Religous Tradition

He​alth/Death, Pluralism/Secularism/Culture Wars, Race/Ethnicity

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