September 9, 2015 – Carol Symes

Lynn M. Martin Professorial Scholar
Associate Professor of History, Theatre, and Medieval Studies
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Modern War, Medieval Imagery: The Visual Impact of Medievalism during World War I”

Although the First World War is usually understood as a quintessentially modern conflict, the politics and ideologies that led to the war’s outbreak were profoundly shaped by the meanings attached to Europe’s medieval past. Indeed, the war itself was figured as a continuation of medieval wars for sovereignty and self-determination. The visual culture that shaped the propaganda campaigns of the war, and that influenced popular understandings of it, were accordingly saturated with medieval imagery.


September 16, 2015 – Monique Scott

Director of Museum Studies
Bryn Mawr College

“Envisioning African Origins: Race, Evolution & Identity in the Natural History Museum”

How is Africa envisioned in the natural history museum? This talk explores how human origins exhibitions and their museum visitors work to mutually produce anthropological ideas about Africa. This is a product of dynamic interplay between museum iconography and popular folklore circulating outside the museum that often continues to stigmatize African people as evolutionary spectacles.

September 30, 2015 – Barbara Miller Lane

Mellon Professor Emeritus of Humanities
Bryn Mawr College

“Looking Back at Nazi Buildings: Some Reflections on Architecture and Ideology”

Discusses the reception of Lane’s first book ( Architecture and Politics in Germany 1918-1945 , 1968, 1985) and analyzes some recent views of Nazi architecture. Raises questions about how to evaluate political content in buildings.

October 21, 2015 – Erin Schoneveld

Assistant Professor
Bi-College Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Haverford College

“Art Journals as Interlocutors of Change: White Birch and Modern Japanese Art”

Founded in April of 1910, the art journal White Birch (Shirakaba) redefined modern Japanese art for a new generation of artists and writers. One of the first art journals to reproduce the works of Rodin, Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, and Matisse, White Birch provided a critical framework for introducing and discussing European modernism. In this paper I will examine the function of the art journal as a new medium of artistic exchange within early 20th century Japan. I will argue that the dual role of the art journal – as both a physical object and a virtual space – aspired to create new audiences and foster the exchange of ideas through the development of alternative spaces and artistic communities. Through their affiliation with White Birch aspiring artists and writers reframed the debate on modern art by subverting government established styles and exhibition formats that reinforced the cultural and political objectives of Japan’s nation building efforts. In the process, these activities opened a critical space that allowed artists and writers to explore and complicate the changing status and boundaries of modern art in Japan and East Asia more broadly.

November 4, 2015 – Cordula Grewe

Senior Fellow, Department of the History of Art
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

“The Arabesque between Kant and Comic Strip”

The roots of the modern arabesque are manifold. The sinuous curves of the Rococo are one; Raphael’s grottesche and its ancient predecessors another. Yet a more surprising root is the avant-garde writing and metaphysics of the German Romantics. Looking to the arts for inspiration, philosophers and writers turned to the arabesque to quench their thirst for a synthesis of man and nature, of finite and cosmic spirit through an idiom that is endlessly inventive, constantly creates new forms, and never takes on definitive embodiment. However, when the visual arts sallied forth to reconquer this ornamental domain, traditional genres such as painting and fresco found themselves ill-equipped to realize the arabesque in its new theoretical complexity. Consequently, not high art, but the pages of books became the locus of the most inventive visual applications of the Romantic arabesque. Ultimately, only the comic strip could produce a visual arabesque equal to the pervasive irony, subversive power, and self-reflexive discursivity of its literary sibling.