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IDSEMUG 2033 - The Vitruvian Man and Its Receptions: A History of Anthropomorphism in Architecture and Culture

The Vitruvian Man is an image of measure and proportion in the form of an ideal human body. Described in text by the Roman architect Vitruvius and illustrated pictorially by Renaissance architects and artists, the image has enjoyed a long reception in the western world up to the contemporary moment. Its appeal is obvious, making man the measure of all things places human beings at the center of the universe, and it has fascinated artists, architects, designers, philosophers, mathematicians, anthropologists, medical doctors, and more. In this course we trace this iconic figure back to its origins in Greek and Roman architectural, mathematical, and philosophical discourses and examine its emergence in relation to Rome’s contemporaneous transition from republic to empire. We will then explore the figure’s cultural apotheosis in the Renaissance as a symbol of artistic genius and human excellence, a practical problem for artists representing the human body, and a guide for architects seeking to restore the urban civilization of ancient Rome. The changing fortunes of the Vitruvian Man in the face of the transformations and crises of modernity will follow and will include explorations of the effects of technological change and total war on the image's centrality. Throughout we will consider the relationship between theory and practice in architecture and the arts; the interaction of textual and visual cultures in the transmission of antiquity; the relationship between the human body, the built environment, and the natural world. Finally, we will continually evaluate and critique the privileged place of this paradigm in western thought. Class Notes: FULFILLS GALLATIN DEGREE REQUIREMENT: HUMANITIES, PREMODERN.
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