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Parallelism and Power Within Italian Art Historiography and Criticism

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Explanation of Parallelisms and Power

Initially, this course had little direction other than that I knew I wanted to study Italian art, I had no specific periods in mind or regions of interest. My first few attempts at locating sources to be analyzed later on left me feeling even more lost and confused as to how to narrow my scope. Yet after several hours of meetings and researching I have successfully narrowed my scope of interest into an area that I feel comfortable to pursue further for my Lumen application and even later thesis research. After finally being given a title, this course is called “Parallelisms and Power within Italian Art Historiography and Criticism.” With this focus, my research will pertain to critical theory, art criticism, and politics and how all these aspects then underly and express the phenomena of parallelisms within Italian art and why this theme is so relevant.

Lying at the very base of all the research I will complete in this class is an understanding of how to utilize different critical theories so as to bring heightened analysis to my work. This understanding can be gained through the reading of various sources that employ differing methodologies. Thus, much of this course will involve reading sources that don’t necessarily pertain to the research I intend to complete, yet are still incredibly relevant to my studies in that they teach me how to write within differing methodological mindsets.

The next important component of this research will be the study of the evolution of Italian art criticism. Art criticism, when seen as a primary source or as a synthesis of several primary sources, can offer valuable insight into how and why art was valued within the time in which it was written. It is important to recognize that art history or art criticism written today in reference to art from a different era is inherently affected by the writer’s presence in the contemporary world. As Keith Moxey emphasizes in his book Visual Time: The Image in History, “The texture of the past is threaded through an account of the work’s reception in the present.” Essentially, no contemporary art criticism or research can ever truly capture how a work would have been received in its own time, thus giving credence to the importance of a historiography of art criticism. It is as Moxey further states, “By emphasizing the contemporaneity of their response to images, by folding the historicity of their own temporal locations within accounts of historical horizons, such scholars effectively disrupt any absolute distinction between past and present.”

The art of Italy oftentimes contains political imagery or is in some way related to political ideology, thus making politics one of the most important facets of this course. By making a political connection, this course significantly relates to both my Art History and Political Science majors as well as my Italian minor. The art of Italian politics can be seen across time and regions, enabling me to satisfy my interest in a wide range of areas and time periods within Italy while still having a concise focus. The political can be found explicitly in the art of the Renaissance era, Futurism, and the contemporary movement among others and remains relevant throughout the rest of Italian art as well in the form of patronage and power.

While all of these aspects are important to the course in their own right, what unites these different themes is the tools they provide to study parallelisms throughout Italian art. First, it is necessary to define what this notion of parallelism means to myself and this course. Parallelisms refer to the juxtapositions of art with other art forms, references, or content so as to incite a certain reaction or create a new meaning. Keeping this in mind, it is now necessary to revisit the previously discussed cornerstones of this course to evaluate how they relate to this overarching focus. An understanding of critical theory will enable me to analyze the parallelisms I will discover through differing lenses, all of which require heightened analysis. Through studying art criticism, I can not only see how critics and writers reacted to parallelisms at the time in which they were created, but from a historiographic approach I can also chronicle how parallelisms might appear within Italian art criticism itself. Lastly, more often than not parallelisms hold purposeful political connotations that are directly linked to the meaning and intent of the artworks in question. Italy is an incredibly relevant region to be analyzing in such a way because so many assertions of Italian power are derived from an exaltation of their former imperial glory. Such parallelisms are direct makers of ideological and political meaning and are an inherently important area for study. Parallelisms within Italy can be seen in the imagery of the nationalist magazine “La Difesa della Razza,” in the hidden Fascist nature of Assisi’s reconstructed architecture, in the structuring of art exhibits, and in many other ways I have yet to discover.

Ultimately, this focus on parallelisms provides me with several different areas to delve into and analyze, all of which hold a deep interest for me, yet will simultaneously prevent me from getting unproductively carried away by these interests. By focusing on critical theory, art criticism, and politics to support my final research goal of parallelisms, I will be receiving the understanding of Italian art that I originally sought in taking this course while also coming away with a distinct, specific goal that will help me immensely in completing future research for Lumen and beyond.

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