Spring 2004

Architectural Traditions of Mesoamerica

Carrasco,Michael David

01/26/2004 - 05/08/2004
Tuesday 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Zilkha Gallery 106

This course explores the symbolism, iconography, and social significance of Mesoamerica's varied architectural traditions, in order to understand how the built world was a reflection of complex cultural narratives such as the birth of Maize God. We will examine the function of specific buildings and building types, the layout of cities, the motivation for rebuilding campaigns, and architecture's relationship to memory among such cultures as the Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, and Aztec. We will come to see architecture as part of a ritual process, wherein the principles of change, renewal, and the exterior were valued more than--as common to Euro-American sensibilities--those of permanence and the creation of interior space. By approaching Mesoamerica's architectural traditions through such disciplines as architectural and art history, anthropology, archaeology, and epigraphy, this course will propose a methodology for looking at architecture that moves beyond the documentation of sculptural details and building types to understand how the peoples of Mesoamerica conceptualized their built environment.

After we read and explore a number of approaches to the study of architecture, we will examine in detail the architecture of the Maya and use the numerous hieroglyphic inscriptions concerning architecture as a window onto other Mesoamerican traditions for which we lack such detailed commentary.

Readings include works by Michael Meister, Henry Glassie, Roxanna Waterson, Stephen Houston, David Stuart, Linda Schele, Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, and others.

Students will be responsible for weekly response essays, two class presentations, and one final paper.

Michael Carrasco (B.A. Wesleyan University; M.A., Ph.D. candidate, University of Texas at Austin) is Luther Gregg Sullivan Visiting Scholar in Art History at Wesleyan University and author (with Kerry Hull) of "The Cosmogonic Symbolism of the Corbeled Vault in Maya Architecture," Mexicon Volume XXIV, April 2002.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Stephen Houston, FUNCTION AND MEANING IN CLASSIC MAYA ARCHITECTURE 1999 (Dumbartion Oaks Center Studies) Hardcover (Can be purchased on www.doaks.org)

Roxana Waterson, LIVING HOUSE: AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF ARCHITECTURE IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA (Watson-Guptill Publications) Paperback


Register for Courses

Contact glsinquire@wesleyan.edu to submit comments or suggestions. 
Copyright Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, 06459