Passion and Pain: Themes in Western Art

tentative Syllabus
Fall 2010, Tuesday 9:30-10:45

Prof. Pavlac
U.S. Mail Address:
History Department
King's College
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

 Description | Objectives | Class Schedule | Texts | Course Requirements | Links

1. Description

This Core course surveys two basic themes of art within Western Civilization: passion and pain (or, in other words, sex and violence). Artists through the ages have portrayed basic stories, drawn from myth, religion, and history, that show people both in love and in torment. These stories reflect the concerns of the past, while they often resonate with us today, and provide a foundation of a common culture.  Students will read key stories from our heritage (especially from the Bible and Greek Mythology), look at and interpret art about them, and analyze their impact on our culture. Drawing especially on the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman traditions, we will provide a basis for appreciating art, its changing styles and techniques, and ourselves.

2. Course Objectives

Objectives for the student:

  1. To develop skills in looking at Western art and appreciating how art reflects important forms of political, social, economic and cultural organization, in the past and today.
  2. To identify major themes, ideas, artists and artworks which contributed to the development of our Western artistic, mythological, and historical heritage.
  3. To evaluate concepts which give meaning and order to the raw material of our recorded past and its art.
  4. To identify and analyze significant problems and situations of the human condition as they, through art relate to the continuing issues of contemporary life. 

General Learning Outcomes for the student:

In addition to the more content related objectives described above, this course has some general liberal learning goals. Successful completion of this course is expected to help improve your ability

  1. To manage information, which involves sorting data, ranking data for significance, synthesizing facts, concepts and principles.
  2. To understand and use organizing principles or key concepts against which miscellaneous data can be evaluated.
  3. To differentiate between facts, opinions and inferences.
  4. To frame questions in order to more clearly clarify a problem, topic or issue.
  5. To compare and contrast the relative merits of opposing arguments and interpretations, moving between the main points of each position.
  6. To organize your thoughts and communicate them clearly and concisely in a written form and oral presentations.
  7. To obtain practice in selecting and presenting information and arguments within a restricted environment, especially the limitations of time in exams.

4.  Tentative Class Schedule:

All topics and assignments on the schedule are tentative; the instructor may change them at his discretion. 

Week 1 Introduction        
Week 2
Looking at Art in History        
Week 3
The Hebrews: Creation; Abraham; Samson Genesis 1-3; 18-22; Judges 14-16 Catholic Encyclopedia  
Week 4
The Hebrews: David, Judith, Susannah I Samuel 16-31, II Samuel 1-24; Judith; Susanna    
Week 5
The Life of Jesus  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John    
Week 6
The Death of Jesus      
Week 7
Saints and Martyrs:  Paul; Lawrence; Sebastian; George; Anthony; Jerome; Agatha; Agnes; Barbara; Catherine; Lucia; Margaret  Acts 8-9; Golden Legend Patron Saints Index  
Week 8
Midterm Exam      Midterm EXAM
Week 9
The Classical Gods: Jupiter and Antiope, Callisto, Europa, Dana, Ganymede, Leda, Io, Semele Ovid, Metamorphoses (use index to find the stories)

Larry A. Brown, Ovid's Metamorphoses; Hans-Juergen Gunther, P. OVIDI etc.; University of Virginia, The Ovid Collection  

Week 10
The Classical Gods:  Apollo; Diana; Venus, Cupid; Graces Ovid, Metamorphoses (use index to find the stories)

The Perseus ProjectKirke, Ovid im WWWEncyclopedia Mythica

Week 11
Greco-Roman Heroes/Heroines: Pygmalion; Proserpina; Theseus, Perseus, Hercules Ovid, Metamorphoses (use index to find the stories)    
Week 12
Greco-Roman Heroes/Heroines: Socrates; Troy; Lucretia; Caesar;  Cleopatra Ovid, Metamorphoses (use index to find the stories)    
Week 13
Historical Tragedy: Pain; War; Death      
Week 14
Historical Comedy: Love; Marriage; Family      
Week 15
Other stuff and Review      

5. Required Texts (tentative)

The required readings are intended both to provide you with important factual and background information before class and to be used as review and reference works afterwards. Before class, you will read the chapters or pages assigned according to the class schedule, section 4. Not all topics in the books will be covered in class, but you are responsible for them on the exam and in class discussion.

The instructor may give quizzes to test your reading and comprehension.

6. Course Requirements

A. Grading Criteria

You earn your grade through work done for this course.
For more information see your Student Handbook and the linked grading policy. For your protection, in case of errors in recording, you should keep copies of all exams and assignments until you have received notice of your grade.  Any and all materials done for this course may become the property of the professor, who may use them for assessment, evaluative, scholarly, or research purposes. 

Your final grade will be based on a percentage (above 90%=A, 80%=B, etc.) of the sum all points.

Be aware of the academic honesty policy concerning cheating and plagiarism, and your moral, ethical and legal obligation only to submit work completed by you yourself.
For more information see, URL: <>.

B. Class Participation & Attendance:

Participation and attendance are necessary because lecture and discussion provide the essentials for achieving class goals and objectives. Thus a portion of your grade (about 15%) will depend on your in-class performance. You are required to attend each class, arrive on time, remain attentive, respond to questions, ask questions and participate in any in-class projects.    

Lectures may be recorded with the instructor's permission, although the recordings may only be used for course purposes, and they must be erased after the exams.

All students who have a learning disability, physical handicap and/or any other possible impediment to class participation and requirements should schedule an appointment with the instructor as soon as possible to discuss available accommodations.

If at some point during the semester you must discontinue the course, due to poor performance, illness or some other cause, be sure to follow proper procedures for withdrawal.

The instructor will regularly take attendance. Excused absences due to college activities or extended illness must be authorized by the appropriate college official. You should consult with the professor about making up/turning in missed work in advance or as soon as possible after your return.

Other absences are unexcused and will lower the class participation portions of your grade. Remember, though, your health is your first priority. If you are sick, stay home and recover. If you have excessive absences, you may not get a higher grade than the percentage of classes attended. A few unexcused absences, though, will not significantly affect your grade.

After any absence, excused or not, you are responsible for requesting from the professor hand-outs and already-returned assignments, or borrowing notes from other students.

C. Attendance and Absentee Assignment:

After any absence, excused or not, you must complete an Absentee Assignment.  You are to write a one-two page essay (in proper presentation format) on the story and artistic representation of a saint, analyzing the artistic history presented. just as you would for an Art Query assignment.  
Deadlines: The assignment(s) should be turned in to the instructor at the beginning of the next class after you return.

D. Exams

You will take one mid-term exam and a final exam, which is comprehensive, as scheduled.  If you miss an exam, you may only make them it up if you have a legitimate excuse and you have contacted the instructor at the earliest available opportunity.

Both exams will consist of short identifications quizzing knowledge of detail and significance, and essays testing your understanding of the course material through logical presentation of facts and explanation of historical, cultural and artistic trends

To study for the exams you should regularly, at least once a week, review your class notes, especially for identifications drawn from the overhead outline. You should also compare and contrast these notes with your textbook and other readings. 

Only paper from the instructor is to be used. Please write legibly, in ink. Note the academic honesty policy.

E. In-class projects

Regularly through the term we will have in-class discussions and projects. You are required to have read before class the appropriate material (as listed on the class schedule, section 4, or otherwise assigned by the instructor) and be prepared to discuss and write about it with the instructor or in small groups.

You will be evaluated by short quizzes or written reports done in-class or after class, worth between 10 and 20 points each.

F. Written Assignments

I. Art Queries
You are to answer the following questions about several relevant works of art. (totals to be determined).  Be sure to follow procedures concerning Format, Quotes and Citation.  

Examining art works helps you understand the artistic achievement, and the culture better. In this exercise you will watch closely, analyze images, read carefully, organize your thoughts, and present them in clear written and verbal forms, and so develop observational and critical skills. 


  1. As assigned, choose a topic as listed on the Class Schedule for which to analyze a picture.
  2. Find a relevant picture (perhaps on the web, in a book, or in a museum). 
  3. Carefully answer each question below, in a few sentences. Be sure to pay attention to the subcategories and the relevant readings in primary sources. Consult appropriate secondary sources about the art work, if possible (especially to answer Question #3).
  4. On the day on which the topic is to be examined, be present your artwork to the rest of the class. Be sure to bring a copy of the art to class (as a printout, postcard, picture in a book). Your assignment will be evaluated on the appropriateness of your choice of artwork, the thoroughness of your answers, your use of sources, the clarity of your oral presentation, and your response to questions. 
  5. Turn in a written copy to the instructor, with a copy of the artwork attached. 
1. What is it? 

A. Medium 
B. Genre 
C. Title/Subject

2. How does it look? 

A. Format
B. Color/Light 
C. Line 
D. Composition

3. What is the context?

A. Style/period
B. Artist
C. Original setting

4. How good is it? 

A. Craftsmanship
B. Attraction
C. Success 

II. The story of a story
You are to write a 5-6 page essay in which you critically research and analyze the historical development of a basic Western story. (100 pts.).  Due date to be assigned.  Be sure to follow procedures concerning Format, Quotes and Citation

This course focuses on basic stories of Western Civilization. This paper provides you the opportunity to study in greater detail one of the artistic themes and how it develops over time. In this exercise you will watch closely, analyze images, read carefully, assess opinions, organize your thoughts, present them in a clear written form, and so better understand a cultural theme.  


  1. Choose a basic cultural story or character (such as Hercules, David, the Deluge).
  2. Research the different variations of the story, and works of art which illustrate it. Use at least four secondary, professional printed sources.  
  3. Write a careful essay evaluating the use of the story in our culture. Your thesis should indicate your assessment story's relevance.  Your assignment will be evaluated on the thoroughness of your description and analysis, the incorporation of knowledge about artistic themes, the quality of your research and your use of sources, the clarity of your written work (including proper introduction and conclusion, organized paragraphs with clear topic sentences, transitions between ideas, as well as proper word choice and sentence structures). 
  4. Rest, review, and revise repeatedly. Then write a final draft to be turned in on June 30.

[Optional art alternative: instead of writing the above essay, you may create a set of artworks in a similar style covering three stories from different cultural sets (e.g. Hebrew, Greek, Historical), accompanied by a one-page analysis of your artistic choices. Please consult the instructor in the first week of class]. 

G. Deadlines:

Meeting due dates are an important aspect of written assignments. Papers should be handed in to the instructor, by you yourself, at the beginning of class on the dates assigned (see class schedule, section VIII). Assignment turned in late lose .

7. Links

WebCT course components

Christian History Websites

The Catholic Encyclopedia <>

Patron Saints Index <>

Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend (Aurea Legenda), Englished by William Caxton, modernized by F.S. Ellis. Medieval Sourcebook. <>

Classical Mythology Websites

The Perseus Project <>

Kirke, Ovid im WWW <>

Encyclopedia Mythica <>


A. S. Kline, trans., Ovid's Metamorphoses, <>

Larry A. Brown, Ovid's Metamorphoses <>

University of Virginia, The Ovid Collection <>

Art & History Websites

Mark Harden's Artchive <>

Olga's Gallery <>

Vatican Museums <>

Virtual Museum of Totalitarian Art <>

 Description | Objectives | Class Schedule | Texts | Course Requirements | Links

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Last Revision: 15 April 2010
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