Translations and Negotiations: The Roman Landscape in the Modern World

This course investigates the myriad ways ancient Roman place-making, visual culture, and thought have been evoked, utilized, weaponized, and translated in North American thought, design, and visual history. Our investigation juxtaposes well-established connections between White Supremacy and the Classical Past with often overlooked Indigenous and Black engagement with classical forms. At the heart of our investigation are concepts of agency, ownership, and power, i.e. who shapes the land and who owns the classical forms?

Topics explored include:
The way Indigenous and Black artists, thinkers, and designers have engaged with and translated classical visual practices and concepts (such as Edmonia Lewis and Kent Monkman); Neoclassicism and White Supremacy (i.e. who owns the classical past in public parks?, and the question of Robert E. Lee/Marcus Aurelius); the entanglement between working the land and enslavement and the parallels and divergences between Roman and New World enslavement; the influence of Roman landscape design and horticulture on later American landscapes and gardens; the legacy of Roman surveying methods and centuriation in the mapping of the US; imperialism and the construction of the “other” (e.g. Neoclassical portrayals of Indigenous figures in civic spaces in the guise of ancient Mediterranean barbarians); and the translation and adoption of ancient Mediterranean and Roman visual culture in American cemeteries (including a class visit to Mount Auburn Cemetery).