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SMU: ENGL 3320, HIST 3332, CFB 3320, FNAR 6303

UTD: AHST 4342, HUAS 6330.001

When: August 26 through December 2, 2010; Thursdays 3:00p.m.-5:45p.m.

Where: Horchow Auditorium, The Dallas Museum of Art

What: A pluridisciplinary, team-taught course based on the Dallas Museum of Art's exhibit, The Mourners, Medieval Tomb Sculpture from the Burgundy Courts, that sets those objects in a richly varied context

For Whom: Registered students from several universities and any members of the public who get DMA entry or memberships

Why: This cross-university graduate and undergraduate course taught jointly by UTD Professor Richard Brettell (Arts and Humanities) and SMU medievalists Bonnie Wheeler (English) and Jeremy Adams (History) creates a pluridisciplinary context for the masterful tomb sculptures of The Mourners, a major exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art brought to the USA through the innovative organization FRAME. The Mourners are a sequence of alabaster funerary sculptures from Burgundy that embody the peak of medieval courtly, chivalric, monastic, and aesthetic aspects of Burgundian culture.

The Court of Burgundy centered in Dijon was the most brilliant manifestation of late medieval Europe. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Burgundy ruled a good deal of eastern France as well as what is now modern Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. During the 15th century, when these masterful tomb figures of The Mourners were made, the court oversaw the creation of the Order of the Golden Fleece, on the one hand and, on the other, the system of banking and finance that linked northern and southern Europe more powerfully than ever before. In addition, the ducal family were patrons of the most important manuscripts and tapestries created in medieval Europe. War was their sport and sustenance.

The course aims to create a rich context for a polyvalent understanding of these masterpieces of late medieval sculpture. The class explores these tomb masterpieces (which have never before traveled from Dijon) through such humanistic disciplines as literature (Machaut, Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, Froissart), political history (Joan of Arc, the French monarchy), social and ceremonial history (chivalry, the Order of the Golden Fleece), religious history (varieties of monasticism, affective piety) and art history.

Students and faculty meet on a weekly basis at the Dallas Museum of Art to study the interwoven development of these political, social, religious, literary, and artistic strands of human culture in medieval France and several neighboring countries.
Expert visiting scholars from local, national, and international institutions join the three professors of record. This course is completely unprecedented in using works of art on exhibit at a major museum as an occasion to develop a coherent course that brings together dedicated scholars to provide students a rich contextual range to understand these never-before-loaned masterpieces. The three professors of record have each won multiple awards for teaching excellence at their home institutions and all three are among the few selected as exemplary professors by the highly regarded The Teaching Company.