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"Illustration” as Truth

at The Newberry - Near North Side

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Near North Side, Downtown/Loop
60 W Walton St
Btwn N Clark & N Dearborn Streets
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 18 and older
Average Class Size: 14

What you'll learn in this history lesson:

“Illustration” as Truth: The Woodcuts in Guazzo’s Compendium Maleficarum (Milan, 1608)

Guazzo’s treatise has received remarkably little scholarly attention, and its twenty-two woodcuts even less, but they offer the opportunity to investigate the relationship between fact and fiction, fantasy and belief. The book claims to arm readers with proof and truth as remedies against evil. This paper examines the emotive appeal of the exempla-like illustrations on the one hand, and the counter-claim to factual accuracy on the other. Ultimately, the paradoxical relationship between fantasy and reality is not only central to all witchcraft imagery but also to the creative enterprise and impact of figurative art.

What was the place of error in the social order around Netherlandish pictures in the middle of the sixteenth century? This question is especially pressing with respect to two pictures that are, for want of a better term, diffuse with respect both to composition and to narrative or emblematic content: the Netherlandish Proverbs and the Children’s Games. Striving to de-emphasize visual information, Bruegel arranged these compositions so as to defy the establishment of any definitive interpretation. Scholars have long recognized the opportunities for virtuoso performance that such defiance provided, specifically in its requirement that one continually make and remake meaning before a given image. However, Bruegel’s robust pursuit of de-emphasis did more than just enable a multiplicity of responses. It also increased the likelihood, and thus the importance, of misinterpretation. Not all kinds of error were created equal, of course. Some required forceful responses, even active suppression. Others, however, came in for praise from figures such as Erasmus of Rotterdam and Thomas More. Professor Rothstein will explore how the latter sorts of error contributed to deeply social and exploratory kinds of viewing.

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If the seminar fails to reach a minimum of seven registrations before the early registration deadline (one week before the first day of the term), the seminar will be canceled and all participants will be fully refunded. The instructor is required to teach the seminar if it reaches seven registrations prior to the early registration deadline. In some cases, a seminar may be offered with fewer than seven registrations at the option of the instructor.


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School: The Newberry

The Newberry

The Newberry is home to a world-class collection of books, manuscripts, maps, music, and other handmade and printed materials related to the history and culture of Western Europe and the Americas. The collections span many centuries and feature items such as illuminated medieval manuscripts, rare early...

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