SSI1 179

Women and Power in Byzantium

This course examines the visual and textual representations of women from the 4th through the 11th centuries from the Byzantine Empire and from the perspective of multiple disciplines to offer insight into the role of women and the operation of gender in Byzantium. Because the surviving sources privilege the elite, this course focuses on women of the upper classes, with particular attention to empresses. The course examines the infamous Theodora (6th c.) who rose to imperial rank from the slums of Constantinople, as well as Irene and Theodora (8-9th c.) who affected a lasting change in the religious policy of the empire, and the curious sisters, Zoe and Theodora, who even reigned by themselves briefly in 1042. To shed light on the role of women of the lower classes, the course also explores marital and home life, women's work, childbearing, women's attitudes toward icons, and the importance of the cult of the Virgin Mary. The course provides students an opportunity to engage with the process of scholarly inquiry by completing extensive reading and writing assignments. Students amplify their skills in creating effective arguments, synthesizing complex ideas based on multiple sources, and deepen their skills in critiquing primary and secondary sources. Affiliate department: Art and Art History.