Seminar: Saints and Heroes

Saints and Heroes: Personality Cults

Date: 11-24 November 2019

Deadline for applications: 15 September 2019

In this seminar we will discuss and research the dynamics of religious and secular personality cults, related concepts such as sacrality or ‘mythification’ and rituals like pilgrimage and processions. For example, Oliviero Rainaldi’s statue of Pope John Paul II (†2005) in front of Termini Station in Rome shows the Pontiff as a symbol of shelter and protection. Apparently, this was how the Church wanted its leader to be remembered. More than 10 years later, one may wonder if ‘saint’ John Paul II and the Church were really so caring and shielding. The same is true for many other statues and monuments – carved, painted or written to remember historical figures from the near or distant past. They raise the question how we should understand this manipulation of memory. Which example or message was or is it to convey, and how does that relate to the specific circumstances during which it was created? How strongly propagated was this specific image, and when exactly was it created? Do these representations also evoke other, competing views on historical figures? What can we say about the ‘consumption’ of such myths, and about the ‘agency’ of their audiences to see things differently? In some cases ‘memory’ developed into a personality ‘cult’. Many saints’ cults, like the one of Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) have been kept alive over many centuries, but were continually adapted. Secular cults seem more closely related to the rise and fall of political powers. But in some cases they too seem to have an afterlife that is still appealing to some, like in the case of Benito Mussolini (1883 –1945) whose cult was created during his life, but persists in neo-fascist circles today. Are the worldly and spiritual domains influencing each another, or are religious and secular personality cults basically the same?

Dr. Jan de Jong (RUG) and dr. Asker Pelgrom (KNIR)

Target group and admission
The course is open to 3rd year BA students from NIKI and KNIR partner universities (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit, Universiteit Leiden, Universiteit Utrecht, Radboud Universiteit, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen). Applicants have obtained a minimum of 90 ECTS by the time of application and 120 ECTS by the time of the start of the program. A committee of art historians and historians from the six Dutch universities affiliated with the NIKI and the KNIR, together with staff members from the two institutes will carry out the selection of candidates. 

Course format and assignments
Assessment takes place on the basis of preparatory study of course material (20%), active participation and on-site presentation (30%), and the concluding critical entry (50%) for the virtual exhibition ‘Hall of fame?’, on which the students work as a group. Final assignments will be graded individually, but active and equal participation in the website project is mandatory for the completion of the course. Criteria for evaluations include: understanding of the subject matter (both on a theoretical and actual level), clarity and structure of argumentation, originality and personal view, critical stance, application of visual and spatial elements, capacity to involve the audience, style and correct usage of the (English) language, both oral and written.

Credits and assessment
The study load is the equivalent of 6 ECTS (168 hours), based on:
a) independent study of course material and preparatory assignment (literature survey) 1 ECTS (28 hours)
b) intensive course in Rome (14 days): active participation, on-site presentation, work on the virtual exhibition: 4 ECTS (112 hours)
c) at the conclusion of the course: individual assignment of max. 2.000 words (excl. footnotes) as part of a virtual exhibition: 1 ECTS (28 hours)

Tuition and lodging at the KNIR is free for selected participants from the above mentioned Dutch universities. Personal expenses, including meals, are not included. Students receive a € 100 reimbursement of their expenses for travelling to Rome after submission of their final essay.

Facilities in Rome
All participants will be housed at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park. From there, it is only a short walk to the historical center of Rome. The KNIR accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a large kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet. All residents have 24/7 access to the library and gardens of the Royal Netherlands Institute.

Apply before
15 September 2019 via the link below, submitting a motivation letter, a recent C.V. and an updated overview of study results.

More info
Phone: (+39)063269621