Written Assignments

Seeing Through Seventeenth Century Eyes


Image Resources for This Assignment

You can see the painting at the following sites:

Web Resources for This Assignment

Milton, Paradise Lost V
Pascal, Pensees 198, 199
Descartes, Discourse on Method

Representation

   This assignment is about representation. Representation is a combination of physical seeing with world view; all representations not only display what the viewer is seeing, but also represents how the viewer is seeing it. That "how" is derived from world view.

The Seventeenth Century

   We have discussed in class how the world view of the seventeenth century is plagued by uncertainty and tragedy. Religious truth had been shattered to its core by the Reformation and its aftermath; this led to serious questioning of the nature of truth itself. Rather than read a textbook on the seventeenth century, I've asked you instead to read original texts dealing with the crisis in epistemology and religious truth. Reading these texts should give you an accurate sense of the changing European world view in the seventeenth century.

Las Meninas

   Below is a "representation" of the seventeenth century world view: Velazquez's Las Meninas , or The Ladies in Waiting . It's a strange painting if you look closely. It's not about the ladies in waiting at all, but rather it's about the painter himself painting the painting. Who's he looking at? What is your position as a viewer? Why are you in that position?
   I want you to explain why the painter painted this way; I want you to explain why he's in the painting and why he's looking at us. In order to do this, I want you to take one and only one of your primary readings (Milton, Pascal, Descartes), and apply the ideas in that reading to the painting. Your first paragraph should explain thoroughly the idea that you're taking from Milton, Pascal, or Descartes, and your second paragraph should apply those ideas to what you see in the painting. You will be graded on your explanation in the first part of the essay and how precisely you apply the ideas in your second part.

You should submit your assignment
using WebUniversity
at http://webu.wsu.edu.



Your Name:
Your email address:
Title of your submission:
Submission: