Last update 16/06/2021 05:58
9 credits during the 1st year of 9917 HISTORICAL SCIENCES (LM-84) GENOVA
2° Semester
Teaching materials


The general theme, historical and anthropological, of the teaching of History of material culture is that of the construction of the material world: the material realities of power and prestige, the material evidence of ritual and ceremonial, the material bases of cognitive systems and symbolic behavior.



The course has two major learning outcomes: being able to reconstruct the concept of material culture and its history; being able to carry out a critical analysis of the evolution of the concept of material culture, from its material aspects to its cultural aspects, from production to consumption.


Students in this class will learn about the processes that produce the things, analyzing the economic and social history of objects (from materials to maker and consumption to trash).  Students will also learn a method to critically analyze historiographic literature and sources, to critically read a text or a document, and to communicate with a scientific language the results of a reading or research.  On completion of the Material Culture Analysis unit students will be introduced to the topic of material culture analysis, and will gain knowledge of culture analysis theories, concepts, methods and issues. The students must also be able to present and critically discuss the proposed and / or recommended texts for the individual study activity.

Teaching methods

The teaching is based on a seminar method. Readings and discussion of texts are part of the teaching.



The central  purpose of the teaching will be to analyze the cases of and reasons for Iconoclasm (the breaking or mutilation of images, monuments and texts). 

"For much of recorded history men and women have lived in close proximity to images created by erlier generations" [Francis Haskell]. In a perspective of the deep history of humanity, everything that we consider inalienable heritage of humanity, all classical culture for Western civilization, has survived and has come down to us "by the skin of our teeth" [Kenneth Clark]. All cultures, between the past and the present, have fabricated, modified and destroyed images and other cultural materials. David Freedberg noted thirty years ago that all global and local conflicts since 1989 have been followed - and sometimes inaugurated - by phenomena of iconoclasm and censorship. Freedberg saw a fundamental connection between aniconism, iconoclasm, vandalism, destruction, mutilation, cancellation and manipulation of images and the affective and emotional meaning of figurative and monumental representations. A trace of the power of images, monuments and material culture.

Starting from these theoretical and methodological premises, the teaching will explore how and why people have made and modified images and other cultural material from pre-history into the 21st century. A topical issue today in the light of the so-called “cancel culture”, but which has a deep history.    

The teaching is addressed to all students of the master's degrees of the School of Humanities. Frontal or distance teaching is seminarial: attendance is highly recommended. The articulation of the teaching provides for reading and discussion in the classroom or within a Forum of texts and documents. Itinere verifications are foreseen with written exercises in the classroom and / or at home. Based on the indicated bibliography and other texts that will be proposed during the course, students will have the opportunity to build individual study paths. The teaching materials will be available to students in AulaWeb.




a text chosen among from:

David Freedberg, Il potere delle immagini, Torino, Einaudi, 2009.

Alain Besançon, L’immagine proibita. Una storia intellettuale dell’iconoclastia, Genova, Marietti, 2009.

Maria Bettetini, Contro le immagini. Le radici dell'iconoclastia, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 2008.

Leslie Brubaker et al. (a cura di), Striking Images. Iconoclasm Past and Present, London, Routledge, 2018.

Francis Haskell, Le immagini della storia. L’arte e l’interpretazione del passato, Torino, Einaudi, 1997, cap. 9.


two texts chosen among from:

Peter Brown, A Dark-Age Crisis: Aspects of the Iconoclastic Controversy, in “The English Historical Review”, 88 (1973), pp. 1-34 [pdf].

André Grabar, L’iconoclasm byzantineLe dossier archélogique, Paris, Flammarion, 2011. 

David Freedberg, Art and Iconoclasm, 1525-1580. The Case of the Northern Netherlands, Introductory essay in [Cat. Exhib.], Kunst voor de Beeldenstorm. Noordnederlandse Kunst 1525-1580, ed. J.P. Filedt Kok et al., Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1986, pp. 39-84 [pdf].

Patrick Collinson, From Iconoclasm to Iconophobia. The Cultural Impact of the Second Reformation, Reading 1986.

Carlos Eire, War against Idols. The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Lee Palmer Wandel, Voracious Idols and Violent Hands. Iconoclasm in Reformation Zurich, Strasbourg, and Basel, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Maria Bettetini, Distruggere il passato. L’iconoclastia dall’Islam all’Isis, Raffaello Cortina Editore, Milano 2016.

Dario Gamboni, Iconoclasme, histoire de l’art et valeurs, in “Perspective”, 2 (2018), pp. 125-146 [pdf].

Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of ArtIconoclasm and Vandalism Since the French Revolution, LondonReaktion Books, 1997.

Jean Wirth, Sur la destruction d’oeuvres d’art au Moyen  Âge, in “Perspective”, 2 (2018), pp. 175-188 [pdf].

Olivier Christin, Une révolution symbolique. L’iconoclasme huguenot et la reconstruction catholique, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1991.

Louis Reau, Histoire du Vandalisme. Les monuments détruits de l'art français, Paris, Hachette, 1994.

David Freedberg, The Fear of Art: How Censorship Becomes Iconoclasm, in “Social Research”, 83 (2016), pp. 67-99 [pdf]

Leslie Brubaker, L’invenzione dell’iconoclasmo bizantino, Roma, Viella, 2016.

Ernst Kitzinger, Il culto delle immagini. L'arte bizantina dal cristianesimo delle origini all'iconoclastia, Milano, Meltemi, 2018.


Seminar materials:

Alexandre Lenoir, Description historique et chronologique des monumens de sculpture réunis au musée des monumens français, Paris 1806.

Rapport sur les destructions opérées par le vandalisme, et sur les moyens de le réprimer, par Henri Grégoire, 1794 [pdf].

“Perspective”, fascicolo monografico, 2 (2018), Détruire [openedition].


Ricevimento:  via e-mail, on Skype or Teams

Exam Board




Teaching methods

The teaching is based on a seminar method. Readings and discussion of texts are part of the teaching.


March 15, 2022


Exam description

 The exam is oral. The written tests in progress will be the subject of discussion and will contribute to the final evaluation. Written tests are not mandatory and are valid for the academic year of the course.

Assessment methods

 By the end of this session, students will be able to evaluate  the arguments they have read and put forward their own view. The oral exam and the discussion of the written tests in progress will verify the achievement of the learning outcomes. The main evaluation parameters are the quality of the exposition and vocabulary used, both in oral communication and in written tests, and the capacity for critical and comparative reasoning.