Visual Cultures of Islam – Fall 2020

Term: Fall 2020

Participating Campuses: Host – University of Michigan | Receiving – University of Maryland

Semester Dates:

  • University of Michigan: August 31 – December 21, 2020
  • University of Maryland: August 31 – December 22, 2020


  • University of Michigan: Tuesday & Thursday 11:30am-1:00pm
  • University of Maryland: Tuesday & Thursday 11:30am-1:00pm

Course Number & Title:

  • University of Michigan: HISTART 285, ISLAM 285, MIDEAST 285 “Visual Cultures of Islam”
  • University of Maryland: AAST 298B, HIST219E, 298E, RELS 219E, ARTH 389L “Special Topics: Visual Cultures of Islam”

Professor: Dr. Christiane Gruber |

This course explores the visual cultures of Islam around the world from the 7th to the 20th century. Beginning with a discussion of Islam, Muhammad, the Qur’an, and a definition of “Islamic” art, we will discuss the roles and meanings of demarcating divine topography as visible in the Ka‘ba in Mecca and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The rapid spread of Islam to the east and west during the 9th– 11th centuries created a new vocabulary for Islamic art and architecture, fusing pre-existing Byzantine and Persian models with Islamic innovations. We will look at mosque and palace complexes in North Africa, southern Spain, as well as in Mesopotamia and Central Asia. During the Crusades, Islam came into close contact with Europe, resulting in fascinating objects and architecture that call into question the simplistic division of “east” and “west.” From the 15th to the 17th century, the three so-called gunpowder states of Anatolia (the Ottomans), Persia (the Safavids), and the Indian Subcontinent (the Mughals) created new concepts of empire, wealth, and administration in the imperial cities of Istanbul, Isfahan, and Agra. Finally, Colonialism and Orientalism will be examined, as well as the emergence of modern Islamic art and the visual culture of the Arab world uprisings of 2011.

Students are able to enroll directly at their home institution for course credit. For more information about this course, including textbook information and instructions on enrolling, please contact

(FC: John Simon Guggenheim Foundation)

About the Instructor: Christiane Gruber’s primary field of research is Islamic book arts, paintings of the Prophet Muhammad, and Islamic ascension texts and images, about which she has written two books and edited a volume of articles. She also pursues research in Islamic book arts and codicology, having authored the online catalogue of Islamic calligraphies in the Library of Congress as well as edited the volume of articles, The Islamic Manuscript Tradition. Her third field of specialization is modern Islamic visual culture and post-revolutionary Iranian visual and material culture, about which she has written several articles. She also has co-edited two volumes on Islamic and cross-cultural visual cultures. She recently completed her third book, titled The Praiseworthy One: The Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Texts and Images.

University of Michigan Course Flyer

University of Maryland Course Flyer