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Digital Collections : Illuminating the Manuscript Leaves

Illuminating the Manuscript Leaves: Lesson Plans

The University of Louisville exhibition project "Illuminating the Manuscript Leaves" addresses Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) Core Content goals for the 7th grade Arts & Humanities curriculum. The project provides online and in classroom access to eighteen individual leaves from hand-written, hand-decorated books dating from 1150 through 1867, with three leaves selected for more intensive in-class presentation and study. The leaves represent both western European and Islamic cultures. Students will have opportunity to experience the historic cultural artifacts, online and in the classroom, as well as create their own original art in a comparable format. Students will study and use a variety of media to communicate ideas, feelings and experiences, while learning about history, cultures, and purposes of art, all according to KERA content guidelines. Ideas and resources for lesson plans follow.

The following outline allows teachers to integrate and emphasize key points according to their own unit plans. Please note that in addition to looking at and talking about the original manuscripts, students are encouraged to create their own examples of illuminated letters and texts. These creative experiences will allow students to communicate ideas, feelings and experiences according to KERA content guidelines:

Structure in the Arts

Understandings(AH-7-SA-U-2): Students will understand that the principles of design and the elements of visual art are intentionally applied in creating works of art.

Relevant Knowledge: Examine one of the illustrated leaves and point out examples of the elements of art (line, shape, form, texture, color). Name the principles of design (pattern, focal point, balance, and contrast) used in creating this manuscript leaf. Informally compare and critique how the elements of art and principles of design are used in similar and different ways by the different scribes (artists) who created each of these manuscripts. List as many ways as possible these elements and principles are applied in creating these works.

Skills and Concepts (AH7-SA-S-VA2): Students will use the elements of art and principles of design (as well as a variety of processes) to create their own illuminated manuscript (artwork).

Questioning Strategy: After students select a favorite letter of the English alphabet, ask them how the elements of art and principles of design are used to form and ornament the letter in three different manuscript examples.

Related Core Content (AH-07-1.4.1): Students will analyze works of art using elements of art and principles of design.

Questioning Strategy: How does an ancient illuminated manuscript leaf compare to what we think of as art today? Students will identify favorite works of art in various media, then select several to use as a focus of discussion about elements of art and principles of design demonstrated in each work.

Questioning Strategy: Exhibit the manuscript leaves created by students. Ask the students to informally explain the elements and principles used to create their letter art forms. Suggest that each student identify three elements of art and two principles of design they used in making their manuscript. Ask other students to critique the work of their classmates, discussing what they might have done differently, how they could have varied one of the elements to get a different effect, feeling, or meaning, such as "shouting" by using bold (thick lines) letters, drawing attention to important meaning by using color, affecting the way the words are read by changing the length of the lines, or changing the mood by using flowing or blocky letters.

Humanity in the Arts

Understandings (AH7-HA-S-U-3): Students will understand that the arts play a major role in the creation and defining of cultures and building civilizations. ALSO: Skills and Concepts (AH7-HA-S-VA-1): Students will describe and analyze distinguishing characteristics of visual art representing a variety of world cultures (Latin America, Asia) and time periods AND Related Core Content (AH7-2.4.1): Students will analyze or explain how diverse cultures and time periods are reflected in visual arts.

Relevant Knowledge: The culture, values and beliefs of a society help determine what is created by that society. For example, how a society produces religious books or secular works of poetry all depend on values. How the works are created, either expensively, with elaborate ornamentation and materials, or simply, without additional designs, also reflects the values and beliefs of a society. The patterns used for ornamentation, whether images of animals, people or plants, or geometrical designs, can indicate religious beliefs. Noting what was considered important enough for an artist or a culture of past centuries to spend time and resources gives the viewer a way to understand those long ago other people and societies.

Questioning Strategy: Students will compare the three manuscript leaves introduced in the Illuminating the Manuscript Leaves lesson plans and begin to consider their differences and similarities. Talk about how the use of images for decoration reflects the particular culture and its values (e.g. the importance of fine materials such as gold to show appreciation and decorative flowers to make beautiful the daily prayers; or how the prohibition against realistic imagery may have led Islamic calligraphers or manuscript artists to use pattern and abstraction to organize and decorate their poems). Compare the different letter forms and how they may influence the way people feel about or use the information that is in the manuscripts.

Questioning Strategy: How does the content and presentation of the ancient manuscript leaves compare to ways we express ourselves today? How do we sing, write poetry, or use books for study or to guide our lives? From looking at each of these manuscript leaves, what insights do you have into each culture that made them? How could culture influence art? Look at the leaf you have created, how is it the same or different? What influences in our culture have affected the way you write or present your ideas?

Purposes for Creating Arts

Understandings (AH7-PCA-U-3): Students will understand that the arts provide forms of nonverbal communication that can strengthen the presentation of ideas and emotions.

Relevant Knowledge: Compare the manuscripts and consider about the format, such as the size of the letters and pages, may have depended on how the texts were to be used, and how the ornamentation, or lack of it, may have emphasized the importance of a book, or even certain parts of the text. Talk about how books convey ideas between individuals, groups, times and generations and how the form of the books adds to, and reinforces, understanding of the importance of the content of the manuscripts. Consider what ideas or art from our culture should represent us to people in the distant future.

Skills and Concepts (AH- 7-PCA-S-VA-1): Students will compare and explain purposes for which visual art is created (ceremonial, artistic expression, narrative, functional, persuasive) AND Related Core Content (AH07.3.4.1): Students will identify or explain how art fulfills a variety of purposes.

Questioning Strategy: Each student will consider one of the three leaves in the Illuminating the Manuscript Leaves lesson plans with her or his own leaf, looking for similarities and differences in the purpose for which the leaf was created and how the style of writing supports that purpose. Why do you think the scribe included illustration and ornamentation with the writing on the Book of Hours leaf? What message do the musical notes give in the Antiphonal? Why would the calligrapher of the Persian poetry write in patterns instead of straight lines? Did any of the students use any of these techniques to emphasize the purpose of their own leaf creation?

Processes in the Arts

Understandings (AH7.PA.U.2): Students will understand that full understanding and appreciation of the arts requires some degree of involvement in the techniques and processes used to create artworks. ALSO : Skills and Concepts (AH7.PA.S.VA.1 AND AH7.PA.S.VA.2) AND Related Core Content (AH. Students will be actively involved in selecting media, techniques, and processes for creating artworks which will apply the elements of art and principles of design.

Relevant Knowledge: Style, media, materials and skill all effect artistic expression, and can be learned with study and practice.

Questioning Strategy: Have students pick their favorite letter of the English alphabet and then write in a variety of font styles (with serifs/ san serif, using antique and contemporary typefaces), and a variety of media (ink, charcoal, pencil, paint, gold leaf) and writing utensils (quills, sticks, modern pens, brushes, etc.). Have them discuss how style, media, technique as well as practice all affect the appearance of their letterforms.

Questioning Strategy: Have students select one of their letterforms and then embellish it as an initial letter or leading letter. Create an exhibit of student illuminated letters and have each student discuss their choices of typeface and the illustration that accompanies it in terms of style, materials and media. Have the students make a label for her or his letter form, succinctly describing the style, materials and media involved.

Appreciation of Art

Understandings (AH7.PA.U.3): Students will understand that openness, respect for work and an understanding of how artists apply elements and principles of design are actually attitudes and skills that students can learn to enhance their enjoyment of art. ALSO Skills and Concepts (AH.7.PA.S.VA.5): Students will describe personal responses to artwork; explain why there might be different responses to specific works of art (e.g. personal experience, interest, medium used, effectiveness of the message) AND Related Core Content (AH. Students will create art for specific purposes using the elements of art and principles of design to communicate ideas, feelings, and experiences.

Relevant Knowledge: Displaying artwork is personal and takes courage and care as well as respect for a variety of opinions. Expression is individual and requires both the artist and the viewer to participate in order to gain understanding and enjoyment.

Questioning Strategy: Exhibit the manuscript leaves or ornamented letterforms created by the students and allow each student to present and hear critiques of her or his work. Does the discussion of artwork give you new ideas about the meaning and appreciation for an artwork? Does making your own leaf help you appreciate others' skill and use of materials and choices of styles, elements and design principles? What did it feel like to be critiqued by other students? Could they see the point of view even if they disagreed with it? Did your art on display have the effect you planned?

Questioning Strategy: Exhibit the actual manuscript leaves brought into the classroom by the UofL Rare Books staff. Why do you think it is important to see original artifacts? Were there any surprises or differences between the online or facsimile versions of the manuscript leaves and the actual illuminated manuscript leaves? What are other differences between an original and a reproduction? When might having a reproduction, facsimile or digital surrogate be useful? When might it be important to see the original? What do you think the original scribe or artist of these manuscript leaves would want to notice?

General questions:

Additional Web Resources

Al-Huthaili, Nahad. Arabic Calligraphy. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University, 1999. (accessed August 21, 2007; no longer available).

Halsall, Paul, ed. Internet Medieval Sourcebook. New York: Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies, 2006. (accessed August 21, 2007).

Looking at Illuminated Manuscripts: Lessons and Ideas for Discussion. Los Angeles, Calif.: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004. (accessed August 21, 2007).

"Medieval Manuscripts: General Introduction." Medieval Manuscripts. Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 1997. (accessed January 25, 2012).

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