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Shaky Ground


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Table of Contents

Introduction Chapter 1: Histories Ancient and Modern Chapter 2: Indifference to Context Chapter 3: Lessons Not Learned Chapter 4: Connoisseurship and Class Chapter 5: Red Herrings Conclusion: Best Practices Bibliography Index

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This book argues that the lack of information about the findspots for many works of Roman art has grave consequences for our understanding of the past.

About the Author

Elizabeth Marlowe is Assistant Professor of Art and Art History at Colgate University, USA.


Marlowe's book casts a raking light on a central problem long-embedded in scholarship on the history and meaning of Roman art-the practice of using "ungrounded" works (those for which little or no excavation history is available) as historical evidence. Many such works currently populate textbook histories of Roman art almost solely based on their style. The traditional reliance on connoisseurship and circular reasoning to underpin chronological and aesthetic judgments concerning these works comes in for especially sharp criticism. Advocating for a more holistic, socio-historical approach, Marlowe demonstrates how "grounded" works from controlled excavations can change the traditional picture. By taking account of the wide array of physical and historical evidence that accompanies "grounded" works, one can construct a far more complex story of how Roman art developed and functioned, and what it meant in the society of its time. This bold and refreshing look at traditional practices and assumptions will surely raise the awareness of-and stimulate debate among-archaeologists and art historians who must grapple with incomplete evidence to construct meaningful histories of Roman art. -- Elaine K. Gazda, University of Michigan, USA
This provocative book challenges basic assumptions about what we know of ancient art, how we have come know it, and the ways we disseminate it. Professor Marlowe offers salutary insights not only for teachers and students of the Roman past, but also for art historians and archaeologists of all stripes. -- Kenneth Lapatin, Department of Antiquities, The J. Paul Getty Museum, USA
Shaky Ground offers compelling arguments for change in the classroom, scholarship and museum. It is a must read for its critique of the use of ungrounded canonical works in textbooks, survey courses, and exhibits. Shaky Ground is also an important work of synthesis that brings together scholarship on the historiography of Roman art, the history of collecting, and debates over cultural property. Its concise discussions of these topics, together with their bibliographies, will make excellent introductions to interested readers. * Bryn Mawr Classical Review *

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