Heaven and Hell:  Journeys from Medieval and Classical Thinkers

GHUM 1096

Evaluative Essay:  Research Assignment #1

“The Labyrinth:  Connecting Medieval and Classical Literature to Contemporary Art”

Evaluative Essay:  Due in Week 6

Assignment Overview

The Medieval and Classical Literature studied in the course lays the foundation for the concepts of heaven and hell in Contemporary Art.

Consider this assignment as a maze in which you hunt for the treasure or try to escape from certain pain:  where can you find the concepts of heaven and hell in modern art and how do these modern representations carry the medieval or classical influence?

The labyrinth (or maze) can be designed in a physical environment, as a puzzle, or found symbolically in tapestries, woven rugs, paintings.  The visual component of this assignment asks you to create a labyrinth to illustrate the concepts you have connected to the contemporary art work you have chosen. 

Types of Art


Engaging with art in its setting – either as part of a permanent collection or as a unique exhibit will give you the best opportunity to ‘journey’ through the maze of conceptual shifts and interpretations.   Art defined in this section is visual art – painting, sculpture, sketching, drawing, architecture.  


Film or Theatre can be viewed in a theatre or at home.   Try to resist the most ‘obvious’ connections – Dan Brown’s new film “Inferno” may have obvious links to Dante’s Inferno, but it may be more advantageous (and ultimately more satisfying) to explore less obvious terrain.   With film, consider commentary (director’s etc.) as well as any explicitly linked material – a book, a play – as additional layers or turns in your maze. 


Music can be heard as a member of an audience or through a recording at home.  As with film, try to resist the most obvious connections – though, Don Giovanni (Mozart) may prove to be sufficiently complex for an exploration through a maze of hellish bargains. 

Notes:  _____________________________________________________________________________________

Research Process/Written Component for Evaluative Essay

1.   Choose a contemporary piece of art (modern period – from 1700 to today). 

2.   Read and research the piece of contemporary art.  A minimum of three (3) sources is required.   Your research should indicate why you think this piece of art is a good illustration of the concept of heaven or hell.  (200 words)

3.   Develop two connections to works from two authors from the Medieval or Classical Period.  The connections should show how the ideas of the authors can be seen in the contemporary piece of art you have chosen.  You may choose any author in the anthology to develop the connections.    You must emphasize at least one of the themes of love, loss, nature, beauty and how the theme links to heaven or hell.   Two sources (not including your course text) for each author will be required for this section.  (300 words)

4.  A Description of your Labyrinth – what are the symbols that you have included to represent heaven or hell and the specific references/connections/bridges that you have constructed to the medieval/classical writers you have chosen.

Visual Component

The Visual Component should take the viewer on a journey through your research. 

  • Choose any labyrinth design and then indicate in the labyrinth the final destination (choose a symbol that represents your choice of an artistic work);
  • Show ‘revelations’ of medieval/classical connections symbolically in the labyrinth.  For example, you may include a bench to show that you stopped to think about your project.  Next to the bench, there may be a rose bush to show that you made the connection to the Virgin Mary (the rose being one of her symbols) in Dante’s Paradiso

Final Notes:  Art Exhibitions in Toronto

When exploring for art that could connect with your assignment, consider the following exhibitions …  

Royal Ontario MuseumJane Ash Poitras:   New Acquisitions of Contemporary First Nations Art   Kent Monkman:  Being Legendary  (upcoming, October 2022)   For other exhibitions, search “Past Exhibitions” for ideas and resources.Permanent CollectionROM has an extensive collection of artifacts from all the regions we have explored.   Online Collection:  You may choose an artifact from the permanent collection or go to one of the temporary exhibits that captures the themes of the course. 
AGOEuropean Collection, Thomson Collection, Canadian CollectionAll PermanentOnline Collection:  Religious Paintings, Sculpture, Indigenous Painting, Group of Seven
Aga Khan Museum“Hidden Stories:  Books Along the Silk Roads”Until February 27, 2022The exhibition has a Hidden Stories Digital Companion  with images, videos etc. 
Textile Museum of Canada“Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios” (Cape Dorset, Nunavut)On now…Innu textiles that date from 1950 – 1960
Montreal Museum of Fine Art“Yehouda Chaki:  Mi Makir – A Search for the MissingOn-line Review (Exhibition passed)
 “Paris in the Days of Post-Impressionism”On-line Review with audio and video

Process for Proposal and Evaluative Essay

Proposal for Evaluative Essay  (5%)  Due:  Week 10

1.  Identify the piece of contemporary art you will be focusing on.

2.  Indicate the three sources you will be using for your research on the piece of art.

3.  State the two authors you believe are thematically connected to the piece of art you have chosen.   Indicate the two sources you will be using for the authors you have chosen to link to the piece of art.

4.  Choose a style of labyrinth

Evaluative Essay:  Written Component — (20%)                 Due:   Week 6

*Please follow the order below to organize your assignment.

Contemporary Artistic Vision of Heaven or Hell

  1. Written Analysis of the Art work chosen.  The Analysis should include the presentation of the concept heaven/hell as well as the expression of the themes:  love, loss, nature and beauty.  Not all themes may be present.  Background to the work should also be included.  (3 sources, 200 words)

Note:  Background includes:  Title of the work, Author/Artist of the work, Date of the work, Where the work is located/first performed and any pertinent historical or social history associated with the work. 

Medieval or Classical Authors’ Influences on Contemporary Art

2.  Cite the two authors and their works that you believe have had an influence on the contemporary work of art chosen.  State clearly the connection that you see to the contemporary work of art.  The connection should clarify, expand, or develop our understanding of the contemporary work’s expression of heaven or hell.    There should be two paragraphs for this section.  (2 sources for each author, 300 words in total)

Visual Component:  The Labyrinth Description

3.  Explain why you chose the style of labyrinth and its location.  Identify and explain the symbols that you have included in your labyrinth. 

Visual Component:  The Labyrinth

4.  Present your drawing, painting, sketch of your Labyrinth.


Heaven and Hell:  Journeys from Medieval and Classical Thinkers

GHUM 1096

Evaluative Essay:  Research Assignment #1

“The Labyrinth:  Connecting Medieval and Classical Literature to Contemporary Art”

Proposal:  Due in Week 4

Name:  __________________________________                                      Grade:  ___________/10

                                                                                                                                                Value:  __________/5%

Contemporary Art Chosen:
Research Sources for Art Work, Annotated.  (3 Required)
Two Authors linked to Art Work a.  ______________________ b.  ______________________
Labyrinth Design Chosen Country:  ______________ Location: ______________

Heaven and Hell:  Journeys from Medieval and Classical Thinkers

GHUM 1096

Evaluative Essay:  Research Assignment #2

“The Labyrinth:  Connecting Medieval and Classical Literature to Contemporary Art”

Evaluative Essay:  Due in Week 6

Value:  20%

Name:  _________________________________________   Grade:  _________/25

                                                                                                                                Value:  _________/20%

Contemporary Art Chosen Background PresentedAnalysis of Concepts of  Heaven and Hell Three sources cited
Medieval and Classical Thinkers’ Influences on Contemporary Art
Thinker 1: _________________ Conceptual link developedTwo sources cited
Thinker 2:  _________________ Conceptual link developedTwo sources cited
Visual Component:  Labyrinth Description Style, LocationSymbols
Visual:  Labyrinth

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