Rethinking the Canon of Ancient Near Eastern Art in the Internet Age

Marian H. Feldman 1 , 2
  • 1 History of Art, Johns Hopkins University, 181 Gilman Hall, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, USA
  • 2 Near Eastern Studies, Johns Hopkins University, 113 Gilman Hall, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, USA
Marian H. Feldman
  • Corresponding author
  • History of Art, Johns Hopkins University, 181 Gilman Hall, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA
  • Near Eastern Studies, Johns Hopkins University, 113 Gilman Hall, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, 21218, Maryland, USA
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Abstract

The formation and perpetuation of intellectual canons – as consensually agreed upon corpora considered most significant and representative of a time, place or person – rely heavily on closed systems of knowledge. The bound-paper book exemplifies such a closed system and has been a primary form of constructing and disseminating canons of ancient works. The Internet, however, challenges the very structuring principles of knowledge production inherent in books, offering potentially boundless networks of unorchestrated knowledge bits. As scholars, teachers, and students turn more to the Internet for publication, research, and learning, sharply defined canons face disruption. This article analyzes some of the structuring principles of knowledge production and dissemination in the specific case of ancient Near Eastern art, first considering traditional book-based textbooks. These textbooks follow a model of linear temporal development that unfolds from the first to the last page. It then explores the academic trend toward edited, multi-authored compendia as a concurrent development with the open-ended, networked structure of the Internet. Both vehicles of knowledge production offer more diverse sets of works and multivocality; the Internet in particular permits a radical break from authored and edited narratives. Last, the article considers some of the possibilities, as well as limitations, inherent in the Internet, presenting several existing Internet-based platforms with a specific focus on pedogogy, in order to consider the implications and consequences for knowledge production and dissemination in the Digital Age.

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The Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History seeks to encourage and stimulate the study of the history of the ancient Near East, which is broadly defined to include areas from Iran to the western Anatolian coast and the Black Sea to Southern Arabia from its prehistoric foundations to the Late Antique period.

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