The Department of Excellence "Faculty of Letters and Philosophy"

The Department of Excellence of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy has as its main goal the  constitution of a PhD in History of Art to co-ordinate, around the theme of the relationships between word and image, a series of lines of research established at the Seminari della Normale in the last few decades.
These lines of research fit in with the reciprocal interaction of two strong branches of study traditionally practised at the SNS, one philological  and the other historico-cultural. In the international community, research studies on the interaction between text and image have recently become a privileged field of research. These research studies have gone beyond the bounds of the predominantly visual disciplines, traditionally linked to the historical-artistic disciplines, and have become an indispensable cross-reference for literary, historical, philosophical and sociological research studies.

In particular, the Department of Excellence project involves the development of two specific objectives:

* the reorganization of the PhD on a disciplinary basis, through the creation of a specific PhD in the History of Art;
* the increase in and enhancement of research and teaching activities on the theme of the relationship between text and image, partly through the development of some research laboratories already present at the SNS and actively engaged in similar lines of research.

The new disciplinary PhD in the History of Art sector is set in this sphere of study and covers periods ranging from ancient to contemporary art.
Regarding the History of Ancient Art, pre-eminence will be given to the analysis of written testimonies (literary and epigraphical sources) with the purpose of rethinking the contexts of production and use of a work, achieving the reconstruction of lost originals not only by using the tools of philological archaeology but also in consideration of a more dialectical context of production. For the History of Mediaeval Art, which is a particular focus of this project, the studies around the visible scriptures are seen as a starting point for an inventory of artistic, cultural and linguistic practices at the crossroads between History of Art and political, social and economic history. Key for the History of Modern Art is the study of the ways of transmission of the artistic heritage, where historiography and criticism meet with the forms of visual multiplication and of commented diffusion of the image, for the ways of conservation and use of the work. For the History of Contemporary Art, the centre of interest is a new visual and documentary philology, applied in particular to the second half of the twentieth century: the printed document thus takes on a central role because of its indispensable historical information and because it leads to a more accurate and wider cultural contextualisation of the work.

The second goal of the Department of Excellence of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy is to involve in the study of the word-image theme the three laboratories of the Scuola Normale Superiore that have taken up this field of studies in recent times: the DocStAR, SAET and SMART laboratories. The pre-eminent tasks of the DocStAr laboratory will include the development of the Nomina project, and its extension to wider geographical fields and further categories of objects from the Mediaeval and post- Mediaeval age; research on the photographic transmission of the work of art in the text-image relationship of the illustrated atlas,  the book and the art review; the opening up of the project on contemporary art, with the setting up of a data base of the activity of the most important private art galleries in post-war Italy. For the SAET laboratory the perspectives of development on the text-image front, up to now widely investigated for historical cartography and toponymy, involve the production of 3D images of monuments, buildings and finds brought to light during field research activities, opening up new prospects for research devoted to the production of sculptures and vases. The SMART Laboratory of the Faculty of Sciences also houses the DreamsLab laboratory, which utilises immersive virtual reality systems for the visualisation of various types of data (archaeological reconstruction, reproductions of art works, the visualisation of exhibition sets that have been lost) and the interaction with these by means of natural gestures, enabling a better use and understanding of the datum from both the scientific and the didactic points of view. The involvement of DreamsLab is thus understood as transversal to the disciplinary fields, with the aim of enhancing the existing computing infrastructures and of developing applications for visual and textual pattern analyses.