Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description

This seminar is open to graduate students, and is intended to offer a synoptic view of selected methodologies and thinkers in art history (with some implications for architecture). It is a writing-intensive class based on the premise that writing and editing are forms of critical thinking. The syllabus outlines the structure of the course and the readings and assignments for each week.

The discipline of art history periodically surges into "crisis." The demise of formalism as a guiding tenet, or connoisseurial appreciation as a general guide, plunged the field into confusion during the 1970s when the battle raged over "social histories of art" or "revisionism;" in the late 1990s the debate was staged between "visual studies" versus "normative art history." The course takes this confusion as itself worthy of study, and seeks to make available some of the new methodologies that have emerged over the past two decades. The ultimate goal is to bring students closer to discovering their own individual methods and voices as writers of art historical prose. In broader terms, we will attempt to understand the historiography of visual art and images more broadly. Our efforts will be predicated on the conviction that art history can serve as a generative discipline for all humanistic disciplines, and even those that style themselves as "Bildwissenschaft" (or "image-science").


Each week, at least two students will have the responsibility of initiating discussion of the assigned readings. They will present briefly the central arguments and conclusions of each piece and raise leading questions. In developing these informal weekly presentations, you are encouraged to work together; it is also helpful to bring in images or objects on which given methods of analysis can be practiced. Additionally, each of you will be expected to write, analyze, and edit your own prose as well as the writing of others, trying on different styles and methodologies as you work toward a final paper. I feel strongly that the best scholarship comes from an open, sharing, and collaborative environment that encourages diverse approaches and conclusions; therefore, we will also read each others' essays (including my own), and comment on them as a group.


Grades will be based on class participation and leadership in discussion (20%), class essays and exercises (30%), and final paper (50%).