Courses

Explore the course offerings in art history, including cross-listed classes. Much of the coursework offered by art history faculty encourages direct engagement with art historical sources and original works of art, taking advantage of the resources of the Smart Museum and other art institutions in Chicago and beyond. Part of the Rhoades Exchange Program, the annual Rhoades Seminar is taught by a curator at the Art Institute. The Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Seminars are offered by a conservator or conservation scientist based at the Art Institute. Gold-Gorvy Traveling Seminars involve class travel to work with objects, buildings, and sites first hand.

Graduate courses are numbered between 30000-59999. Courses of study should be developed in close consultation with the advisor and/or Director of Graduate Studies.

Graduate Courses

20320
/
30320
Embodiment in Ancient Greece

(
CLAS 32921, CLCV 22921, GNSE 20020, GNSE 30020
)

This course examines how the human body was represented and conceptualized in ancient Greek art and literature. Moving through three themed units – Objects and Bodies, Gender and Sexuality through the Senses, and Fragile Bodies – we will consider how concepts of embodiment were constructed and articulated in a range of social and spatial contexts, including sanctuaries, drinking parties, grave sites, and battlefields. A central goal of this course is to bring together two types of evidence – material objects and written sources – from classical antiquity that are traditionally studied apart. Through primary texts (in translation), discussions of objects, and museum visits, we will develop strategies for thinking across methodological divides and between word and image to arrive at richer, more textured understanding of the body in ancient Greece.

S. Nooter
2021-2022
Winter

20510
/
30510
Minoan Art, Modern Myths, and Problems of Prehistory

(
CLAS 31517, CLCV 21517
)

This course will provide an introduction to the art of the Bronze Age culture of Minoan Crete, with an emphasis on the Palatial Periods (ca. 1900-1450 BCE). We will cover both well-known works and recent archaeological finds, including those from outside of Crete that have altered our view of Minoan art in recent years. At the same time, we will investigate how our knowledge of this civilization and its art has been shaped by the mentalities of those who have excavated its remains and collected and displayed its art. We will look closely at archaeological reports, restorations, forgeries, and concepts of style and iconography to reveal how archaeological remains are transformed into historical narratives. While focused on the Minoans, the class is designed to build the analytical skills necessary for engaging with the art of prehistoric cultures and other ancient cultures heavily shaped by modern imaginaries.

2021-2022
Autumn

20700
/
30700
Understanding the Built Environment

(
ARCH 20000
)
Some sessions will take place off-campus at sites around the city. Students must have enough time in their schedules to get to those meetings on time.

This course aims to equip students with the basic skills and knowledge needed to analyze the built environment. Through weekly seminars that are paired with practical labs on architectural writing and drawings, class visits to buildings and exhibitions, or meetings with practitioners, it explores a variety of themes from the material design of the building itself to its urban, social, cultural, and historical significance. These themes include how building designs accommodate their uses and users; how they resist physical forces like gravity, wind, earthquake; the potential of traditional and new materials; cultural questions of style and symbolism; contextual relationships to site and surroundings; technological infrastructure in architecture, such as climate control, power, and computation; and buildings as historical objects that change over time. Students practice their skills in an analytic project on a local building or urban site of their choice. This foundational course for the undergraduate Architectural Studies minor program is offered annually, and is open to minors, prospective minors, and other interested students, including graduate students.

2021-2022
Autumn

21304
/
31304
Picturing the Earth: Art and Environment in the Modern Era

Registration by consent only.

How has artistic practice shaped the way we perceive the environment and its phenomena? How has the project of picturing the earth impacted the development of modern aesthetics across media? And how has the environment itself shaped artistic practice on conceptual, aesthetic, and material levels? In this seminar, we will explore the multifaceted intersections of art and the environment from the early modern period to the present, anchoring our discussion in objects drawn from the Smart Museum of Art, the Joel Snyder Materials Collection, and Special Collections at the Regenstein Library. In the process, we will consider how artists variously contributed to, drew inspiration from, and critiqued changing conceptions of the earth over the modern era, paying particular attention to exchanges between the arts and sciences; the new perspectives opened up by media technologies such as photography, film, and digital imaging; the legacies of colonial exploration and resource extraction; and the challenges posed by environmental problems on local and global scales.

2021-2022
Autumn

21310
/
31310
Art and Technology Since World War I

(
KNOW 21310, MAAD 15310
)

This seminar tracks the entanglements of visual art and “technology,” a term which took on an increasingly expanded set of meanings beginning in the early decades of the twentieth century. Focusing on the period between World War I and the present, we examine these expanded meanings and ask how the work of art fundamentally shifted with, extended, tested, or acted upon “technology.” We consider cases from the art historical avant gardes, the impact of cybernetics and systems thinking on architecture and visual perception, midcentury collectives that sought to institutionalize collaborations between artists and engineers, as well as more subtle exchanges between art and technology brewing since the Cold War. Course readings drawn from art history and the histories of science and technology, as well as site visits to art collections on campus, will inform our investigation. Students will gain historical insights into the relation between visual art and technology; develop analytical tools for critically engaging with the present-day interface of art, science, and engineering; and consider the implications for the futures we imagine. Students will have the option to propose alternative final projects that incorporate or extend practices across visual art and the sciences on campus. 

2021-2022
Winter

21315
/
31315
Introduction to Art, Technology, and Media

(
CMST 27815, CMST 37815, MAAD 11315
)

The course gives an introduction to the relationship between art, media, and technology, as articulated in art practice, media theory, and art theory/history. The key focus is the relationship between 20th-century art and so-called "new media" (from photography, film, radio, TV to computers and digital technologies), but older instances of art- and media-historical perspectives will also be discussed. The objective of the course is to give insight into the historical exchanges between art and technological development, as well as critical tools for discussing the concept of the medium and the relationship between art, sensation/perception, visuality, and mediation. The course will also function as an introduction to the fields of media aesthetics and media archaeology.

2021-2022
Autumn

21450
/
31450
Rhoades Seminar: Gender and Sexuality in Modern European

(
GNSE 21450, GNSE 31450
)

This seminar will address issues of gender and sexuality in Europe from the 1850s through the 1940s using the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection as its focus. Starting with the repressively prescribed gender roles during the Victorian Era, we will consider how these perceptions were at once entrenched by artists like the Pre-Raphaelites and exploded by the writings of Oscar Wilde. Women artists took on new prominence around 1900 with figures like Käthe Kollwitz in Germany and Suzanne Valadon in France pushing the bounds of female subjectivity. The so-called New Woman of the 1920s was represented both positively and negatively, while the visual arts and film during New Objectivity embraced new forms of queer culture. Lastly, the varied forms of creative practice that emerged during Surrealism, which radically challenged gender norms and identities, will be explored. Students will be encouraged to look carefully and will study in-depth the materials and techniques of the objects in question.

2021-2022
Winter

22266
/
32266
Witchcraft and the Cultural Imagination

(
SPAN 22266, SPAN 32266, GNSE 22288, GNSE 32288
)

This seminar takes as its focal point the vast range of conceptual, material, and visual artifacts that are produced by, and indeed help to construct, this enduring fascination with the figure of the witch, from the medieval past to the present. We will examine case studies from premodern Europe to Colonial North America to Indonesia, scrutinizing texts, films, and works of art. Rather than offering a standard history of witchcraft, we will explore the intersections of gender, labor, and representation that the figure of the witch makes specially available for study. Witchcraft constitutes a multifaceted phenomenon that aims to alter reality and the self through the use of various techniques, transmitted both orally and in writing. These techniques have often appeared culturally marked in terms of gender and belief. Witchcraft has for centuries been the business of women in societies where very few avenues existed for women to develop any sort of business.

N. Mourelle
2021-2022
Winter

22815
/
32815
Medici Florence

This course examines the artistic and cultural patronage of the Medici of Florence from Cosimo il Vecchio in the late fifteenth century to Grand Duke Cosimo II in the early seventeenth century. Organized roughly chronologically, the course considers the changes and continuities in the artistic interests of this eminent family in relation to cultural, economic, political and religious transformations in Florence. More broadly, we will explore the value of patronage studies in art history, considering issues such as the agency of the artist, political propaganda, corporate identity, female patronage and religious sponsorship. Class readings combine the study of documentary sources such as Medici letters and inventories with primary sources by Machiavelli and Vasari, and secondary sources on specific Medici patrons, artists, works of art and architectural structures. Several classes will take place at the Newberry Library and students will contribute to a Newberry online resource.

2021-2022
Winter

23010
/
33010
The Visual Culture of the Ancient Near East

(
NEAA 20610, NEAA 30610
)

This course explores the vast corpus of material objects that makes up the visual culture of the ancient Near East—specifically, the palaces, temples, ziggurats, obelisks, carved reliefs, votive statues, inlays, cylinder seals, and cuneiform tablets of Mesopotamia, Syro-Anatolia, the Levant, Persia, and Egypt from 3500 to 330 BCE. In addition to their formal qualities, we will explore the practices by which these artifacts and monuments were made; the cultural value of their raw material components, including clay, stone, metals, ivory, and pigments; their life histories, modes of circulation, interactive potential, and significance within the larger social and political climate; and the modern reception and response to these works of art. Students will also obtain an understanding of art historical approaches to the study of ancient Near Eastern visual culture and the value of Art History to the field of ancient Near Eastern Studies. Class meetings— structured around thematic case studies of material groups from different regions presented in chronological sequence—emphasize conceptual issues (agency, materiality, aesthetics, narrative, ideology, space, representation, style, technology, sensory experience), and theoretical and methodological considerations (archaeological, art historical, anthropological, philological, historical). The course draws primarily on archaeological evidence and ancient textual sources and includes regular visits to the Oriental Institute Museum

2021-2022
Spring

23602
/
33602
Native American Art at The Field Museum

This course meets at the Field Museum, students should plan their course schedule accordingly to accommodate travel.

Course explores new developments in the inclusion of contemporary Native American art within a Natural History Museum. It focuses on the processes of curation and the challenges and opportunities afforded by collaborative and de-colonization processes. Course will expose students to the inner workings of the renovation of the New Native American Exhibition and will feature guest lectures from participating artists, co-curators, and museum staff. We will meet once a week at the Field Museum to enable viewing of collections, installations, and spaces of colonial encounters. Students will be expected to write two papers and lead discussions of readings.

2021-2022
Autumn

24267
/
34267
Architecture of Memory

(
ARCH 24267, ARCH 34267, ARTV 24267, ARTV 34267, CHST 24267, ENST 24267
)
PQ: Consent is required to enroll in this course. Interested students should email the instructor (Nootan Bharani, nbharani@uchicago.edu) to briefly explain their interest and any previous experience with the course topics, however, no previous experience is necessary.

This architecture studio course asks students to design a memorial. By imagining spaces that evoke emotion and incite action, and examining relationships and meaning between architecture and place, students will explore concepts for spaces created for the purpose of holding, preserving or honoring aspects of culture and history. The culture and history of the South Side of Chicago will be the primary focus. For context setting and understanding point-of-view as related to the built environment, students will reflect on readings about the South Side and current events. Guest presentations during class sessions and Arts + Public Life and South Side Home Movie Project media and archives will be key resources. To the extent possible, the class will visit spaces around the city. Students will generate a portfolio of drawings and models, and will keep a sketchbook during the quarter. Students will be expected to engage in conversations to reflect on their own project and provide constructive feedback to their peers as everyone iterates on their designs. For final design projects, students will choose real sites and will create a design for a memorial for an aspect of social history of the South Side of Chicago.

2021-2022
Winter

24615
/
34615
Modern and Contemporary Materialities (Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Science)

This course will be registered only with instructor consent. Consent requests must include why the student is interested in taking the course, any previous experience they have with the course topics, and how they envision contributing toward the conservation initiative’s goal of diversifying the field of conservation and conservation science.

This course aims to explore the links between materiality, making and meaning of modern art and investigate how surface, form, texture and color are localized in particular artistic or historical contexts. Using the work of art as the primary source of information, we will discuss the research tools used to study how materials become active components in the conception, production and interpretation of artworks, and how this could bear upon issues of attribution, authentication, artist’s intent, and conservation. The course will discuss the methods and theoretical underpinnings of a material-based approach, its forms of writing and claims to meaning, drawing on case studies from modern and contemporary art collections and readings from a variety of disciplines, including art history, visual and material culture, anthropology, philosophy, material science and technology.

2021-2022
Autumn

24624
/
34624
Close Encounters with Chinese Art in Chicago Museums

A course in Chinese art is preferred. Many classes will be held off campus, students should build enough time into their schedules.

The class examines closely types of materials used--ceramics, stone, lacquer, silk, paper, ink-- and their significance in the production of artworks through Chinese history. Students will be expected go to the Field Museum of Natural History, the Smart Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago where classes will in the galleries, storage, and conservation areas. Students will be able to examine groups of objects of similar materials and individual pieces in detail. They will have opportunities to speak with curators and conservators about their work with museum objects--acquisition, research, exhibition planning, restoration. Many pieces known in museums today were once buried with the dead, including precious items and emblems of power and wealth, objects for daily use, and inexpensive models of buildings, animals, and figurines made for funerary purposes. Certain materials had special significance over time and their craftsmanship and production were related to their social function. Through their close study of works of art, their assigned readings, research, students will be expected to discuss objects descriptively and in historical contexts. They will write essays about selected objects as might be featured in an exhibition catalog.

2021-2022
Spring

24640
/
34640
Chinese Buddhist Icons: Methodologies

Icons belong to the most important category of sacred objects in Buddhism, and they were indispensable for transmitting the religion across East Asia. The ontological status of icons, however, remained polemical throughout most of the religion’s premodern history. While scholars in religious studies have since the 1960s been attentive to the ritual and cultic functionality of Buddhist icons, art historians did not move past style-oriented methodologies and fully engage Buddhist icons as such until the 1990s. This course investigates different methodologies devised by scholars in the past to study Buddhist icons with various theoretical premises and from diverse historical perspectives and focuses. We will pay particular attention to how the field, Chinese Buddhist art history, bears those different approaches to Buddhist icons in its development of the past decades.

2021-2022
Spring

34731
Symbol and Allegory

(
SCTH 35001
)

A familiar account of modernism in the arts sees a turn from Baroque conventions of allegory (abstract ideas clothed in fragmentary arbitrary pictorial or linguistic signs) to a revolutionary romantic combination of image and content in the symbol, which had a late flowering in the Symbolist movement around 1900. Whether the development is celebrated (Coleridge, New Criticism) or deplored (Benjamin, Paul de Man), few question this historical and explanatory schema, investigate its application outside poetry, or ask what role allegory has played in the art of the ostensibly anti-allegorical nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this course, we will consider neoclassical, romantic, and modern views of allegory, symbolism, and meaning in art. 

2021-2022
Winter

24814
/
34814
Museums and Art, 1920 – present

This course considers the history of the art museum in relation to developments in modern and contemporary art. We will focus upon how political, social and commercial factors transformed art institutions and display practices in the early and mid-century 20th century; how various challenges—artists’ critiques, new forms of art making, different audiences—did (or did not) lead to change in the 1960s; and how museums have continued to evolve in the times since. Case studies will be drawn from across Europe and the United States.

2021-2022
Autumn

25012
/
35012
Caricature: A Genre and its Victims

(
SCTH 35012
)

Though usually traced to Renaissance experiments with drawing deformed heads, caricature as a mode of parody, humor and invective has various roots, in ancient comedy, ancient modern physiognomy and psychology, the literature and (pseudo)science of social types, and above all in the rise of a public sphere of newspaper readers and broadsheet buyers avid for the ridiculing of public figures, beloved or otherwise. We approach caricature broadly, considering its inverse relation with a neoclassical aesthetics of the ideal body, its theorization around historically significant moments like 1848 and 1939, its relation to technological developments like the newspaper comic and the animated cartoon, and most recently, the viral meme.

2021-2022
Spring

25114
/
35114
Nazca Art and Iconography

(
LASC 25119
)

Nazca artists are world renowned for creating the sprawling and austere Nazca Lines on the south coast of Peru between 100 BC and AD 600. But they were also prolific makers of ceramics, textiles, and featherworks, among other objects—many of which were made as funerary offerings in burials. These smaller, portable works present complex troves of intricate imagery, recording elements of the Nazcas’s natural world as well as their supernatural beings and beliefs. This seminar will both introduce you to the Nazcas and allow you to work firsthand with the Art Institute of Chicago’s large collection of Nazca art. The goals of this course are to better understand this cultural and artistic tradition, to practice your powers of observation and deduction in studying objects, and also to generate research on and new understandings of this important collection. Additional topics will include the role of museums and museum collections in the 21st century, cultural patrimony, and issues of museum display and interpretation. The course has no prerequisites.

2021-2022
Winter

26703
/
36703
Interiority, Modernity, Domesticity, Decoration

(
MAPH 36703, GNSE 26703, GNSE 36703
)

The domestic interior emerged with modernity itself. “Interiorization,” Walter Benjamin claimed, was a defining characteristic of nineteenth-century culture, and the interior came to be understood as the physical space of the home in addition to an image of mental life. While often figured as refuge from modernity’s more spectacular developments, this seminar establishes the interior as a complex historical construct, a tool, with which to read the shifting texture of the world outside its walls. At the same time, we will examine how artists, writers, and designers employed the interior as a platform upon which to experiment with new tactics of representation, often borrowing from one another’s toolbox, in attempts to represent that world and imagine possible futures. Case studies will consider paintings, decorative schemes, prints, décor samples, and architectural media—many from local collections and environments—alongside literary and critical writings. We will interrogate these objects to pursue the interior’s entanglement with the following themes: subjectivity, the senses, and the built environment; privacy, publicity, and revolution; space, text, and image; art, decoration, and fashion; craft, race, and globalization; modernism, gender, and domesticity. Students need not be specialists to register but should be invested in working together to activate the overlooked interface between intimate, “feminine,” or private aesthetic experience and broad historical change.

2021-2022
Spring

26791
/
36791
Best in Show: Art History as Exhibition History.

(
ARTV 24265, ARTV 34265
)

In this course, I propose a reading of post-war art history as seen, in part, through the periodical prism of one of the field’s most important, signature events – the five-yearly Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany. Starting with the founding 1955 edition organized by Arnold Bode and ending with the 2017 edition which I worked on as a curator as well as the upcoming 2022 edition, we will discuss one chapter of Documenta’s history per class alongside related events like the Venice and Sao Paulo biennials and Skulptur. Projekte Münster, touching upon such key issues of contemporary art practice and theory as the dynamics of globalization, identity politics, the vagaries of market influence, history and memory and the pressures of the social realm on aesthetic experience. As a history of exhibition making and curatorial practice, the course will also draw on recent developments in museum culture and the everyday politics of the art world’s various institutions, and will be recounted in part from the perspective of exhibition-making experience. The class will consist of hands-on curatorial exercises, as well as writing and reading assignments that mirror and follow the 45-year arc of our historical periodization.

2021-2022
Spring

26798
/
36798
Animals on Display

(
MAPH 36798
)

Animals on Display looks at the history and visual politics of collecting and exhibiting the nonhuman world in the United States from the 19th century through the present. Taking an interdisciplinary approach drawn from the environmental humanities and decolonial studies, this course thinks critically about the intersections of art, science, and history in public displays of living, dead, and symbolic animals in museums, zoos, public parks, and other institutions. Objects studied include taxidermy, photography, film, painting, and museum dioramas, among other fine arts and material culture. Through this interdisciplinary approach, the course looks at the display of animals not as mere representation but considers the very material conditions of the living or once living animal depicted alongside more traditional art historical interpretations. While thinking about the broader cultural imaginary of the United States, we will use local case studies and think closely with the display of nonhuman animals in the Chicagoland area, including objects in local collections and site visits, such as the Tsavo Lions at the Field Museum, or bison at the Brookfield Zoo alongside restoration herds at Fermi Lab or Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Animals on Display is of interest to art historians working on American visual and material culture and ecocritical methods, as well as students invested in the Environmental Humanities, Museum Studies, and/or Animal Studies

2021-2022
Spring

27217
/
37217
Sculpture’s Senses

Registration by consent only.

We can’t perceive sculpture whole. It uses some of our space. The experience of a given example draws out time, multiplies views, and gives perspective on the all-important wall. We might say that sculpture sources and achieves meaning in the life area. This course will center the phenomenal and intellectual performances that particular works of sculpture enact and attract. Our object-based project will consider works in the real, in real time, and patiently; this will necessitate travel for the course, including many sessions to be held in Chicago art spaces and one weekend day trip, via carpool, to University Park, Illinois.

2021-2022
Winter

27321
/
37321
Transpacific Art Histories, post-1989

“What is in a rim?” the Sinologist Arik Dirlik asked in the early 1990s reconsidering the complex economic and political relations between the nations that border the Pacific Ocean. Since the middle of the 20th century, the Pacific Ocean has emerged as an important “contact zone,” one that has been constructed, imagined and employed to various socioeconomic and political ends. However, the cultural and particularly artistic exchanges that have occurred across its shores remain largely overlooked and understudied. Using the trope of the Pacific Ocean, this class identifies, analyses and compares artistic exchanges through four different themes: ocean, rim, land, and routes. Focusing on the latter part of the 20th century and early 21st century, this course is an extension of “Transpacific Art Histories” as it was first taught in Winter 2021 and focused on the Cold War era. Classes will pair art theory and methodology with artworks that provide evidence of communication, contact and interconnection. This course will contribute foundational research for an upcoming Smart Museum exhibition and also contribute to a new field of historical inquiry – Transpacific Studies.

2021-2022
Winter

27490
/
37490
Art as Buddhism in Ancient India: Explorations in the Stupa of Amaravati and Other Monuments

(
RLVC 37490, HREL 37940, RLST 27490, SALC 27940, SALC 37490
)

This course will examine the visual construction of early Buddhism in India, focusing in particular on stūpas and especially on the art of the great stūpa (mahachaitya) at Amarāvatī in Andhra Pradesh. We will examine questions of Buddhology, of the diversity and range of conversations within early Buddhism, leading to the rise of the Mahāyāna, in relation to the visualization of Buddhist theory and narrative in the extensive and extraordinary decorations of the major sites. The course will introduce those taking it to the rich visual, material and epigraphic culture of the Buddhist stūpas as well as the vibrant textual world of Indian Buddhist writing – from stories to suttas to commentaries. Students will have the opportunity to develop their own final papers in relation to this material or comparatively with other material in which they also retain an interest (not necessarily only Buddhist). If the course is taught in person, depending on the Covid situation in Spring 2022, then it is likely to be on a speeded up twice per week basis over the first half of the quarter.

2021-2022
Spring

27724
/
37724
Making States and Nations: Art and Material Culture in Latin America, 1808–1880

(
LACS 27724, LACS 37724
)

Covering the wars of Independence and the transition to Republican statehood, this course will address the continuities and ruptures affecting the visual traditions and material cultures of the Colonial period in this crucial period in Latin American history. Intended as a broad survey of the region, the course attempts to think through a political history of objects and images as a way to understand the process of nation-state formation.

2021-2022
Autumn

27800
/
37800
The Material Science of Art (Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Seminar)

Permission of instructor required for registration.

This course will be registered only with instructor consent. Consent requests must include why the student is interested in taking the course, any previous experience they have with the course topics, and how they envision contributing toward the conservation initiative’s goal of diversifying the field of conservation and conservation science.

This course will introduce students to the methods, theories, and strategies of scientific approaches to studying art objects and consider the meaning of different materials and surfaces across artistic media. It will showcase new scholarship generated in the field of conservation science and object-based art history that draws its strength from the collaborative work among scientists, conservators, art historians, and theorists. Conservation science draws on the applied sciences and engineering to understand how to preserve the world's cultural heritage and forge connections between making and meaning. The course will explore scientific examinations to investigate the production and use of art objects. Focusing on material studies of paintings and sculptures, pigments as well as their binding media, students will learn about the material make-up of art objects by employing visual analysis alongside practical studies using scientific analysis and imaging on campus and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Readings will be drawn from a variety of disciplines, including material science and chemistry, art history, visual and material culture, anthropology, and philosophy.

2021-2022
Spring

29162
/
39162
Masquerade as Critique

(
MAPH 39162, GNSE 29162, GNSE 39162
)

Critique is most often figured as an act that reveals a reality that was previously hidden, as though one were pulling back a curtain or lifting a veil. But, as the critic Craig Owens points out, “in a culture in which visibility is always on the side of the male, invisibility on the side of the female…are not the activities of unveiling, stripping, laying bare…unmistakably male prerogatives”? This interdisciplinary seminar develops an alternate genealogy of critique informed by feminist, queer, and Black studies perspectives. It eschews the modernist drive toward transparency, instead examining tactics of resistance such as masquerade, disidentification, appropriation, drag, fugitivity, and critical fabulation. This course pairs readings by authors including Eve Sedgwick, bell hooks, José Muñoz, and Saidiya Hartman with art, performance, and films by figures like Claude Cahun, Carrie Mae Weems, Jack Smith, the Karrabing Film Collective, Cheryl Dunye, David Hammons, and Jennie Livingston. Together, we will ask: What is critique, and how does it relate to power? How have artists engaged strategically with visibility and invisibility, and what can their work teach us today? This course will incorporate guest lectures and fieldwork in museums and archives. Culminating in a creative final project, it aims to develop a toolkit for critique that thinks past the timeworn imperative to render the invisible visible.

2021-2022
Spring

39800
Approaches to Art History

(
MAPH 39800
)
Open to MAPH students concentrating in art history. Others by consent only.

This seminar will examine a range of methodological approaches to doing the work of art history. Through close reading of key texts, we will interrogate how various authors have constructed novel ways of seeing and understanding visual and material objects. Crucially, this course doesn’t assume “theory” or “methodology” to be a set of texts we use to explicate or read works of art in specific ways. Rather, we investigate how each of our authors forges new concepts in response to an object’s specific exigencies. Students need not self-identify as art historians to enroll in this seminar—it will be helpful for all students who want to think deeply and in self-reflexive ways about their own approaches to visual and material objects (still or moving images, sculpture, performance, architecture, etc.), particularly if those objects feel genre-bending, difficult to theorize, or recalcitrant in any way.

Staff
2021-2022
Winter

29992
/
39992
Metapictures

(
ENGL 29992, ENGL 49992
)

This course is based on an exhibition that was first staged at the Overseas Contemporary Art Terminal in Beijing in the fall of 2018, and subsequently re-enacted at the Royal Academy in Brussels in the spring of 2020.  The exhibition explores “pictures within pictures,” images that reflect on the nature of image-making, across a range of media and genres.  A virtual version of the exhibition is available on the Prezi platform: https://prezi.com/oogd4qxqu4m2/copy-of-working-copy-of-metapictures/?present=1, and a physical installation, supported by the Smart Museum, will be installed in the Media Arts Data and Design Center (MADD).  Visual materials for the course include paintings and drawings, diagrams, models of the visual process, image “atlases,” multi-stable images, cinematic and literary representations of images nested within narratives. The readings for the course will include Michel Foucault on Velasquez’s Las Meninas, Walter Benjamin on “dialectical images,” C. S. Peirce on iconicity, Nelson Goodman on analog and digital codes, and Georges Didi-Huberman on Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Bilderatlas.  Students will be encouraged to explore traditional examples of metapictures such as the Duck-Rabbit (canonized by Gombrich and Wittgenstein) or to investigate newly emergent forms of self-reflexive media.  Guest lectures will be given by Patrick Jagoda on experimental games and Hillary Chute on comics and graphic narrative; these might be coordinated with the Media Aesthetics core sequence in the fall term, which focuses on the question of the image.

2021-2022
Autumn

40401
Ekphrasis: Description, Vision and Imagination in Art and Religion

(
CDIN 49002, CMLT 49002, DVPR 49002, RLVC 49002
)
Consent of instructor required for undergraduates.

This course explores the rich traditions of the description – ekphrasis – from Greco-Roman antiquity to modernity. It tackles texts (both prose and verse) in order to establish the ramifications of a genre in the European tradition, and its applications in particular to visual culture and religion. There will be opportunity in the final paper to range beyond these into questions of comparative literature, art (history) writing, religious imagination and ekphrasis in all periods or contexts, as well as into the use of images or films as themselves forms of descriptive response. The course is primarily intended for graduates but interested undergraduates are welcome. The course will be taught over 5 weeks in the Spring Quarter on an intensive schedule. It will be examined on the basis of a paper, due on a subject to be agreed on a date to be agreed at the end of the Spring quarter.

F. Meltzer
2021-2022
Spring

40414
The Veneration of Icons in Byzantium

(
RLVC 44004, ARTH 24014, HCHR 44004, RLST 28704
)

In order to appreciate the pivotal religious significance icons had in Byzantium for private devotion, in the liturgy, in civic ritual, and in military campaigns, we will survey the visual evidence along with a vast array of written sources. We will explore the origins of the Christian cult of icons in the Early Byzantine period and its roots in the Greco-Roman world of paganism. Through the close analysis of icons executed over the centuries in different artistic techniques, we will examine matters of iconography, style and aesthetics. We will also have a close look at image theory, as developed by Byzantine theologians and codified in the era of Iconoclasm. PQ: This is a graduate course but advanced undergraduate students may enroll in exceptional cases (instructor's consent required). The course is not recommended for students without an at least basic familiarity with Christian culture and the major protagonists of the New Testament. Course Notes: Typically, meetings will consist of both lecture and interactive discussion sections. Students are expected to prepare the mandatory readings for each week, which serve as a basis for an informed, and thus productive, classroom discussion. 

2021-2022
Spring

41320
Art and Environmental Change

This course is oriented around the following questions: Through what techniques, performative strategies or means of representation does 20th and 21st Century art mediate or critically engage with environments and environmental change? And, based on the answers to these questions, could we start to imagine how aesthetic approaches might contribute to environmental thought in the future? While informed by the rapidly expanding consciousness of a global environmental crisis, critical discussions about the concepts of the anthropocene, the capitalocene and so on, the course will not just focus on the natural environment in the more limited sense of the term. The aim is to address and compare a variety of artistic approaches to the concept of the environmental, including the ways in which a modern machine age produces new types of environmental thought and action. It is my hope that the course might provide us with a preliminary catalogue of historical and contemporary models and methods, as well as a foundation for speculative projection.

2021-2022
Autumn

42202
Medieval Vision and Visionary Experience

Registration granted by consent only.

This seminar will introduce students to key theories of vision and visionary experience in the Middle Ages from the theological to the scientific. To put it simply, we will explore the ways in which beholders approached and interacted with images, as well as how they understood and theorized these visual experiences. Ultimately, this course will interrogate the overlaps and gaps between theories of looking and practices of looking in order to better understand what looking at an image in the Middle Ages entailed. Topics will include, but are not limited to: developments in optical science; female mystics; devotional images; the Book of Revelation; dream theory; and changes in pre-modern “visuality” on the eve of the Reformation.

2021-2022
Spring

42408
Rethinking Later Chinese Painting (13th-19th centuries)

Registration granted by consent only. Students must have reading ability of Chinese.

This course has three interrelated purposes: (1) to survey different kinds of pictorial art----mainly portable scroll paintings but also architectural paintings, religious paintings, tomb murals, and print illustrations from the late 13th century to the end of the 19th century (i. e. Yuan-Qing dynasties); (2) to review major scholarly works on these pictorial traditions and representative artists and works; (3) to come up with a broader historical narrative of pictorial art during this period, focusing on the relationship between pictorial mediums – material, form, and viewing conventions – and painted images.

2021-2022
Spring

43010
Art and Ritual in Byzantium

(
RLVC 43010, HCHR 43010
)

What was the place of architecture, images and objects in the various rituals of Byzantium – public and private, sacred and secular? In what ways did works of art respond to the ritualistic purpose for which they were created? To what extent is the latter reflected in the design of buildings, their urban setting, their pictorial decoration, their furnishings and mobile equipment? These are the key questions underlying this course, to which must be added: What are the limitations encountered by those aiming to reconstruct the function of buildings that have survived in a fragmentary or refurbished state and of artifacts now isolated from their original context? We will approach this topic by critically confronting surviving visual material from Byzantium with various written sources. We will also explore these texts as a key source of information on works of art and architecture that no longer exist. 

2021-2022
Spring

44002
COSI Objects and Materials

Open to first year art history PhD students only.

Team-taught between Northwestern, the Art Institute of Chicago and University of Chicago, this course focuses on sustained, close engagement with art objects in the AIC collection and the methods and questions such inquiry raises.  Students will be introduced to basic techniques of stylistic and scientific analysis as well as recent theoretical debates that resituate art history as a study of physical things as well as their disembodied images.

2021-2022
Winter

47750
China’s Performative Architecture

Reading proficiency in Classical Chinese.

How does architecture engage people visually, physically, or spatially? In what ways can we talk about architecture acting upon viewers, cultivating their bodily knowledge and shaping their spatial experiences? In a figurative sense, this course explores ways in which architecture is not confined as the backdrop of a performance but a critical constituent of it. Yet, rather than using the power of “performance” only as an explanatory metaphor, the course takes it as an essential quality of architecture, investigating what constitutes Chinese traditional architecture’s performativity—its agentic power that engages and thus transforms viewers both affectively and intellectually. The goal is to situate China’s architectural tradition in an unconventional framework of analysis to explore issues, materials, topics, etc. that have thus far not been fully or appropriately studied. Language proficiency in classical Chinese is required.

2021-2022
Winter

47920
Attention

Registration by consent only.

This is a course in the theory and practice of observing with the intent to describe, analyze, or interpret—as in a typical process of cultural study using words to represent representation. It’s a course in setting into perspective those attitudes and gestures that attention-to-X supposes you will adopt and perform. We want to know, what is it to attend when attention separates out from a method, a hypothesis, an organized mood?

2021-2022
Winter

50101
Teaching Colloquium

Open to third year art history PhD students only.

Led by a faculty member each fall, this seminar meets weekly for 80 minutes, to address various topics through discussion with visitors (especially department faculty members) and occasionally through discussion of assigned readings. On the premise that one learns the most about teaching not well in advance but rather by reflecting with peer and senior colleagues on techniques and problems when one is in the midst of the challenge, this forum is meant to address participants' specific concerns and experiences, especially those related to art history. The quarter's topics are determined with student input and may include: the structure of the art history college core course program in which all faculty and students teach; the jobs of course assistant and writing intern; instructor authority and classroom dynamics; leading discussion; effective lecturing; strategic use of pictures in classroom teaching; small-group class projects; designing and grading assignments; designing syllabi. From year to year, the colloquium may address similar topics but the emphasis and tips will change depending on the participants. The department requires third-year students to participate fully in the colloquium, register for credit, and earn a Pass. More advanced students who have previously taken the colloquium are welcome to return on an occasional or regular basis to share experiences, strategies, and to seek advice on new teaching challenges.

2021-2022
Autumn

50200
Dissertation Proposal Workshop

Open to third year art history PhD students only.

This course is conducted by a faculty member every spring to introduce third-year students to the tasks of preparing grant proposals and applications.  The aim of the workshop is to help you produce a finished proposal by the early autumn of your fourth year and to prepare you to apply for grants at that time.  The department requires third-year students to participate fully in the workshop, register for credit, and earn a Pass.

Staff
2021-2022
Spring