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

20304
/
30304
Ancient Stones in Modern Hands

(
HIST 2/39422, CLCV 21019, CLAS 31019
)

Objects from Classical antiquity that have survived into the modern era have enticed, inspired, and haunted those who encountered or possessed them. Collectors, in turn, have charged ancient objects with emotional, spiritual, and temporal power, enrolling them in all aspects of their lives, from questions of politics and religion to those of race and sexuality. This course explores intimate histories of private ownership of antiquities as they appear within literature, visual art, theater, aesthetics, and collecting practices. Focusing on the sensorial, material and affective dimensions of collecting, we will survey histories of modern classicism that span from the 18th century to the present, from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Historical sources will include the writings of Johann Gottfried Herder, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Emma Hamilton, Vernon Lee, and Sigmund Freud, among others, while secondary source scholarship will draw from the fields of gender studies, history of race, history of art, and the history of emotions. We will supplement our readings with occasional museum visits and film screenings. This course is team taught as an interdisciplinary course, and we welcome students from all backgrounds, with no previous experience in ancient art or modern history required.

A. Goff
2019-2020
Winter

20603
/
30603
Image and Text in Mexican Codices

(
LACS 2/30603, KNOW 2/37001
)

In most Mesoamerican languages, a single word describes the activities that we would call “writing” and “painting.” This seminar will investigate the interrelationships between image and text in Central Mexico both before and immediately after the introduction of alphabetic writing in the 16th century. We will also review art historical and archaeological evidence for the social conditions of textual and artistic production in Mexico, and how these traditions were transformed under Spanish colonial rule. We will consider the materiality of text and image by working with facsimiles of Mesoamerican books in the Special Collections of the Regenstein Library. At the end of the course, students will have acquired a basic literacy in Aztec and Mixtec writing systems, and will have refined their ability to look productively and write elegantly about art.

2019-2020
Spring

20700
/
30700
Understanding the Built Environment

(
ARCH 20000
)
This course is geared to introducing the fundamentals of architectural analysis to undergraduates pursuing a minor in architectural studies. However, MA and PhD students in other fields are welcome to register.

This course aims to equip students with the basic skills and knowledge required to analyze architecture and the urban environment. It offers an introduction to the methods and procedures of the architectural historian. These include practical tasks such as understanding architectural terminology, reading and interpreting architectural drawings, engaging with buildings ‘on site’, and studying buildings in context through urban design issues, such as street networks and public spaces. At a broader level, the course will involve critical discussions about the relationship between architecture and society, the building as a historical object, cultural representations of architecture, and modes of perceiving/experiencing the built environment. The course will combine in-class seminars and site visits to buildings in Chicago. NOTE: In the second weekly session, the class will often meet off-campus at sites throughout the city. Students will need to be able to get to these sites in plenty of time, and therefore should not have other classes directly before or after.

2019-2020
Autumn

21313
/
31313
Video Art: The Analog Years. Theory, Technology, Practice

(
CMST 2/38703
)

The course gives a critical introduction to early video and television art – from the proto-televisual impulses in the historical avant-gardes to the increasing proximity between analog and digital technologies in video art in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. We will focus on the various technical aspects of analog video, as well as on artistic practice and early writings on the subject. Topics will include the technics and politics of time; video, feedback systems and ecology; the reconfiguration of the artist’s studio; guerilla politics and alternative TV; video and autobiography; the relation between video and painting; the musical history of video; the invention of new machines; and video as a “television viewer”.

2019-2020
Autumn

22351
/
32351
The Sonic Image

The Sonic Image offers a unique opportunity to work with three senior researchers exploring the bridge-making and sense delimiting articulations of sound & sight together.  We will examine the potency of sound in a world largely understood through its visualization as a world picture. Readings in sound studies, visual studies & media studies explore sound, sounds that evoke pictures, the forensics of sound, sound art, & films including The Conversation, Blow Out & Amour.  Each faculty collaborator brings distinct interests to the course. WJT Mitchell’s renowned theorization of images naturally extends to his theorizing the possibility of the sonic image. Artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s commitment to the value of earwitnessing asks the listener to extend forensic knowledge to the very core of what it means to be a human being in the world. For the course, Hamdan will develop a workshop comprising a series of practical exercises that experiment with the conditions of testimony or claim making, enabling an exploration of how the law come to its truths and how can we use sonic imagination to trouble & contest established modes of enacting justice. Performance scholar, Hannah B Higgins, examines how musical notation, performance & sound bear on the relationships between sound & vision in recent art practices. An intervention from composer Janice Misurell-Mitchell will add a dimension of musical testimony to our investigation.

2019-2020
Autumn

22611
/
32611
The Politics of Luxury in the Middle Ages

(
MDVL 22611
)

This course explores conspicuous consumption, the love of costly things, the lure and power of precious materials, and the important role played by the arts in the definition of status, authority, influence, and pleasure in the Middle Ages. Investigating a series of episodes from the history of medieval luxury, we will explore how precious objects participated in western gift-culture (both “sacred” and “secular”), how the patronage of works of art pursued a variety of ideological and social aims, and we will scrutinize the aesthetic and economic conceptions of value transacted via works of art and practices of "ars" (skilled labor). Not least, the course aims to interrogate how the politics of luxury contributed to changing conceptions of the status of the artwork and the artist over the course of the Middle Ages.

2019-2020
Autumn

23602
/
33602
Native American Art at The Field Museum: An Anthropological Perspective

This course explores recent forays into collecting and displaying contemporary Native American Art for the Field Museum, a museum of natural history and anthropology.  Through site visits and dialogues with Field Museum staff, contemporary Native American artists, and readings, the course introduces students to the potential and problematic of locating, defining, and representing contemporary art within the colonial context of the Field Museum and how collaboration with artists and community members plays a role in shifting the paradigm toward one that centers collaborative curation and is inclusive of the direct voice of artists.  Students will have the opportunity to observe the major renovation currently underway of the Native North American Hall and the role that contemporary art will play in deepening understanding of existing collections and contemporary social concerns.

A. Wali
2019-2020
Autumn

24090
/
34090
Japanese Woodblock Prints: From 1660 to the Present

(
EALC 2/34090
)
Permission of instructor required for registration.

Despite the availability of moveable type, woodblock printing—in which each printed sheet was produced by an intricately hand-carved block—was the main reproductive technology in early modern Japan (roughly 1600 to 1850) for both texts and images. In these years, Japan's high literacy rates and booming urban publishing industry gave rise to an array of fascinating illustrated books and prints—from theater ephemera and guidebooks to "art" prints, landscape series, and supernatural tales—that offer interesting points of comparison with early modern printing in the West. Drawing on a recent exhibition at the Smart Museum, this course will consider Japanese woodblock prints as artistic and social objects during the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. While viewing actual prints in area collections, we will discuss style and technique, the representation of class and gender, the world of the pleasure quarters, illustrated plays and fiction, urban growth and travel, censorship, and the supernatural.

2019-2020
Spring

24106
/
34106
Uncanny Resemblances

(
CLCV 23119, CLAS 33119, KNOW 2/34106
)

This course examines one of the most captivating bodies of portrait art in the Western tradition. Captivating because they are at once disquietingly familiar and strange: familiar in their realism and psychological presence, yet foreign in their temporal remoteness. For well over a century, the study of Roman portraiture, an essentially German subfield of classical archaeology, has largely confined itself to forensic problems of dating and identification. More recent work has focused on social and political topics ranging from site-specific issues of context and display, patronage and power, gender, and the ideological stakes of recarving and reuse. Additionally, we will consider the historiographical and media-archaeological contexts that have profoundly shaped and framed our understanding of these objects, both in antiquity and modernity: e.g., the production (and reproduction) of wax and plaster death masks in Roman funerary custom; ancient theories in the domain of optics that were used to explain the phenomenon of portraits whose eyes appear to follow a beholder in space; how the stylistic category of “veristic” portraiture in the Roman Republic has its origins not in antiquity (despite the Latin etymology), but rather in the painting and photography of the Neue Sachlichkeit in Weimar Germany; and how the contemporary use of digital craniofacial anthropometry to study the recarving and reuse of Roman portraits relates to Sir Francis Galton’s criminological apparatus for creating composite photographic images using portraits from ancient coins as early as 1885.

2019-2020
Spring

24195
/
34195
Architecture on Display

(
ARCH 24195
)
Instructor consent required. Please send an email describing your interest in the topic and any relevant background.

This traveling seminar explores the challenges of exhibiting architecture and the built environment, a medium whose scale resists traditional museum and gallery display and whose representation in drawings is notoriously difficult for the public to grasp – but nonetheless is increasingly embraced by museums and biennales. Our central example is “Countryside: Future of the World,” an exhibit on the future of the global hinterland at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York, which we will visit. The latest of several provocative exhibitions by contemporary architect Rem Koolhaas, it instantiates a recent phenomenon of interpretive and thematic shows by architects that exceed the museum’s traditional aim to represent architect-designed buildings and projects. In addition to examining Koolhaas’s work, we will investigate architectural display in two broader contexts: other types of contemporary architectural exhibition, particularly examples we can visit in Chicago and New York, and the history of architectural display through drawings, models, mock-ups, fragments, virtual reality, and buildings converted into museums in their own right, from tenements to the Robie House. Students will write research papers. The course includes a class trip to New York over a long weekend during the quarter, Thursday evening to Sunday.

2019-2020
Spring

24611
/
34611
Materialities of Modern Art

Permission of instructor required for registration.

Exploring the significances of materiality in art, particularly in modern art, this seminar will test the art historical relevancies of theories and histories of materials, and, by extension, of matter, tactility, touch, things, objects, commodities, use, craft, and design. Readings will be drawn from a variety of disciplines, including aesthetics, art history, anthropology, literary theory, philosophy, visual and material culture. Part of the purpose of the class is to work closely with the Smart Museum exhibition "The Allure of Matter."

2019-2020
Winter

24615
/
34615
Modern & Contemporary Materialities (Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Seminar)

Permission of instructor required for registration.

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. It can be argued that the discipline of art history still remains substantially divided between those who study what objects mean and those who study how objects are made, where ‘meaning’ typically derives from cultural hermeneutics, while ‘madeness’ remains the province of technical analysis. The course will discuss the methods, theory and strategies of a material-based approach, its forms of writing and claims to meaning. Readings will be drawn from a variety of disciplines, including art history, visual and material culture, anthropology, philosophy, and material science.

2019-2020
Autumn

24626
/
34626
Allure of Matter: Material Art in China

(
EALC 2/34627
)
Permission of instructor required for registration. Students who have taken a course in modern or contemporary art history preferred.

This seminar examines contemporary art in China through the lens of the Smart Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition, The Allure of Matter: Material Art in China. Using works in the exhibition as case studies, the course explores questions about materials and materiality in contemporary art. Throughout the course, we will address the following questions: How have unconventional materials impacted art practices in China? How do these material explorations inform our understanding of contemporary art in China and beyond? How do materials mediate different relationships between the artist, artwork and viewer? Guest speakers, including conservators, will expand our discussions of materiality. The course will meet for approximately half of the time at the Smart Museum or Wrightwood 659.

2019-2020
Winter

24721
/
34721
Manet, Mallarmé, and Modernism

(
FNDL 25007, SCTH 35007
)

Much of the theory, as well as the look and sound of modern art, as it developed in the late nineteenth century, is the result of the individual efforts as well as the friendly collaboration of the Parisian painter Edouard Manet and the Parisian poet and English teacher Stéphane Mallarmé. This course will introduce them, examine their major collaborations (Le Courbeau, L’Après-Midi d’un Faune), and place them within the developing consensus in experimental art and thought at the fin de siècle, which for reasons having to do with the reception Mallarmé, came to be called symbolism.

2019-2020
Spring

24813
/
34813
Museums and Art, 1750-1920

Permission of instructor required for registration

This course considers how the rise of the art museum in the modern era affected the making of modern art and the viewing of past art. It is not designed to be a survey course, but rather a historical investigation of certain issues and developments. We will concentrate on the following: what has been said to happen to objects when they are uprooted and moved into the museum; how and why museums have changed display practices so as to get viewers to look at art in new ways; what artists have understood museums to represent and how they have responded to that understanding in their work and their display preferences. Case studies will be drawn from across Europe and the United States.

2019-2020
Autumn

24814
/
34814
Museums and Art, 1920-present

Permission of instructor required for registration.

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.

2019-2020
Spring

25105
/
35105
Chichen Itza

(
ARCH 25105, LACS 2/35105
)
Permission of instructor required for registration. This is a traveling seminar; we will go to Chichen Itza and related sites in Mexico between December 14-21, 2019.

This course investigates the visual culture of Chichen Itza, one of ancient Mesoamerica’s most cosmopolitan cities. Thriving in the centuries after the collapse of the lowland Maya kingdoms, the city of Chichen Itza articulated a new political and cosmological vision of authority, drawing on traditions from all over Mesoamerica, past and present, to create an innovative visual synthesis. This course will investigate Chichen Itza’s most famous architectural and sculptural monuments in the light of new epigraphic and chronological discoveries, paying close attention to questions of innovation, repetition, and serial production.

2019-2020
Autumn

25111
/
35111
Rhoades Seminar: Theory, History, and Practice of Textiles — The Andes

(
LACS 2/33512
)
This course meets at the Art Institute of Chicago. Students should plan their schedules accordingly to account for travel.

How many minutes of your day are spent with some form of textile touching your skin? And yet, what do you really know about them? This seminar will introduce you to the basic concepts and techniques of making textiles. While readings and discussions will offer globally-relevant perspectives on textiles, the course’s primary lens will be the prolific textile tradition that developed in the region of the Andes Mountains over thousands of years. In this course, you will conduct hands-on experiments with technologies for spinning, dyeing, and weaving in an art historical laboratory setting, in order to understand the tools, techniques, and embodied knowledge that they entail. You will then apply what you have learned in these experiments to your own studies of ancient Andean textiles in the stellar collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Readings will draw on scholarship, reference works, and how-to manuals. Written assignments will take the form of gallery labels and catalogue essays in order to better understand these genres of writing. This course has no prerequisites, but a willingness to participate in active learning (and not having a fear of perhaps doing something badly the first time) are essential. A background in art practice may be helpful, but is in no way necessary or required. Because wool will be handled extensively, potential allergies should be considered before enrolling.

A.J. Hamilton
2019-2020
Winter

25709
/
35709
Picturing Moral Autonomy in China and Elsewhere

(
EALC 2/35709
)

This course examines how intellectuals in Preindustrial China maintained their independence, as well as their moral compass, in times of inordinate social and political pressure. Systematic thinking on this topic appears early in China, beginning with Confucius and Mencius, but was by no means limited to the Confucian tradition. Zhuangzi (late 4th c. BCE) devoted an entire chapter to the problem. This course will survey some important meditations on the topic from the Classical period, but will focus on the Song dynasty (960-1278) with its rich body of essays, poems, and paintings touching upon the problem of moral autonomy. To supplement our study of primary sources we’ll read secondary sources on Song law, society, and government, as well as relevant secondary studies of European art. Later in the course we will read reflections on Song period Chinese essays by English radicals of the 18th century, and will wrap up with American classics by Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Wendell Berry. Along the way we will learn how to conduct “close readings” of both written and visual materials for clues to the deep, humanistic themes underlying artistic choice.

2019-2020
Autumn

26106
/
36106
Exhibition in Practice II

Permission of instructor required for registration. Background or coursework in modern and contemporary art preferred.

Students in this course will work together to install an exhibition at the Smart Museum of Art. Building on the work produced in ARTH 2/36105 Exhibition in Practice I (spring 2019), students collaborate to write exhibition texts, coordinate programming, and participate in the installation process. Workshopping texts, trouble-shooting, and hands-on activities will feature in class sessions. Readings for this course explore diverse ways to approach exhibition narratives, from museum labels to catalogue essays.

2019-2020
Autumn

26110
/
36110
Ways of Curating and Collecting

(
ARTV 2/30008
)

This seminar takes stock of contemporary currents in curating and collecting practices at a time when we are experiencing rapid expansion of the museum sector internationally, and witnessing the growing ubiquity of “curation” within the spheres of leisure, culture, entertainment and tourism. Using institutions across campus, the city of Chicago and beyond as our primary locus, we will explore curatorial and collecting strategies employed by a variety of visual arts institutions and platforms from the scale of the single-room/single curator gallery, to the museum and the international biennial. We will consider how curatorial and exhibition-making practices have evolved from the latter half of the 20th century to the present day. We will consider the socio-cultural and political implications of curatorial work, and reflect on the shifting status of the art object within collecting and non-collecting institutions. Together we will explore significant curatorial projects at a local, national and international level; we will undertake site visits as well as play host to visiting curators, artists and thinkers. Course readings will feature the writings of seminal international curators as well as selections from historians and theorists in the field of curatorial studies. Students will work through a series of independent and collaborative assignments as well as a final project that integrates curatorial theory and practice.

2019-2020
Winter

26711
/
36711
Florentine Topographies: Art, Architecture, and Urban Life

(
ARCH 26711
)

The site of some of the most widely recognizable monuments of western art history and the home to some of the most famous artists, writers, designers, thinkers, and cultural patrons of early modern culture, Florence has long occupied a central place in a larger pan-European discourse of Modernity, Beauty, and the Individual Subject. As a result, the city itself has come to occupy a mythic position as a central hub of Western intellectual culture: uprooted from its geographical specificity by the circulation of such proper names as Machiavelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and unmoored from its historical heritage by the disorienting complexities of modern mass tourism. Therefore, this course seeks to re-integrate the “Renaissance” into the urban context from which it emerged, to defamiliarize it so that it can be looked at from other perspectives. It focuses on the city itself as the protagonist of some of the most important experiments in art, architecture, and urban development and shows how they were intimately connected to a lively and engaged social body. By approaching images and monuments through the spatial practices by which they were encountered by Renaissance society (rituals of conflict, contests, economic exchange, religious devotion, urban politics, identity formation, among others), students will gain a more nuanced understanding of the links between a localized urban culture and a larger intercultural and cross-temporal exchange of ideas. Rather than diminishing the cultural achievements of its artistic giants, or de-legitimating the rich, varied, and sophisticated intellectual heritage of Renaissance scholarship, this course works toward a critical dialogue between historiography, the historical monument, and the urban context.

2019-2020
Spring

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

(
ARTV 2/34265
)

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, 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 64-year arc of our historical periodization.

2019-2020
Spring

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

Permission of instructor required for registration.

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.

2019-2020
Spring

28212
/
38212
Photography in Africa and African Diaspora

From photography in the 19th century to the present, this course explores how and why photography became central to arguments about the modernity of African visual art and the roles it has played throughout the continent, the diaspora, and beyond. Moving from one regional focus to the next, students examine photography’s roles in expeditionary and ethnographic projects, identity formation, political activism, spirituality, documenting the landscape, and representing the fantastical and the everyday. This course will include visits to the Art Institute of Chicago among other area institutions.

2019-2020
Spring

28702
/
38702
Tales Retold? Modern & Contemporary Chinese Art

(
EALC 2/38702
)

Owing to its revolutionary transformations spanning the 20th and early 21st centuries, China offers a unique access point to exploring key issues in modern and contemporary art.  Modern and contemporary artists from China and the Sinophone world have long confronted rather entrenched double-binds, crises of consciousness.  We might consider this a double consciousness, on their part—consciousness of being artists in a globalizing context, on the one hand; of being political or national subjects, on the other.  Organized thematically, this class will examine selections of artists, movements, and the discourses surrounding them, to unpack the mutual interrelation of key concepts, art and scholarly practices.  Questions to be addressed include: How does art history and criticism currently deal with modern and contemporary Chinese art?  How does the art world define this category of art practice; and vice versa, how do artists view the art world?  Case studies will include artists practicing today as well as historical artists whose work has become a source for the present.  While the class deals primarily with art in China, it will necessarily address the wider issues of globalization and the international institutional networks of contemporary art. Students will be encouraged to think broadly about comparative and inter-Asia relations, rather than dividing the globe into East and West.

J. Lee
2019-2020
Spring

28705
/
38705
Christian Iconography

(
RLST 28705
)

In Christian culture, visual images have for many centuries played a pivotal role in ritual, devotion, intellectual thought, and religious instruction. The most important aims of this course are that students understand images convey meaning in very unique ways and learn how to decode their visual messages. The study of iconography encompasses a variety of methods used to identify the subject matter of a pictorial image, describe its contents, and analyze its discursive strategies in view of its original cultural context. We will cover some of the most important themes visualized in the arts of Christianity by analyzing imagery spanning different periods, geographical regions, pictorial media, and artistic techniques. While special emphasis is placed on the intersections of art and literature, we will also examine pictorial themes that are independent of a specific textual basis. Alongside the study of Christian iconography, this course will address broader issues of visual inquiry, such as patronage, viewer response, emotions, and gender roles. In this course, students will acquire a 'visual literacy' that will enable them to explore all kinds of works of art fruitfully as primary sources in their own right.

2019-2020
Winter

29150
/
39150
Veiling the Image: Sacred and Profane from Antiquity to Modernity

(
RLVC 39150, RLST 28716
)

This course will explore the fascinating culture of covering and veiling sacred icons, or images that were thought to cause trauma or outrage in the European tradition. It will begin in the ancient world and explore medieval, Renaissance and modern art – both paintings and sculptures, as well as images that represent the covering of images… It will attempt to restore the sensual, the tactile and the performative to the experience of viewing art and engaging with its powers, by contrast to the prevailing regime of disinterested contemplation encouraged by the modernist art gallery.

2019-2020
Spring

39800
Approaches to Art History

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. Readings will include foundational texts by Erwin Panofsky, Alois Riegl, and Meyer Schapiro and more recent texts by Yves Alain Bois, Rosalind Krauss, T.J. Clark, Douglas Crimp, Anne Wagner, Darby English, and others (as determined by students’ interests).

2019-2020
Winter

40200
Art History Proseminar

Open to first year art history PhD students only.

How do we do art history? What is it? What are its premises and where does it come from? This seminar will explore the historical foundations, formulations and applications of current art historical methods, as well as the foundations of the art historical discipline as it emerged from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both theory and practice will be considered through select texts, with special focus on art history as a distinct scholarly discipline today. Rather than attempting to cover a comprehensive history of the methodological and historiographic traditions, the readings will attempt to present a coherent, if highly complex and conflictive, narrative that remains open to continued interrogation by its practitioners.

2019-2020
Autumn

40585
Journeys Real and Virtual: Travel in the Pre-modern Mediterranean

(
CDIN 45805, RLVC 45805, HCHR 45805, RLLT 33020, NEHC 30585, HIST 60705
)
Permission of instructor required for registration.

This course focuses on the art of travel in the Medieval and early modern Mediterranean. From the late Middle Ages through the sixteenth century, European pilgrimage to the Holy Land constituted some of the most advanced experiments in representing travel, describing foreign cities, and mapping out territories. Travel accounts represent the core material around which this course is structured along with images and maps in other contexts that such experiments influenced. Course material will span the fields of religion, art, literary, and urban history, encompassing historical geography, cartography, and cultural history. Students will engage directly with the verbal and visual modes that characterize the documentary legacy of mental and physical travel in order to come to terms with the different regimes of knowledge they construct as well as the cognitive demands they place on their audience. Through a comparison of techniques, students will explore the ways in which texts, images, and maps sought to understand human interaction, visualize geographical context, locate history, and make sense of the world beyond their drama of their local experience.

2019-2020
Spring

41150
Art & the World Religions: First Millennium from India to Ireland

(
RLVC 41150
)

This course, building on the recent Empires of Faith project at the British Museum will explore the interface of visual and religious identity in the formative period when all the religions currently considered ‘world religions’ were developing their characteristic iconographies.  The course will attempt to open comparative and historical perspectives on religion through material culture, interrogating the normative models of constructing religion through written rather than visual sources. Students will be encouraged to work from images as well as texts. The course is open to graduates as well as undergraduates, and will be taught in a speeded up form twice a week for the first five weeks of the quarter.

2019-2020
Spring

41315
Media Atmospheres: Art, Technology, and Environment in the 21st Century

(
CMST 47815
)

In the late 1990’s and early 00’s contemporary art seemed to turn towards design and architecture, leading many critics to claim that the boundaries between the practices of art and design were eroding. This course proposes a different line of inquiry, based on the fact that so many of the artworks in question were in fact hidden media machines, improvisations on a life environment increasingly suffused in the dynamics of networked media technologies and their various modes of time production and -control. Elements of design and architecture were in other words enlisted in the construction of what we may call media atmospheres, everyday sensorial surrounds that addressed the intimate integration of bodies and real-time technologies in the information economy, a new modality of the capture of life forces that Michel Foucault called biopolitics. The course will be oriented around a close study of a select number of artistic positions, in addition to reading theoretical and critical texts that are important to the artists in question as well as to the larger field of discussion. Ultimately, the course is about a form of new media art less invested in technical invention than in new aesthetic techniques of social/environmental production.

2019-2020
Autumn

42905
Modernism on the Margins

(
LACS 42905
)

This seminar explores approaches to modernism outside of the Euro-American tradition. Focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on Mexico and Brazil, we will attend to how both modern art and modernity have been conceptualized in the region by art historians, anthropologists, historians, and the artists themselves. Questions and themes to be explored include: the distinct relationships between modernism, modernity, and modernization outside of Europe, the applicability of postcolonial theory in Latin America, the temporality and teleology of modernism, the adaptation of European social, political, and artistic forms, the impact of postmodernism and globalization, and the potential dissonance between theories of peripheral or alternative modernisms and the practices of artists. Finally, we’ll ask if and how any of this is pertinent in the twenty-first century. Authors to be studied might include Timothy Mitchell, Néstor García Canclini, Roberto Schwarz, Beatriz Sarlo, Enrique Dussel, Nelly Richard, Arjun Appardurai, George Yúdice, Ticio Escobar, and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. Although we will concentrate on Latin America for most of the course, comparative studies from other regions will be included and research papers dealing with theories or practices from other world areas are welcome.

2019-2020
Spring

42911
21st Century Art

(
ARTV 39901
)

This course will consider the practice and theory of visual art in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

2019-2020
Spring

43010
Art and Ritual in Byzantium

(
HCHR 43010, RLVC 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 visual material surviving 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 survive.

2019-2020
Winter

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.

2019-2020
Winter

24014
/
44014
The Veneration of Icons in Byzantium: History/Theory/Practice

(
HCHR 44004, RLVC 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 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 Byzantine image theory, as developed by theologians from early on and codified in the era of Iconoclasm.

2019-2020
Spring

45885
Practices of Classicism in the French 17th Century

(
CDIN 44420, FREN 34420, TAPS 44420, CMLT 44410
)
This is a traveling seminar; registration by instructor consent only.

This seminar has two goals. One is to combine the text-based tradition of French literary studies with the image-based, comparative tradition of art history—and, in so doing, to change the taxonomies of both. The other is to re-evaluate French Classicism by attending to practices of reading, writing, performing, looking and making. The seminar’s breadth is designed to appeal to all graduate students interested in the theory and history of aesthetics, and the interleaving of visual and literary evidence. Looking will be no less important than reading, as we will conduct sessions with original objects in the Art Institute and in Regenstein Special Collections.  Authors studied will include Corneille, Molière, La Fontaine, Pascal, and Descartes; among the artists, Poussin, Claude Lorrain, La Tour, and Callot. Critical readings will range from Leo Spitzer to Louis Marin and Foucault. The seminar will be conducted in English; all primary texts will be made available in both English translation and, for those with reading knowledge, in the French original. Consent of instructors required.

L. Norman
2019-2020
Winter

46307
Medieval Scandinavia: Art, Architecture, & Artifacts

This is a traveling seminar with limited enrollment. Registration by instructor consent only. All enrolled students must plan to participate in the seminar trip to Scandinavia in Summer 2020.

This seminar will examine works of art, architecture and artifacts produced in Scandinavia from the early Middle Ages to the close of the medieval period. The seminar will not survey the rich and varied artistic production of medieval Scandinavian lands, but rather will focus on select works of architecture, art, as well as artifacts, in relation to recent scholarship, discoveries, and debates in the disciplines of art history, archaeology, material culture studies, and numismatics. In addition to assigned readings and seminar discussions, students will be expected to undertake intensive independent reading and research in preparation for a seminar trip to Norway, Sweden, & Denmark in the summer of 2020.

2019-2020
Winter

48210
From Xi’an to Dunhuang: Following Buddhist Traces in Medieval China (UChicago/Getty Traveling Seminar)

This is a traveling seminar course taking place entirely in China over 3 weeks during late summer 2019. Registration by instructor consent only.

The majority of Buddhist traces in medieval China are found in the region along the ancient Silk Road between the Tang capital city, today’s Xi’an, and the world-renowned Buddhist rock-cut cave site, Dunhuang. The surviving traces include Buddhist caves, monasteries, pagodas, tombs, and underground relic crypts. Many of the sites are well known and worth a revisit, while many others still await more scholarly attention and study. The three-week traveling seminar provides an opportunity for participants to investigate these Buddhist sites collectively, as well as artworks uncovered from them, tracing and mapping their historical, cultural, religious, and geographical relations, while studying their diverse artistic productions in different media (murals, sculptures, architecture), materials, and scales across different periods and regions. Guest speakers, including renowned Chinese scholars and local experts, will be invited to join each of the two parts of the three-week seminar in Xi’an and Dunhuang. Participants will also be asked to share their work and exchange ideas with scholars and students from local universities and research institutions.

2019-2020
Autumn

48809
Trompe l’oeil: Cognition and Depiction in Western Painting

(
KNOW 48809
)

This course offers a focused examination of trompe l’oeil, a category of painting that is typically associated with the aims of illusion or deception. Yet who, or rather what set of criteria, adjudicates what counts as an illusion or deception in the first place? Indeed, why are illusion or deception even the appropriate or operative terms here? And how might we begin to attend in an historical fashion to the phenomenological question of how human agents, whether in the distant or even the more recent past, saw such pictures as pictures? For many art historians as well as philosophers and anthropologists of art, the historical emergence of trompe l’oeil constitutes a somewhat paradoxical phenomenon. On one hand, it counts as evidence for a natural-historical revolution in human depictive practices and cognition; on the other, it is an extreme, essentially transhistorical case of picture-making and perception. We will look at works spanning from ancient Roman wall-painting to Dutch Golden Age still life to the immersive environments of contemporary art through various methodological approaches including the philosophy and psychology of depiction, psychoanalysis, ethology (the study of animal behavior), and so-called “neuroarthistory.”

2019-2020
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.

2019-2020
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.

2019-2020
Spring