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

20506
/
30506
Pompeii: Life, Death, and Afterlife of a Roman City

(
CLCV 20516, CLAS 30516
)

This course takes an in-depth look at the exceptional and exceptionally preserved city of Pompeii (along with others in the Bay of Naples region including Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Oplontis) as a microcosm of the forms of Roman life in in the first century. In the late summer or early autumn of A.D. 79, Pompeii suffered a cataclysmic event when Mount Vesuvius exploded in a terrible and spectacular fashion, spewing forth a tremendous cloud of ash over the city. While the disaster claimed the lives of tens of thousands of inhabitants in the area, the peculiar conditions of the eruption preserved the material traces of their daily lives. Students will explore the civic, commercial, and domestic spaces of Pompeii including its forum, temples and sanctuaries, cemeteries, theaters, brothels, bakeries, and especially its townhouses, the latter of which were decorated with brilliant wall paintings, floor mosaics, furniture, and lush portico gardens designed to offer rest and relaxation from the bustle of city life. Significant attention will also be paid not only to the discovery of Pompeii and its neighboring towns in the 18th century, but also its reception in the archaeological and popular imagination up to the present.

2017-2018
Spring

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

(
CLCV 21517, CLAS 31517
)

This course will provide an introduction to the art of the Bronze Age culture of Minoan Crete, with an emphasis on the Palatial Period (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.

2017-2018
Autumn

20609
/
30609
Early Christian Art

(
HCHR 43101, RLVC 43107
)
Advanced undergraduates may enroll with instructor consent only.

This course will focus on the visual arts as ubiquitous, understanding them as an essential part of early Christian culture and identity. Close attention will be paid throughout to interdisciplinary scholarly methods that have been developed in order to approach early Christian art within the larger framework of late antique culture and to decode the symbolism that characterizes it. Some sample questions we are going to discuss include: What do the earliest Christian images in the catacombs and on sarcophagi convey about the hopes and fears of those who commissioned them? In which ways did the design and furnishing of religious architecture respond directly to needs associated with the celebration of the liturgy or other cultic activities? What were the functions and messages of the splendid mosaic programs that survive, for instance, in various churches in Rome and Ravenna? To what extent may they be understood (possibly until today) as an aid to religious imagination and worship? How were visual means employed to provide complex theological exegesis, and what is the relation of the imagery to religious writings? What is the place of early Christian manuscript illumination within the larger context of late antique book culture? What do we know about viewer response to Christian art both in the private and the public spheres?

2017-2018
Winter

21315
/
31315
Introduction to Art, Technology and Media

(
CMST 27815, CMST 37815
)

The course gives an introduction to the relationship between art, media and technology, as articulated in art practice, media theory and art theory/history. 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.

2017-2018
Autumn

23202
/
32302
Byzantium: Art-Religion-Culture

(
HCHR 32302, RLVC 32302, RLST 28310
)

In this introductory seminar we will explore works of art and architecture as primary sources for Byzantine civilization. Through the close investigation of artifacts of different media and techniques, students will gain insight into the artistic production of the Byzantine Empire from its foundation in the 4th century A.D. to the Ottoman conquest in 1453. We will employ different methodological approaches and resources that are relevant for the fruitful investigation of artifacts in their respective cultural setting. In order to fully assess the pivotal importance of the visual arts in Byzantine culture, we will address a wide array of topics, including art and ritual, patronage, the interrelation of art and text, classical heritage, art and theology, Iconoclasm, etc.

2017-2018
Winter

24002
/
34002
Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: Writing About the Arts

(
CRWR 2/44002
)
Submit nonfiction writing sample when applying to register for the course.

Writing about the arts has long been a way for writers to investigate the wide world, and to look inward.  In this course, we’ll be focusing on the visual arts, and we’ll try to see how reflecting on painting, photography, installation art, and those arts that get called “decorative” gives us ways to consider the object in space, and also history, war, friendship, education, material culture, aesthetics, and coming-of-age.  In writing, we will practice all kinds of forms: lyric fragments; polemics; reviews; catalog essays; museum wall texts; personal meditations on a single work; documentation of lost techniques and lost works; and history, criticism, and biography written for readers outside the academy. Students will also write a longer essay to be workshopped in class.  We’ll read and discuss writers such as Susan Sontag, Geoff Dyer, Claudia Rankine, Tiana Bighorse, Rebecca Solnit, Zbigniew Herbert, Donald Judd, Octavio Paz, Mark Doty, Hervé Guibert, Kevin Young, Lawrence Weschler, and Walter Benjamin.  Students will make some guided and some independent visits to museums including the Art Institute, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Smart Museum of Art, the Oriental Institute, and the National Museum of Mexican Arts.

Rachel Cohen
2017-2018
Spring

24170
/
34170
Research the Chicago Cityscape

(
AMER 24170, AMER 34170
)
Please email the instructor explaining your interest and any relevant background experience (e.g., previous course work in architectural or urban history, urban problems, or experience with any aspect of the built environment or Chicago history).

This course has three goals: (1) To support artist Theaster Gates’s renovations of South Side Chicago buildings for civic uses with student research on the architectural and social history of prospective buildings and their environs. The Stony Island Arts Bank and the Arts Incubator at the University are examples of Gates’s work: https://rebuild-foundation.org/ (2) To develop research skills, which can be adapted to other built environments. (3) To develop an understanding of Chicago’s built environment and its social history. We meet twice a week, once to discuss common readings and once for a longer session to enable field trips (a tour of Gates’s area; visits to research archives) and collaborative research work among students. Students will work together to produce historical reports. Permission of instructor required. Please send an email explaining your interest in the course and any relevant background experience (e.g., previous course work in architectural or urban history, urban problems, or experience with any aspect of the built environment or Chicago history). Although the course does not require significant background, ideally it will include students with diverse pockets of expertise.

2017-2018
Autumn

24180
/
34180
Into the City: Art in Chicago from the Fire to Now

“An abundance of life everywhere, and yet no culture.” That is how painter Mitchell Siporin described Chicago in the 1930s. In this course, we will interrogate Siporin’s claim by investigating the city’s history of art, from 19th century forays into social practice via settlement houses like Hull House to 21st century street art that tests the boundaries between radical politics and consumer culture. What, if anything, distinguishes the history of art in Chicago? To answer this question, students will be expected to visit museums around the city; do original, archival research in local collections; and conduct an interview with a contemporary artist (facilitated independently or by the instructor). Topics will include: South Side artist colonies, innovations in and resistance to abstraction, exchanges between WPA-era artists and Mexican printmakers, the pioneering photography department founded by Moholy-Nagy at the Institute of Design, the Chicago Imagists, the Black Arts Movement, and alternative spaces and apartment galleries. This course coincides with the Terra Foundation’s Art Design Chicago initiative and will make use of related exhibitions and programs like “Arte Diseño Xicágo” at the National Museum of Mexican Art, the MCA's Ken Josephson exhibition, and the Chicago Parks Foundation’s “Art in the Park Tour Series”

Maggie Taft
2017-2018
Spring

24602
/
34602
Mediums and Contexts of Chinese Pictorial Art

(
EALC 24622, EALC 34622
)

In this course, pictorial representations are approached and interpreted, first and foremost, as concrete, image-bearing objects and architectural structures---as portable scrolls, screens, albums, and fans, as well as murals in Buddhist cave-temples and tombs, and relief carvings on offering shrines and sarcophagi. The lectures and discussion investigate the inherent features of these forms, as well as their histories, viewing conventions, audiences, ritual/social functions, and the roles these forms played in the construction and development of pictorial images.

2017-2018
Autumn

24650
/
34650
Chinese Pagoda

(
EALC 24650, EALC 34650
)

More often than not, the Chinese pagoda is considered the most representative of Buddhist architecture in pre-modern China. It is so ubiquitous that many have forgotten the fact that the pagoda actually has a non-Chinese origin; and its vertical building form – rather than the more usual, horizontal sprawl of traditional Chinese architecture – betrays a history that is everything but typical or representative of Chinese Buddhist architecture. Instead of seeing it merely as a building, accordingly, the course will investigate the ways in which the Chinese pagoda was uniquely conceived and constructed as a symbol, artifact, site, structure, space, etc., created to serve specific religious purposes, thereby exerting or evoking specific meanings that engaged both religious and nonreligious ideas and issues in pre-modern China.

2017-2018
Winter

24711
/
34711
Raphael and the High Renaissance

This course concentrates on Raphael, perhaps historically the most influential figure of the outsized trio (including Leonardo and Michelangelo), who embody the ‘culminating moment’ of the Renaissance. Some attention will be given to the history of the idea and to the style concept ‘High Renaissance’ and its usefulness as a vehicle for understanding three such diverse personalities. While we will try to do justice to the enormously diverse, if short, career of Raphael, the investigation of the High Renaissance will lead us to examine the mature works of Leonardo and Michelangelo’s painting and sculpture through 1520 (including the Sistine Ceiling and the Julius Tomb), which is the part of their careers that overlap with Raphael. Special attention will be given to the writings and drawings of the major artists as a means of interpreting their works.

2017-2018
Spring

24720
/
34720
Goya and Manet

(
SCTH 35004
)

Edouard Manet (1832-1883) is often regarded as the first modernist artist, but his practice was deeply rooted in the copying and emulation of Renaissance and Baroque painters, particularly Spaniards. Indeed, many of his subjects, and some of his techniques, from the use of firm outline to muted opaque tones with minimal modeling, are conspicuous in Francisco Goya (1746-1828), a Spanish court painter and moralist whose paintings and prints were received in the late nineteenth century, and in the twentieth, as prefiguring both modernist form and various crises of artistic meaning. This seminar proposes a binocular focus on the two artists, in their individual historical contexts and in dialogue, in order to understand the tension between tradition and innovation in modern art.

2017-2018
Spring

24812
/
34812
Museums and Art

This course considers how the rise and development of the art museum in the 19th and 20th centuries affected the production of modern art and the viewing of past art. This is not a survey course but a historically oriented investigation of certain issues relating to museums, modern art and art history. We will concentrate on these matters: various debates about what happens to past art and to objects when they are uprooted and moved into the museum; how and why museums have changed display practices in the interests of getting viewers to look differently at past art; what artists have understood to museums to represent and how they have responded in their work and display preferences. Though reference will be made to the contemporary art world, we will focus on materials and case studies drawn from the French Revolution to the 1960s. French, German, English and American museums will be featured.

2017-2018
Spring

25005
/
35005
Nineteenth-Century Prints

Using a wide range of examples from the Smart Museum collection, this course will examine the various techniques, meanings, aspirations, and publics of nineteenth-century European printmaking, from the invention of lithography in 1798 to the color innovations of the 1890s. Among the topics to be investigated are prints as multiples; reproduction and originality; caricature; color in prints; the etching revival of the 1860s; and the practice of collecting. Students will not be expected to have any prior knowledge of prints or printmaking techniques but may benefit from a general acquaintance with nineteenth-century art. Artists to be considered include Goya, Delacroix, Daumier, Whistler, Meryon, Bracquemond, Buhot, Fantin-Latour, Tissot, Klinger, Bonnard, and Toulouse-Lautrec, among others. In part a history of nineteenth-century art told through prints, this course will give students the tools to recognize and identify traditional print media and to explore broader themes such as the illustrative and narrative function of prints; their relationship to other art forms; and their participation in discourses of scarcity and value. In addition to standard course requirements, students will have the option to help prepare a small exhibition drawn from the Smart Museum’s holdings.

2017-2018
Winter

25106
/
35106
Art and Urbanism at Teotihuacan

(
LACS 24106, LACS 34106
)

This course will take stock of our understanding of Mesoamerica’s first great city. How did Teotihuacan’s unprecedented urban form, and the art created within it, structure a sense of collective identity for the city’s multiethnic population? How did the city change over time, and how did it engage with its Mesoamerican neighbors? Recent discoveries from the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent and the Temple of the Sun will play an important role in our investigations.

2017-2018
Spring

25300
/
35300
Pilgrimage in Antiquity and the Early Christendom

(
RLVC 38802
)

This course will present an interdisciplinary interrogation into the nature of pilgrimage in pre-Christian antiquity and the rise of Christian pilgrimage in the years after Constantine. It will simultaneously be a reflection on the disciplinary problems of examining the phenomena of pilgrimage from various standpoints including art history, archaeology, anthropology, the history of religions, the literary study of travel writing, as well as on the difficulties of reading broad and general theories against the bitty minutiae of ancient evidence and source material. The core material, beyond the theoretical overview, will be largely limited to antiquity and early Christianity; but if students wish to write their papers on areas beyond this relatively narrow remit (in other religions, in the middle ages, modern or early modern periods), this will be positively encouraged! This course will be taught in an intensive format twice per week, plus some individual discussion sessions to set up term papers, for the first five weeks of the quarter.

2017-2018
Spring

25880
/
35880
Fashion and Twentieth Century Art

This seminar will investigate topics central to the relationship between fashion and modern, avant-garde, postwar, and contemporary European and American art from the standpoint of production, display, and reception. To what extent might theories of fashion and fashionability allow us to understand dynamics of stylistic change in art? What can we learn about art movements from the way they have been appropriated by fashion designers? What issues are at stake when we ask whether fashion is “art” as such, and when we put fashion on display in the art museum? Through close-readings and local collection visits, we will explore the role of fashion in histories of twentieth century art including the role of design in early abstraction, concepts from subculture to merchandising in dada and Surrealism, and the importance of clothing in performance and installation.

Jen Cohen
2017-2018
Winter

25940
/
35940
The Artist as Ethnographer

(
ARTV 20940/30954
)

This interdisciplinary seminar considers the idea of the artist as ethnographer in contemporary art and curatorial practice. Through lecture, screening and group discussions, we will trace the historical relationship between visual culture and the social sciences, uncovering how this has impacted ways of viewing objects, people and cultures within the Western tradition. Armed with this knowledge, we will consider how the ethnographer’s commitment to the study of Others has been challenged by an increasingly globalised and post-colonial world. We will explore questions of authority and subjectivity in ethnographic fieldwork. Finally, we will look to contemporary artworks and exhibitions that have reinvested in the image and practice of the ethnographer to uncover the politics and poetics of their work. You will be introduced to the practices of Brad Butler and Karen Mirza, Paulo Nazareth, Marine Hugonnier, Camille Henrot, Kapwani Kiwanga et. al. Sessions will include close reading and discussion of texts by Hal Foster, James Clifford, Clementine Deliss, Okwui Enwezor and Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, amongst others. 

2017-2018
Spring

26410
/
36410
Rhoades Seminar: 19th Century Photography – Image, Object, Idea

This course will meet at the Art Institute of Chicago.

This seminar will explore the social, technological, and artistic histories of photography from 1839 through the beginnings of the twentieth century. Photographs will be discussed in terms of different categories of function—art, document, science, and market—and the ways in which they overlapped throughout the first century of the medium. The course will examine photographs as both images and objects, and will explore the circumstances of their production, circulation, and reception. The course will focus on close examination of works in the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection, with readings drawn from both primary sources and recent scholarship.

Liz Siegel
2017-2018
Spring

26510
/
36510
Architecture and the Zionist Imagination

(
NEHC 25149
)

This course explores the intersection of form and ideology through the example of the built environments (both speculative and realized) that were part of the formation of the Jewish state and its history. We will follow the evolution of Israeli architecture, starting with the interwar period, in which Zionist institutions were built in Palestine under British colonial rule. In this context, debates centered on the question of how different modernist styles developed in Europe and imported to the Middle East can respond to different streams within Zionism. We then move on to the period of nation-building, in which attempts were made to develop an Israeli architectural style that would respond to the waves of immigration and the formation of state institutions. Now, a debate emerged between the modernist style that came to represent an emergent tradition, and a new generation of architects who sought to develop a more local idiom. The current phase of Israeli architecture is influenced by the political turn to the right, the institution of liberal economic policies, the arrival of a large wave of post-Soviet Russian immigrants, and an opening to global commerce, all of which have weakened the nation state. In addition to studying this architectural history, we will engage with cultural texts (literary, filmic, artistic) that imagine and describe Zionist spaces and places, starting with Theodor Herzl’s Zionist Utopia, Altneuland, and all the way through contemporary TV sitcoms.

Na'ama Rokem
2017-2018
Autumn

26515
/
36515
Architecture in Action: Modernism & Politics in Israel/Palestine

(
NEHC 26515, NEHC 36515, JWSC 26515
)

How does architecture provoke change? What is the knowledge and praxis through which it competes over the meaning of space? The agency of architecture in constructing political spaces is contingent on its capacity to frame the private domain of everyday life on the one hand, and to articulate ideological narratives through bodily experience in space on the other. We will examine why and how the distracted experience of the built environment as a matter of fact empowers architecture and highlights its unique position in assuming national identities as a natural, essential and indispensable phenomenon.

We will discuss the relationship between political and architectural modernism in order to primarily understand architecture neither as an autonomous field, nor as a set of technical expertise executing a meaning beyond its domain. Rather, we will examine, mainly through the case study of Israel/Palestine, how architecture acts through its own cultural toolkit, and how as a result, it articulates ideas ranging from progress to war, and from settlement to heritage, in form, space, materials and orchestrated movement. To that end the course introduces and weaves key ideas of architectural modernism, particularly since WWII, and key moments in the cultural and political history of the Israeli state and its conflict with Palestine.

2017-2018
Spring

36615
Before the Global: The Emergence of an International Art World

This is a traveling seminar, and students can only register with instructor consent.

This course will consider the growing and intensifying artistic relations between Europe and the United States in the postwar era through the lens of transatlantic art movements like Fluxus and Conceptual Art, internationally ambitious exhibitions like documenta 4 and 5, multi-national curators and “exhibition makers” like Harald Szeemann, cross-continental dealers like Heiner Friedrich, and art made for international events like the Munich Olympics. The seminar will focus on archival and collections research. As a Gorvy-Gold traveling seminar, students will travel to visit documenta in Kassel and Athens as well as Skulptur Projekte Münster; as a Getty Research Institute seminar, it is one of three international seminars given unlimited digital access to the GRI’s Szeemann archives and exploring possibilities for collaborations among students across continents. NOTE: This is a traveling seminar, and students can only register with instructor consent.

2017-2018
Autumn

27220
/
37220
Dimensions of Late Sculpture

For over a millennium, the discrete annex it established within three-dimensional space characterized the medium of sculpture. Think of a monument, a carved architectural relief, or a screenprinted wooden box. In and after high modernism, artists—not all of them self-identified sculptors—have made a range of propositions that hugely pressure sculptural conventions. Today, a work considered unequivocally to be sculpture may disappear entirely into the space that ostensibly contains it, or may be impossible to distinguish from a decidedly nonart thing nearby. What is the attempt here? Merely to be a new kind of sculpture? Not to be a thing, or art, at all – in which case, why not abandon art’s traditional physical and institutional frameworks entirely? This discussion-based course will explore the complex of challenges the sculptural medium faced as it approached the end of its putative discreteness. How and why has sculpture managed to endure beyond this terminal point? Course readings are drawn not only from the history, theory, and criticism of art, but also from artists’ writing, continental philosophy, cultural studies, memoir, political theory, psychoanalysis, and queer theory. Several visits to Chicago venues will be required in order to pass the course.

2017-2018
Winter

27304
/
37304
Photo/Modernism/Esthetic

The course presents the history of photographic practices in the United States, beginning in the late nineteenth century and extending into the 1980s, aimed at gaining an audience for photographs within museums of art. The issues under study include the contention over claims about medium specificity, notions of photographic objectivity, a peculiarly photographic esthetics, the division of photography into two categories—art vs. documentary— and the role of tradition and canon formation in the attempted definition of the photographic medium.

2017-2018
Autumn

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

Students must have instructor consent to register for this course. Please email Dr. Kokkori at mkokkori@artic.edu by Friday, November 17 to express your interest.

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.

Maria Kokkori
2017-2018
Winter

28405
/
38405
The Films of Alfred Hitchcock

(
CMST 2/36500
)
CMST 10100 - Introduction to Film Analysis, and preferably CMST 28500 - History of International Cinema, Part I.

No single filmmaker has equaled Alfred Hitchcock’s combination of popular success, critical commentary and widespread influence on other filmmakers. Currently, his work is so familiar it threatens to be taken for granted. This course will reveal Hitchcock as the filmmaker who systematically used the stylistics of late silent film to forge a dialectical approach to the so-called Classical Style. Hitchcock devised a relation among narrative, spectator and character point of view, yielding a configuration of suspense, sensation and perception. Tracing Hitchcock’s career chronologically, we will follow his intertwining of sexual desire and gender politics, and his reshaping of melodrama according to Freudian concepts of repression, memory, interpretation and abreaction, as he navigates from silent film to sound and from Great Britain to Hollywood.

2017-2018
Spring

28406
/
38406
The Cinema of Charlie Chaplin

(
CMST 2/36400
)
CMST 10100 or consent of instructor

The course looks at Chaplin and his long film career from a number of perspectives. One of these is Chaplin’s acting technique inherited from commedia dell’arte and enriched by cinematic devices; another is Chaplin as a person involved in a series of political and sexual scandals; yet another one is Chaplin as a myth fashioned within twentieth-century art movements like German Expressionist poetry, French avant-garde painting, or Soviet Constructivist art.

2017-2018
Autumn

28500
/
38500
History of International Cinema I: Silent Era

(
ARTV 26500/36500, CMLT 2/32400, CMST 2/48500, ENGL 29300/48700, MAPH 36000
)

This course introduces what was singular about the art and craft of silent film. Its general outline is chronological. We also discuss main national schools and international trends of filmmaking.

James Lastra
2017-2018
Autumn

28600
/
38600
History of International Cinema II: Sound Era to 1960

(
ARTV 26600, CMLT 2/32500, CMST 2/48600, ENGL 29600/48900, MAPH 33700
)

The center of this course is film style, from the classical scene breakdown to the introduction of deep focus, stylistic experimentation, and technical innovation (sound, wide screen, location shooting). The development of a film culture is also discussed. Texts include Thompson and Bordwell's Film History: An Introduction; and works by Bazin, Belton, Sitney, and Godard. Screenings include films by Hitchcock, Welles, Rossellini, Bresson, Ozu, Antonioni, and Renoir.

2017-2018
Winter

28606
/
38606
Early Twentieth-Century Urban Visions

A prior course in art history, or permission of the instructor.

It is hard to understand contemporary architectural debate about how cities should develop without knowing its origins in the influential city planning proposals developed by architects and planners in pre-World War II Europe and North America. This course studies those foundations, looking at the period when modernist architects and intellectuals proclaimed the obsolescence of the metropolis just as it came to dominate the modern landscape. We will examine a variety of strategies devised to order or replace the metropolis during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ranging from the City Beautiful movement in Chicago and Hugh Ferriss's later skyscraper version, Camillo Sitte’s influential critique of Vienna’s Ringstrasse, and the English garden city alternative Lewis Mumford championed for the New York region, to Le Corbusier’s Voisin Plan for Paris and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City model displayed in New York’s Rockefeller Center. We conclude with a glimpse of urban renewal in New York and Chicago, and Jane Jacobs’s celebrated reaction. Course readings are in primary sources. Focusing on particular projects and their promulgation in original texts and illustrations, as well as in exhibitions and film, we will be especially concerned with their polemical purposes and contexts (historical, socio-cultural, professional, biographical) and with the relationship between urbanism and architecture.

2017-2018
Winter

39800
Approaches to Art History

Open to MAPH students concentrating in Art History; others by instructor 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).

2017-2018
Winter

39900
Methods and Issues in Cinema Studies

(
CMST 40000, ENGL 48000, MAPH 33000
)

This course offers an introduction to ways of reading, writing on, and teaching film.  The focus of discussion will range from methods of close analysis and basic concepts of film form, technique, and style; through industrial/critical categories of genre and authorship (studios, stars, directors); through aspects of the cinema as a social institution, psycho-sexual apparatus and cultural practice; to the relationship between filmic texts and the historical horizon of production and reception.  Films discussed will include works by Griffith, Lang, Hitchcock, Deren, Godard.

Daniel Morgan
2017-2018
Autumn

40200
Art History Proseminar

Required of all first year ARTH PhD students.

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.

2017-2018
Autumn

40204
Destruction of Images, Books, and Artifacts in Europe and South Asia

(
CDIN 50204, SALC 50204, CMLT 50204, SCTH 50204, RLVC 50204, HREL 50204
)

The course offers a comparative perspective on European and South Asian iconoclasm. In the European tradition, iconoclasm was predominantly aimed at images, whereas in South Asian traditions it was also enacted upon books and buildings. The combination of these traditions will allow us to extend the usual understanding of iconoclasm as the destruction of images to a broader phenomenon of destruction of cultural artifacts and help question the theories of image as they have been independently developed in Europe and South Asia, and occasionally in conversation with one another. We will ask how and why, in the context of particular political imaginaries and material cultures, were certain objects singled out for iconoclasm? Also, who was considered to be entitled or authorized to commit their destruction? Through a choice of concrete examples of iconoclasm, we will query how religious and political motivations are defined, redefined, and intertwined in each particular case. We will approach the iconoclastic events in Europe and South Asia through the lenses of philology, history, and material culture. Class discussions will incorporate not only textual materials, but also the close collaborative study of images, objects, and film. Case studies will make use of objects in the Art Institute of Chicago and Special Collections at the University Library.

Olga Solovieva
Tyler Williams
2017-2018
Spring

40600
What is Style?

French and German helpful but not required.

Archaeologists and art historians characteristically rely upon \"the evidence of the eye\" or \"perceptual proof\" to identify their objects of research: they identify, attribute and date artifacts (from potsherds to paintings) just by looking at them. The operative concept is \"style\"; the generation and deployment of stylistic evidence is \"connoisseurship.\" Both are widely disparaged, yet remain integral to the disciplines at every level. This seminar examines the theory and practice of attribution by style, from eighteenth century origins to present day debates about computer-aided stylometry. Each week will focus on a few key texts, juxtaposing philosophical theorizing and scholarly practice. We will look at the notions of “period” and “personal” style, at the methods by which different art historians have arrived at attributions, and at the ideas of community, personhood and embodiment that such methods express. Key points of reference will be Kant, Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty, Sibley, Wollheim, Goodman and Cavell. Key historiographic figures will be Richardson, Winckelmann, Morelli, Berenson, Pater, Beazley, Panofsky. Throughout, the focus will be on finding alternatives to the traditional conception of style as an immanent property of objects.

2017-2018
Winter

41305
20th Century Theories of Art: Historiography, Religion, Crisis

(
RLVC 41205
)

This course will serve as a historically situated, philosophically inflected, introduction to the methods developed in the twentieth century for the study of images. It will address the discipline of Art History in Germany and Austria in the years up to 1933, the conflict of Protestant and Catholic models for the historiography of images before the first World War, the effects of the Nazi regime on the writing of the history of art, and the impact of the Second World War on scholarship in both Germany and among refugees, many of them Jews. It is intended to serve both as an introduction to the critical historiography of art and to some of the prime methods developed in the last century for the study of images. This course will be taught in an intensive format twice per week for the first five weeks of the quarter.

2017-2018
Spring

41313
Media Archeology vs. Media Aesthetics

(
CMST 47801
)

The course stages an encounter between media archeology and media aesthetics, two distinct but related research perspectives that are at times seen as incommensurable approaches to the media technological environment. Media archeology focuses on the non-human agencies and complex machinic arrangements that are at work in technologies whose microtemporal operations cannot be grasped by human perception: media archeology typically refuses phenomenological approaches. In contrast, media aesthetics focuses on the phenomenological interface between machine systems and human perception and sensation, and various forms of cultural and political negotiations of a lifeworld that is increasingly dominated by technologies that both store and produce time. We will read key texts from both fields and discuss how we may understand their differences as well as their points of intersection.

2017-2018
Autumn

42106
Art of the Book in the Islamic World

(
NEHC 30685
)

This seminar offers an opportunity for in-depth consideration of methodological and theoretical issues as they pertain to the study of arts of the book in Islamic cultures. These include relationships between calligraphy, illumination, and painting; visual paradigms of authority from scribal culture to lithography; problems of copying and originality; challenges posed by manuscripts that have been altered by successive generations of users; multiple levels of text-image relationships; verbal and visual translation; and the history of arts of the book as a reference point for contemporary artists. Each student will write a research paper on a topic to be developed in consultation with the instructor.

2017-2018
Autumn

42205
The Holy Land in the Middle Ages

(
RLVC 45200, HCHR 45200
)

This course will examine written and visual material testifying to the medieval encounters of the Abrahamic religions in a sacred landscape where the histories of Jews, Christians, and Muslims overlap. While bearing witness to the cultural wealth and religious pluralism that characterize the Holy Land during the Middle Ages, texts and visual artifacts from the period likewise testify to religious competition, conflict, loss, and exclusion.

Among the primary textual sources we will read (in English translation) are accounts by pilgrims and other travellers to the Holy Land written between the fourth and fifteenth centuries, extracts from medieval chronicles, and eye-witness accounts drawn up during the period of the Crusades. These writings illuminate how individuals of different religious backgrounds experienced sacred space and rituals performed at various holy sites. On a broader scale, they offer insight into perceptions of religious identity, superiority, and “otherness.“ Last, but not least, these texts inform us about the physical appearance of sites and buildings that no longer exist or have undergone multiple refurbishments. In addition to the textual material, we will study art and architecture created in the Holy Land for different religious communities (e.g., synagogues and their richly decorated mosaic floors, sites and souvenirs of Christian pilgrimage, major works of Islamic art and architecture).

The sacred sites and dynamic history of the Holy Land have of course stimulated human imagination and creativity well beyond its geographical confines as well. We will thus also study phenomena of its reception in medieval Europe as manifest, for instance, in the illumination of manuscripts, stained glass windows, architectural replicas of the Holy Sepulchre, narratives of the “Holy Grail,“ or notions of the “Heavenly Jerusalem.”

2017-2018
Autumn

44002
COSI Objects & Materials Seminar

Required of all first year ARTH PhD students.

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.

2017-2018
Winter

44502
The Aesthetics of Socialist Realism

(
REES 36053
)

Socialist Realism was declared the official mode of Soviet aesthetic culture in 1934. Though it has been dismissed within the totalitarian model as propaganda or kitsch, this seminar will approach it from the perspective of its aesthetics. By this we mean not only its visual or literary styles, but also its sensory or haptic address to its audiences. Our premise is that the aesthetic system of Socialist Realism was not simply derivative or regressive, but developed novel techniques of transmission and communication; marked by a constant theoretical reflection on artistic practice, Socialist Realism redefined the relationship between artistic and other forms of knowledge, such as science. Operating in an economy of art production and consumption diametrically opposed to the Western art market, Socialist Realism challenged the basic assumptions of Western artistic discourse, including the concept of the avant-garde. It might even be said to offer an alternate model of revolutionary cultural practice, involving the chronicling and producing of a non-capitalist form of modernity. The seminar will focus on Soviet visual art, cinema and fiction during the crucial period of the 1930s under Stalin (with readings available in translation), but we welcome students with relevant research interests that extend beyond these parameters. Course meetings will be divided evenly between the campuses of Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

Robert Bird
Christina Kiaer
2017-2018
Autumn

44590
Medieval ‘Indexicality’: Practices and their Theorizations

This seminar will focus on the theoretical and historical significance of images and forms generated by acts and techniques of impression in medieval Europe. Our aim will be to explore the historical foundations of modern theorizations of the “index,” a material and intellectual tradition that has too often been occluded in recent accounts of indexicality in relation to the arts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Rather than assuming the priority of “theory” over practice, we will instead attend closely to the theoretical stakes and discursive afterlives of a range of material practices, including stamping, molding, and casting in order to examine how material culture shaped intellectual horizons of possibility, the play of metaphor, and the formation of concepts of the trace, authenticity, and presence. In addition to foundational medieval sources, readings will include postmedieval critical contributions (including Pierce and more recent work in semiotic anthropology) as well as art historical and archaeological scholarship.

2017-2018
Autumn

45010
The Animated Image in Recent Histories of Art

This course focuses on the animated image — a concept central to many artistic traditions both globally and historically. Such an image can possess qualities normally only found in human beings or other living creatures: movement, speech, social agency, and even emotion and cognition. In some more traditional art historical discourses, animation depends on practices of representation and artistic styles that bring an image’s depictive content to life. In others, animation occurs as a product of specific kinds of social engagement or religious practice. Yet others hold that images or imaged objects are capable of becoming animate of their own accord—that they are not ontologically distinct from living beings. At the same time, the affective turn in the humanities has suggested the importance of emotional and sensorial intimacy in animating images. As we investigate these and other accounts of image animation, our focus will be on the methodological challenge of recovering animated qualities of images that originate in distant and especially premodern cultural contexts. Theoretical readings will be balanced with scholarly case studies and museum visits, both to the Art Institute of Chicago and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to see the special exhibition Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body. (Note that a two-day trip to New York is required for this course; the department will cover travel expenses).

2017-2018
Spring

46550
Henri Focillon’s “Formalism”

(
FREN 46551
)
Many readings will be in French (much of Focillon’s writing has not yet been translated); students who cannot read French should contact Prof. Kumler in advance to discuss how appropriate accommodations might be made.

Henri Focillon (1881-1943) advanced an account of form that influenced work in many fields and provoked vehement critique. This seminar takes up Focillon’s thought with a critical eye: immersing ourselves in his writings, we will seek to understand their intellectual debts and contributions and we will also take up the question: what might Focillon still teach us about perennially vexed historical questions of form, style, influence, perception and creativity? Historiographically framed, the seminar will nonetheless seek to attend closely to the works of art and architecture that interested Focillon from his early writings while director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, through his attainment of the Chair of Archeology at the Sorbonne, his election to the Collège de France, and during his time in the United States, before and during World War II.

2017-2018
Spring

46905
Contemporary Photography / Contemporary Art

The course begins with a review of American Modernist photographic practice from the 1930s through the early 1970s and an examination of the rupture of that practice in the late 1970s and ‘80s, via a critical turn against the notion of medium specificity. The class will then turn its attention to the role played by photographic materials in the constitution of Contemporary Art in the 1990s and later. Some attention will be paid to recent critical arguments emphasizing the differences between analog and digital technology in contemporary art criticism.

2017-2018
Winter

47211
What Was Mise-en-scène?

(
CMST 67211
)

Mise-en-scène is often understood as a synonym for the act of directing, especially in theater. In film style it is associated with the importance accorded to the placement of props and characters within the film frame, usually in combination with camera movement. This concept was especially important in film criticism of the fifties and sixties and often connected with key post-WWII filmmakers such as Nicholas Ray, Douglas Sirk and Otto Preminger.  This seminar will explore the concept both as historical critical concept, and as an ongoing way to discuss the nature of film style.

2017-2018
Winter

47400
Chinese Art and Agency

(
EALC 47400
)

Borrowing Gell’s well-known title, Chinese “Art and Agency” asks if the Gellian framework, or related terms of analysis, is useful and productive for understanding Chinese art. Broadly speaking, this inquiry is to shift of our focus of research from what art looks like to what art does, and to find out what it means in the study of Chinese art history by refocusing ourselves on art’s agency and its agentic power in negotiating between art and people or the world. Students will read theoretic works from anthropology, history of material culture, and literary theory, in addition to studying art historical sources and materials.

2017-2018
Spring

48209
Unique and Trend-setting Caves at Dunhuang

(
EALC 48209
)
Chinese reading proficiency

This course explores a new way to think about the interrelationship between the 492 Buddhist cave-chapels at Dunhuang. Instead of classifying them into rigid types and arranging them into a given dynastic framework, students are guided to define the moments of invention or borrowing of pictorial and architectural programs, and to reinterpret Buddhist art at the Mogao Grottoes as a complex, continuous process of experimentation, absorption, and popularization. It is hoped that this investigation will lay a methodological basis to envision a new history of Dunhuang caves. (Prereq: Chinese reading proficiency. Consent only.)

2017-2018
Winter

48710
Radical Documentary

(
ENGL 48104
)

This course will examine the nostalgic and utopian impulses of documentary work in a range of genres: prose, poetry, photography, and film. We will be charting the extreme transformations of regional and urban culture that took place over the course of the 20th century as they were expressed—and produced—by works of experimental documentary. We will study sites whose endangered cultural artifacts demanded preservation by civic bodies, asking how efforts to salvage them through art led both to transformations of practices being “preserved” and to the articulation of new modernist aesthetics, as well as sites that compel artists to participate in developing futures by documenting events in an activist vein. We will be attuned to the distressed tempo of articulating a passing present, asking to what extent "the news" participates in history, how the documentation of the present or passing aims to alter the future, and how art oscillates between or blurs these temporalities. We will dwell throughout in the foregrounded or receding mediation of the real by technology and text, asking whether recording constitutes merely an act of preservation, or whether it contributes to a transcribed object/environment’s growth and emergence.

Jennifer Scappettone
2017-2018
Winter

48900
Space, Place, and Landscape

(
CMST 69200, CMLT 50900, ENGL 60301
)

This seminar will analyze the concepts of space, place, and landscape across the media (painting, photography, cinema, sculpture, architecture, and garden design, as well as poetic and literary renderings of setting, and "virtual" media-scapes). Key theoretical readings from a variety of disciplines, including geography, art history, literature, and philosophy will be included: Foucault's "Of Other Spaces," Michel de Certeau's concept of heterotopia; Heidegger's "Art and Space"; Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space; Henri Lefebvre's Production of Space; David Harvey's Geography of Difference; Raymond Williams's The Country and the City; Mitchell, Landscape and Power. Topics for discussion will include the concept of the picturesque and the rise of landscape painting in Europe; the landscape garden; place, memory, and identity; sacred sites and holy lands; regional, global, and national landscapes; embodiment and the gendering of space; the genius of place; literary and textual space.

2017-2018
Winter

48905
Style and Performance from Stage to Screen

(
CMST 68400
)

Actor is the oldest profession among arts. Cinema is the youngest art there is. What happens with faces, gestures, monologues, and voices; ancient skills like dance or mime; grand histrionics etc. when arts of performance hit the medium of screen?  This course will focus on the history of acting styles in silent films, mapping "national" styles of acting that emerged during the 1910s (American, Danish, Italian, Russian) and various "acting schools" that proliferated during the 1920s ("Expressionist acting," "Kuleshov's Workshop," et al.). We will discuss film acting in the context of various systems of stage acting (Delsarte, Stanislavsky, Meyerhold) and the visual arts.

2017-2018
Spring

49500
Art Law

(
LAWS 53263
)

This seminar examines legal issues in the visual arts including artist's rights and copyright, government regulation of the art market, valuation problems related to authentication and artist estates, disputes over the ownership of art, illicit international trade of art, government funding of museums and artists, and First Amendment issues as they relate to museums and artists.

Anthony Hirschel
William M Landes
2017-2018
Autumn

50101
Teaching Colloquium

Required of all third year ARTH PhD students.

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. 

2017-2018
Autumn

50200
Dissertation Proposal Workshop

Required of all third year ARTH PhD students.

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.

2017-2018
Spring