Art History Courses
Art History Graduate Seminars, Spring 2018
ARTH 956 Seminar in Islamic Art
“Arts of Umayyad Córdoba”
Prof. Glaire Anderson
Wednesday 2:30-5:30, HAC 116
This seminar focuses on the Umayyad dynasty of Córdoba in present-day Spain, which ruled the early Islamic Iberian Peninsula (known in Arabic as al-Andalus) from 756-1031. The Cordoban Umayyads were one of the four great caliphates of the early medieval period of Islamic civilization, and the only one to rule from Europe. Their monuments, notably the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the royal city of Madinat al-Zahra’, and the luxury objects made for women and men of the court, are among the most celebrated in the history of Islamic arts. Readings will introduce the critical historiography of Islamic art history and the caliphal era, providing the historical and critical frameworks for our exploration of Umayyad Córdoba in its Islamic and European contexts.
ARTH 957 Seminar in African Art
“Art History as History: Africa and Elsewhere”
Prof. Victoria Rovine
Wednesday 8:00-11:00, HAC 116
This seminar will explore how art has (and has not) been studied as expressive of histories. We are particularly interested in the dynamics between the study of Western art and the study of African art. History, as we know, is flexible and political, never simply objective. Indeed, African art history has its disciplinary roots in the denial of history—late 19th and early-mid 20th century academic and popular perception of the continent held that it existed outside of history. As a result, the developing appreciation for its expressive cultures as art did not follow the model of Western art history in seeking out the specificities of historical context. In recent decades, scholars have devoted substantial attention to rehistoricizing works of African art—we will read some of the most important of these studies.
The mechanics and the implications of this history of histories in art will be our main subjects. We will explore how art historians (and others) have analyzed history through works of art, the methods they have employed to draw out histories that may be clearly manifested, embedded, or concealed. And we will discuss the shifting approaches to these questions across geographical/cultural subfields, as art historical attention has been turned to a wide array of conceptions of history and of time itself. We will explore these art histories of history to determine what insights they might provide across subfields. Students will be encouraged to bring their own research interests to bear on our wide-ranging readings and discussions. While Africa is our “baseline,” this seminar welcomes insights from all art historical disciplines.
ARTH 982: Seminar in American Art
“Media and Materiality”
Prof. Maggie Cao
Tuesday 9:30-12:15, HAC 116
This is a course about matter. At one end of our spectrum of interrogation will be material culture, from artistic masterpieces to mundane, everyday goods. How do objects embody cultural, social, or psychological systems? What modes of exchange do they facilitate or hinder? At the other end of our spectrum is media, which we often assume to be abstract and immaterial. This course will attempt to make visible the materiality of intangible networks and interrogate the objecthood of technologies. By are the physical routes and actual spaces inhabited by the digital? How do symbolic operations like writing or counting migrate across materials and techniques to generate cultural meaning?
Studies of materiality, or the agency of matter, has challenged the anthropocentric legacy of many academic disciplines, but many recent theoretical interventions also tend to be untethered from actual artifacts. This course will explore an interdisciplinary set of ideas emerging from thing theory, new materialism, and media archeology and consider their methodological potential for the study of artworks and other material objects. We will examine matter as malleable, portable, and destructible as well as subject to circulation, transformation, and translation. Each week’s reading will include theoretical texts paired with object-based scholarship. Students will research a single artifact throughout the term and be expected to complete oral presentations and a seminar paper on the basis of their ongoing research. While many of readings will concern Euro-American topics from the eighteenth century to the present, student projects may engage with any geographical region or historical period.