Graduate Seminar: The Uncertainty Principle: Critical Writings on Chinese Art
This seminar is designed as an introduction to the growing body of critical writings on Chinese art. Weekly themes will span from Bronze-age ritual implements to cinema. Subjects for each week, however, are chosen not merely on the basis of period and medium but also by the divergent interpretations they have generated. The primary goals of the course are twofold. First, to acquire a broad understanding of the methods and methodologies that produce multiple interpretations. Second, to learn about and develop intellectual frameworks that will enable us to accommodate a plurality of methods, thereby leading to the understanding that interpretation itself is a historical process. Each session is designed to demonstrate “methods” in action, as too often methods are taught in isolation, and to show that what we call “methodologies” are but interpretive strategies that we devise to bear on works of art. That the questions which are central to our inquiry are also ones that ultimately come back to ourselves, those of meaning, identity, and change. This seminar is a self-reflexive exercise to map our own positions in an ever expanding field. Therefore, consider this class an introduction to art history in the age of Quantum mechanics, where we will learn to relish in the uncertainty of the hermeneutic experience—both perplexing and gratifying ultimately a credit to the art work that even after the thousandth attempt, part of it remains elusive.
No prior knowledge of Chinese art is required. Weekly reading assignments are composed of a group of core readings that must be completed before class. Additional background readings that provide basic information about the art works as well as more focused methodological perspectives will also be introduced. Class participation is essential.