Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Art Under Pressure: American Art in Times of Upheaval
Tuesday, Thursday: 3:30-5:00pm
How can art still be meaningful in times of crisis? This course will examine how art in the United States has responded to intense national conflicts and challenges. Beginning with the Revolutionary War and ending with the Civil Rights Movement, we will look at the many different ways art is deployed to concretize certain ideas—such as the ideal family, the “national character” of the United States, and the experience of city life–or to upend them. As we examine case studies of art during upheaval, we will learn what strategies and visual vocabularies artists use to forward their messages of either stability or of radical change.
As this is the second course in the Reading and Composition series, the syllabus also places an emphasis on the acquisition of the skills required for researching and writing a successful 10- to 12-page undergraduate term paper. The different topics will guide us through the process of turning a vaguely defined research question into a well-researched argument about a topic. In addition to building the standard methodological, organizational, and literary capabilities required for all kinds of research papers, we will develop the following skills: How do we find sources that help us see beyond readily-available, common sense knowledge? How might the study of visual culture help us work through concerns that are normally classified as social or political? Finally, this class will also equip students with the tools to look at and study art as we seek to understand how and why visual images hold such power.