Courses / Fall 2020

Fall 2020

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    Course Number: R1B Section 5 | CCN: 21918

    Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Shadow Art History: Specters, Trauma, and Hauntings of the Unseen

    Riad Kherdeen

    Tuesday, Thursday: 2:00-3:30pm

    Art history, as an academic discipline, is founded on a belief in close looking. Indeed, there is much to be learned about history and about the world from carefully analyzing visual and material culture. But there is also much to be gleaned from that which does not appear immediately before our eyes, yet still exists as an apparition. Rather than dismiss the invisible as a mere absence, this course is interested in the presence and agency of the unseen and the ways in which it lingers in art and architecture. This course lurks in the shadows of the history of art in order to attempt to commune with the specters that haunt the production of visual and material culture. We will track these specters in a variety of artworks (including paintings, sculpture, textiles, film, performance, and architecture), drawing on texts from a wide range of disciplines beyond art history (including philosophy, film and media studies, literary studies, anthropology, sociology, and psychoanalytic theory). Throughout the course, we will engage with issues of class, race, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, and ecology.


    As the second semester in the Reading and Composition series, the course is designed to help students acquire and develop the skills needed for researching and writing a compelling 10 to 12 page undergraduate term paper. Working in stages, you will take a vaguely defined research topic of your choosing and turn it into a substantively researched argument. In addition to cultivating methodological, organizational, compositional, analytical, and interpretive skills required for any type of research paper–regardless of discipline–we will develop additional skills that include: writing about visual and material culture, working with primary and secondary sources, conducting object-based study, and synthesizing an existing body of research. You will also learn new technical vocabulary for describing art and architecture, in addition to being exposed to a variety of historical styles, periods, and movements that will enable you to critically engage with the visual world in new ways for the rest of your life.

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