Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: The Dot and the Line in East Asia
Tuesday | Thursday: 11:00 - 12:30pm
Throughout centuries of dynastic change in East Asia, mastery over ink and brush could reliably be used to advance one’s position in society. Specific ethical, educational, and aesthetic attainments could be read through an individual’s abilities in calligraphy and painting. The exhibition of these attainments, in turn, granted artists elite positions in government and great esteem from many. Dots and lines, as the fundamental formal elements in script and depiction, thus also constitute the visual and textual world of the East Asian literati class, even to today. What are the differential social, cultural, and environmental factors that shaped the art history of dots and lines in East Asia? How does one adequately describe these formal elements in English, a language foreign to the art in question?
This reading and composition class responds to these questions by providing students with a basic art historical grounding from which to explore how to write about the dot and the line in East Asia. Moreover, students will practice looking carefully at relevant objects and texts, conducting independent research, and incorporating these skills into thoughtful and well-organized written compositions. Repetition and revision are key to these practices. A diversity of forms and formats will be examined, with special attention given to local objects collected in the Berkeley Art Museum and the East Asian Library. Readings will include texts by Su Shi (1037–1101), Dong Qichang (1555–1636), Okakura Kakuzō (1863–1913), James Cahill (1926–2014), and a range of others. The class will culminate in the writing of a 10–12 page research paper on a relevant topic.