Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Topic 19th Century French Sculpture
This course will focus on a single method of art-historical inquiry, the social history of art. Our goal, in large part, will be to develop an understanding of the historical trajectory of the social history of art and to unpack its central, if necessarily evolving propositions. We will not, as it were, approach the social history of art as a programmatic mode of analysis whose terms are ready-made and static; the social history of art was not and is not an orthodoxy (however hard some might have tried to make it one). Instead, we will take the social history of art as a point of departure in examining how we, as writers about art, describe pictures and their place within a broader framework of social practice and production. Since we will have limited time to work through what is, in reality, an impossibly vast amount of material, and as writing in the social history of art tends to be quite demanding, this course should not be construed as a survey whose purpose is to provide a full and complete overview of its subject. Rather, the course is designed as an introduction to a particular problem in art history — the status of the work of art as a historical and material object produced within an unstable social field — and to some of art history’s richest and most influential responses to it.