Theories and Methods of Art History
Charles Oliver O'Donnell
Required for majors in History of Art. As an academic discipline, art history is constantly evolving. While this fact seems rather banal and commonplace in our fast-paced, science-dominated 21st century, it points towards an important and frequently overlooked truth: as a mode of inquiry, art history itself has a history. Taking this insight as its starting point, this course introduces the various modes, methods, theories, and paradigms that have dominated or perhaps even haunted art history during its tenure as an academic discipline. To do so we will proceed chronologically, reading figures such as Kant, Winckelmann, Hegel, Morelli, Berenson, Wölfflin, Riegl, Panfosky, and others, all the way up to writers and theorists of today. Ubiquitous terms such as “form” and “style” as well as notorious “ isms” such as Marxism and Structuralism will be discussed. And all the while we will keep an eye on how the legacies of these famous thinkers and the vestiges of their now infamous ideas are still at work in the scholarship of our own moment. Previous coursework in art history is not required but students will find it helpful to have taken at least one upper-division course in a related field.