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Graduate Courses in Art History 2015-2016

Fall 2015

ARTH 600 (CRN 3400) Advanced Pro-Seminar (3 credits), Prof. Matthew Hunter, Th, 1435-1725, Arts W-220

This advanced pro-seminar introduces key concepts and practices of art history through guided discussions of issues, ideas, and trends central to the current practice of the discipline and its historical formation. Most class sessions will be led by a different McGill faculty member from AHCS and associated institutes. Providing orientation to the field and to the department, this course also emphasizes key skills and issues of professionalization. One week will be dedicated to the essential art of grant writing, preparing you for specific funding applications. As the semester progresses, we will also discuss career opportunities, conference participation, publication strategies, and essential resources for success in the field.
At its core, this seminar is intended to prepare you for a productive and engaged graduate career. We will emphasize four key skills, all central to advanced art-historical research:
1. Close and careful reading and analysis. Although topics and methods under consideration will differ from week to week, we will be working together to hone a core set of critical reading skills. What, we will ask, are the key claims asserted in our readings? How is evidence constituted and deployed? Are the arguments compelling? What broader intellectual agendas give them urgency?
2. Clear and critical written exposition. This is a writing-intensive seminar. In addition to the grant proposal and near-weekly responses to the readings, you will also produce a critical essay reflecting on a departmental lecture and a final paper due December 10th.
3. Confident oral participation and presentation skills. Informed, open-minded and respectful participation in every class is mandatory. Come to class with views, opinions, points for discussion and questions about the sources used. As in most graduate seminars, students will present work in progress in advance of the final paper; student presentations are scheduled for the last class of the semester.
4. Visual analysis. Sophisticated visual interpretation is a key skill that art historians bring to the interdisciplinary conversation. When doing the readings, consider how the author approaches visual material. We will also analyze images in many of our sessions.

I. Class Participation: 20% 
II. Weekly Responses and Departmental Lecture Essay: 20% 
III. Grant Writing: 10% 
IV. Final Research Paper: 50% (5% proposal, 10% presentation, 35% paper)

ARTH 630 (CRN 5256) Directed Reading 1 (3 credits)

Coming soon.

ARTH 653 (CRN 20547) Topics: Early Modern Visual Culture 1 (3 credits), Prof. Angela Vanhaelen, T, 1435-1725, Arts W-5

Early modern art criticism conveys a fascination with the moving image—an artwork so strikingly lifelike that it appears to come alive. The force of the moving image is physical, immediate, and emotive. Such works consume their beholders, deploying stunning visual effects that move and even change their human interlocutors. In the words of one commentator, the viewer thus confronted by the incarnate artwork “becomes another person.” This type of response to images has been largely repressed from art historical discourses that focus on the distanced intellectual interpretation and contemplation of the work of art as a closed field of knowledge. Frequently dismissed as a form of ‘primitivism’, the living image is most often encountered in popular culture studies or anthropologies of the image. A reconsideration of the moving image thus has the potential to put art history in motion, animating and dynamically opening it to new objects, questions, temporalities, and methods of analysis. Engagement with the affective impact of images unsettles art historical categories of understanding, prompting us to reconsider key terms of analysis like representation, mimesis, spectatorship, meaning, and interpretation as mobile and transformative processes. In this seminar, we will thus seek to redress art historical neglect of the moving image and explore its multifaceted potentialities. If the power of such works was to transform viewers, how was the rhetorical force of the moving image mobilized to inspire or manipulate political, religious, colonial, and social actions?

Weekly discussions will take up a body of readings, but also a corpus of moving images and their particular modes of address. We will consider images that move or even seem to breathe (automata, mechanical moving pictures, living statues, portraits, waxworks); images that physically and /or emotionally move or alter their viewers; and the transformative potential of images that migrate between cultures. Focusing on case studies, student research can take up any aspect of the moving image in the early modern period (1500-1700).

Method of Evaluation
Class participation and reading responses - 25%
Class presentation / discussion leader (2 x 10%) - 20% 
Museum presentation - 15%
Paper Proposal - 5% (Oct. 13)
Oral presentation of research topic - 15%
Written research paper - 20% (due: Dec. 8)

ARTH 660 (CRN 20546) Contemporary Art & Criticism 1 (3 credits), Prof. Christine Ross, M, 1135-1425, Arts W-220

Reconfigurations of the Public Sphere in Contemporary Art

Since the late 1990s, spatial art practices—a category that has expanded to include not only performance art and installations, but also new media environments, situational and relational interventions, immersive settings and net localizations, street art, expanded monuments, physical and digital agoras and salons, specially created public spaces—have set about a significant reconsideration of the aesthetics of space. This shift is one in which artistic practices have progressively moved away from the deconstruction of space to the constitution of micro public spheres. In these spheres, humans and nonhumans are invited to assemble in space; they circulate, sit or stand, perceiving others perceiving; they influence one another or coevolve in parallel—temporarily attached by mutual, commensalic, neglectful or antagonistic relations. These are laboratories where questions of inclusiveness, world-forming and relational attachments are raised and enacted.

The general objective of this seminar is to investigate contemporary art’s renewed engagement with the public sphere. It revisits Jürgen Habermas’s notion of the public sphere—as “a realm of our social life” where public opinion (a critical form of publicity) takes shape through critical deliberations between individuals who meet to discuss matters of common interest. It explores that notion as an analytical tool to assess the influence of aisthesis in contemporary reformulations of critical publicity.
In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962/1989), Habermas stated that the ideal type of the public sphere was its 18th-century deployment, where it had the capacity to act as a normative principle of democratic legitimacy, producing public opinion that influenced political action. In subsequent revisions, Habermas emphasized the role of deliberative language and communicative rationality in the consolidation of the public sphere, which he redefined as “a network for communicating information and points of view” where “participants enter into interpersonal relationships by taking positions of mutual speech-act offers and assuming illocutionary obligations” (Between Fact and Norms 1996: 361). The Habermasian formulation of the public sphere has been contested from the start—critics have questioned its alleged universalism and separation from the private sphere, its non-pluralism and non-acknowledgement of identity politics, as well as its rationalistic mode of deliberation. Habermas himself has postulated that the public sphere has been in decline since the 19th century. In light of these critiques, what remains of the public sphere, and what is to be saved from it? Much more multiple, porous, passionate, mediated, privatized and mutable than initially formulated, some key components of the public sphere have resurfaced in artistic practices, including: critical publicity; the richness of deliberations on matters of general and common interest; and a public body’s capacity to reconfigure common sense. These practices have set into play innovative public spheres (e.g., atmospheres, interspecies salons, unbecoming communities, speculative realist sites) that challenge common sense and rethink human/nonhuman relations and commonalities, following a reinvented dialectic between mutuality and individuality, agreement and dissensus, distraction and will.

The seminar is an occasion to reflect on some of these emerging models of the reconfigured public sphere and on the role of aisthesis (αἴσθησις: the faculty of perception by the senses and the intellect) in this emergence. It asks: how is the public sphere rethought aesthetically (in terms of forms, media, materialities and sensibilities) in contemporary art?; and how does an artistic public sphere succeed in permeating a political public sphere?

Referring to her museum-wide installation made for The Henry Art Gallery—an installation entitled the common SENSE (2014-2015), which explored “touch” as the sense common to all animals—American artist Ann Hamilton declared that it addressed “the infinitude and threatened extinctions we share across species – a lacrimosa, and elegy for a future being lost.” It resulted from Hamilton’s extended engagement with the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture’s Ornithology collection. This installation, whose “commonality” consisted in vitalizing the sense of touch shared by human and non-human animals, is one of the emblematic artistic materializations of the public sphere. Other notable art practices include: Thomas Hirschhorn’s Monuments—public places built in working class neighborhoods, with the agreement and help of local communities; Pierre Huyghe’s gardens designed to evolve through the interactions between human and nonhuman (animal, botanical and mineral) elements; Tino Sehgal’s live salons; Christoph Büchel’s temporary mosque installation that marked Iceland’s participation in the 2015 Venice Biennale; and Marjetica Potrč’s community projects—the building of energy and water infrastructures by participatory design and sustainability practices. These models—all of which will be examined in this seminar, together with other art practices also engaged in the making of micro public spheres— represent different successful and unsuccessful attempts to act, form, make and think spacious worlds aesthetically. They will be observed in dialogue with new political and philosophical models of public life, including: relational aesthetics (N. Bourriaud); the new demos (W. Brown); the aesthetic regime (J. Rancière); the inquiring public (J. Dewey); the inoperative community (J.-L. Nancy); the meeting of species (Donna Haraway); and the (non)relationality of human and nonhuman objects (G. Harman).

Seminar requirements:

Overall: seminar participation (attendance; seminar discussions; virtual salon conversations) ..... 15%
Reading Report for the virtual salon (800-1200 words), to be sent to all members of the seminar, by Monday 9:00 am at the latest ................................................................................15%
October 19: one/two-page (single-spaced) outline of your research topic, to be sent to all members of the seminar, by Monday 9:00 am at the latest ................................................................ 10%
December 7: 20’ oral presentation discussing the subject, hypothesis & corpus of your essay .... 20% 
December 14: 20-25pp essay on artwork(s) or art exhibition(s) of your choice, dealing with the topic of the seminar .................................................................................................................. 40%

ARTH 698 (CRN 19380)Thesis Research 1 (12 credits)

Coming soon.

ARTH 699 (CRN 20087)Thesis Research 2 (12 credits)

Coming soon.

ARTH 701 (CRN 3402) Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam (0 credits)

Coming soon.

ARTH 723 (CRN 21348) / COMS 637 (21349) / EAST564 (20789) Art Criticism 1 (3 credits), Prof. Thomas Lamarre, W, 1435-1725. SH688 room 465 (3 credits)

Structures of Modernity: Culture & Capital

Objectives: The goal of this course is to provide students with three different perspectives on the relationship between culture and capital: Marx’s critique of political economy; Deleuze and Guattari’s reworking of Marx with an emphasis on subject formation; and Graeber’s anarchist anthropology. Students will be encouraged to develop a research project of their choosing and to address it from these three perspectives.

Methodology: Each unit centers on a book, and seminar time will be devoted to delineating the major features of its theoretical approach or conceptual framework in order to assist students with working through it in the context of their research project. The reading is exceedingly demanding, but the seminar will not succeed unless everyone keeps up with the materials (a minimum requirement). Course time will generally be divided in three parts: an hour of focused review of the readings, and hour of discussion dealing with practical implications, and an hour devoted to student’s case studies (not necessarily in this order).

There are two options.

1. At the end of each unit, you will submit a paper (a highly focused five to ten pages) in which you consider your research project in light of the unit’s framework. By the end of the course, you should have three proto-chapters for your thesis, or three sections of an essay. Ideally, when you submit the third and last paper, you will be able to reformulate the three parts into an essay format, with a brief introduction and conclusion. But you have the option to submit only the third paper without reworking the three sections in a whole.

2. At the end of each unit, you will submit a précis of the book (approximately five pages) addressing its central problems, assumptions, aims, methods, and conclusions. Details will be given in class.

The due dates are as indicated in the outline below: Oct 5, Nov 2, and Dec 11.

ARTH 730 (19316) Current Problems in Art History 1: "Curating Medical Spaces: Art, Objects, Ethics and Display” (3 credits), Prof. Mary Hunter, W, 1435-1725, W-220

This class will explore the role of art and curating in medical spaces from the nineteenth century to the contemporary period. It will provide students with a historical understanding of how images and objects were displayed in medical and scientific spheres - from pathological specimens in medical museums to professional portraits in hospital hallways to large-scale contemporary sculptures in the grand entrances of public hospitals. Through a variety of readings that examine the ethics and politics of display, as well as key theoretical concepts that inform our reading of “medical” and “artistic” images and objects, students will acquire a framework from which to build original research and exhibition programs.

The two main assignments for this class will be based on original research undertaken at the McGill University Health Centre’s Art and Heritage Collection. The MUHC is one of the largest medical institutions in Canada that recently opened in spring 2015. This class will give students the opportunity to do original research on the artworks (paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, etc.), medical objects (scalpels, x-ray bulbs, microscopes, etc.) and paraphernalia (uniforms, cutlery, antique furniture, etc.) in this un-researched collection, which contains all the artworks and objects from 4 hospitals in Montreal. In addition to writing a research paper based on a work or series of object in the MUHC collection (that will allow students to engage with theoretical concepts explored in class as well as intensive primary research), every student will be responsible for curating a space at the hospital based on their research. Working closely with the curators of the MUHC, students will get hands-on experience and the opportunity to have their exhibition on display at the MUHC. For this reason, student’s exhibition plans must adhere to professional standards and limitations.

Three of the main aims of the seminar are:
1. To help student produce new knowledge about the MUHC’s collections by giving them the opportunity to research the hospital’s collection of paintings, photographs, medical instruments, and other archival materials. Students will utilize methods and theories learned in class, in addition to historical research, to write up labels and short information panels for the hospital’s collection. They will learn first-hand how writing the history of these images and objects can form and change public understanding. This is an excellent opportunity for students to create and share knowledge, and learn about the politics and roles of display. It will help students who aim to pursue careers in curating, museum studies and art history.
2. To help students develop exhibition programs for the hospital that can be shared with the hospital’s Arts and Heritage workers and volunteers. The MUHC’s curators will take part in some of the seminars, and will encourage student involvement in the exhibition programming. Students will be taught about how space and context alter the meaning of artworks, and how exhibitions are designed thematically and practically. They will also learn about the practicalities of curating public spaces, particularly how to curate in spaces that are visited by diverse populations.
3. To improve the hospital experience for patients, workers and caregivers by making sure that every artwork and object is displayed and labeled in a purposeful, respectful, and engaging manner.

Method of Assessment
Participation/Reading Notes - 10%
Group Presentation  - 10%
Exhibition Analysis and Critique - 10%
Exhibition Pitch - 15%
Exhibition/Research Presentation - 25%
Research Paper and exhibition labels - 30%

ARTH 731 (CRN 21403) / COMS 675 (CRN 18662) Media and Urban Life (3 credits), Prof. Will Straw, M, 1435-1725, Arts W-220

This course deals with cities and with the place of culture within urban life. Its main focus is on the ways in which various cultural forms may be seen as contributing to the “mediality” of urban life – that is, to the storing, transmission and processing of information and cultural expression. Designed for both Communications and Art History students, the course will deal with such topics as the transformation of urban facades into expressive surfaces, the cultural role of the urban night, the sensory character of cities, shifting patterns of urban media and so on. The main focus of the course will be Montreal, but we will be looking at other cities as points of comparison and dealing in a more general sense with cities and their culture.

Winter 2016

ARTH 630 (CRN 7429) Directed Reading 1 (3 credits)

Coming soon.

ARTH 647 (CRN 15146) Topics: Renaissance Art & Architecture 1: “The Experience of Art” (3 credits) Prof. Chriscinda Henry, F, 1135-1425, Arts W-220

This seminar focuses on the relationship between art and those who experienced it in late medieval and early modern Europe, with a particular focus on Italy between 1400 and 1600. Broadly conceived, it examines the sensory worlds of a variety of artistic forms including wall and panel painting, sculpture, architecture, urban geography, gardens, and banquets. Readings will address the often overlooked presence and function of sensation in Renaissance ideas and practices, investigating their link to mental imagery—for example, how artists made touch, sound, and scent palpable to the minds and bodies of their audience. Beyond that, we will focus on shifts in historical ideas and theories of representation and reception, and on new ideas about the nature of the senses—including their validity and moral coding—that were evolving throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Did these changes shape early modern notions of art, spectatorship, the self, and the artist’s process of creation? To answer these questions we will travel across a range of somatic experiences: sacred and secular, rural and urban, public and private, indoor and outdoor, elite and common, affirmative and repulsive. Important modern approaches to the history and anthropology of art and the senses (Belting, Gell, Pallasmaa), and to visuality and reception (Baxandall, Freedberg, Van Eck), will form a crucial component of the course.

I. Weekly Responses, Participation, and Discussion Leadership: 30%
II. MBAM Presentations: 10% 
III. Final Research Project: 60%

ARTH 678 (CRN 13915) Topics: 19th Century Art & Architecture 2 (3 credits) Prof. Charmaine Nelson, M, 1135-1425, Arts W-220

Although art historians have been slower to come to the post-colonial/anti-racist “table,” the Visual Culture of Slavery has developed into a vibrant critical field which bridges an overarching critique of imperialism and colonialism with a persistent attention to the nature of the art and visual culture that was born within the context of slavery. This class will examine the scholarship from some of the field’s most prolific writers through an organization, which will focus on certain significant themes and issues. The course will examine the nature of slavery, race, and racism within a European imperial context through the analysis of various types, styles, and genres of art. The regional focus will encompass Europe, North and South America, and the Caribbean.

Course Assignments
Participation: 15%
Short Essay: 10%
Archival Presentations: 15%
Book Review: 20%
Seminar Presentation: 15%
Final Paper: 25%

ARTH 699 (CRN 14533) Thesis Research 2 (12 credits)

Coming soon.

ARTH 701 (CRN 2935) Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam (0 credits) Instructor’s Approval Required

Coming soon.

ARTH 714 (CRN 14814) Directed Readings 2 (3 credits)

Coming soon.