Graduate Courses in Art History 2017-2018

Fall 2017

ARTH 600 (CRN 3400) Advanced Professional Seminar (3 credits) Prof. Angela Vanhaelen, W, 1135-1425, Arts W-220

This seminar approaches art history as a set of practices. In other words, we will focus on what art historians do. Weekly exercises and workshops are designed to offer training in the following arts: putting together and assessing grant applications, writing a compelling visual description, designing and teaching a lecture course, curating and critiquing an exhibition, delivering a conference paper, crafting an abstract, explaining your thesis with clarity and confidence. The aim of the class is practical skill building. Some weeks, we will be joined by art historians who will offer their experience.

Method of Evaluation:
Class participation 15%
Oral presentations 35%
Written work 50%

ARTH 630 (CRN 5256) Directed Reading 1 (3 credits) Advisor approval required

Advisor approval required.

ARTH 647 (CRN 23975) Topics: Renaissance Art and Architecture 1 (3 credits) Prof. Chriscinda Henry, M, 1135-1425, Arts W-5

This seminar focuses on conceptions and figurations of the human the body in late
medieval and Renaissance Europe. The aim is for participants to explore and capture
multiple facets of the “period body” as thought, imaged, experienced, treated, and
manipulated by late medieval and early modern actors. Beyond the impact of major
theoretical works written by twentieth-century social historians (e.g., Norbert Elias’ The
Civilizing Process
; Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and The History of
; Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World), the physical body and tropes of
the body lie at the heart of much important work in medieval, Renaissance, and early
modern studies, including art and architectural history since the late 1980s. More
fundamentally, understanding and representing the human body in all its manifestations
and conditions—physical, spiritual, and metaphorical—were a major focus of attention,
exploration, and debate between 1300 and 1700, as they are again now. Yet, as Jonathan
Sawday notes in The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance
, “in essence, we have lacked a history of the creation of the body as a cultural
field of enquiry in the European Renaissance.” This seminar attempts a selective survey
of that history as examined in the past 30 years and current day.

I. Weekly Responses, Participation, and Discussion Leadership: 30%
II. Research Project: 70%

ARTH 675 (CRN 23976) / PLAI 600 (24424) Topics: 19th Century Art and Architecture 1 (3 credits) Prof. Mary Hunter, T, 1035-1325, 3647 Peel Room 102

This seminar will explore how medical identities and spaces are conceptualized, represented and materialized through the intersections amongst art, architecture and medicine. By using theoretical texts, medical environments, artworks, medical iconography, buildings and rooms as starting points, this class will consider how medical spaces and identities have taken form from the nineteenth century onwards. While each class will begin with a nineteenth- or twentieth-century case study (from North America and Europe), students will be encouraged to examine medical architecture and art (broadly defined) from various historical periods and geographic locations.

This IPLAI-sponsored class will be co-taught by scholars from different disciplines: Annmarie Adams (architecture and social studies of medicine) and Mary Hunter (art history). Since this course is concerned with the histories of medicine, architecture and art, we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of interdisciplinary approaches. We will also address how methodologies and theories utilized by historians of art and architecture may help us re-think medical histories, identities and spaces.

This seminar will pair close visual analyses of images, spaces and objects with focused readings on bodies, sexualities, race, illness and health. This will allow us to look at the ways in which medical ideas were embedded in visual, textual and architectural conceptions, and vice versa.

Some of the seminars will take place at the Osler Library for the History of Medicine and the Maude Abbott Medical Museum at McGill. This will give students the opportunity to work directly with primary sources, materials and spaces.

Method of Assessment
Participation: 10%
Discussion Leader: 20%
Paper Proposal and Bibliography: 10%
Research Presentation: 20%
Research Paper: 40%

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

For the completion of thesis research.

ARTH 699 (CRN 20087) Thesis Research 2 (12 credits) Advisor approval required

Supervised independent research work on an approved topic relating to thesis preparation.

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

Compulsory examination for all doctoral candidates.

ARTH 723 (24619) / COMS 639 (24620) / EAST 515 (24010) Art Criticism 1: "Beyond Orientalism" (3 credits) Prof. Thomas Lamarre, T, Th, 1435-1555, Ferrier 230

This course introduces a number of theoretical approaches to the study of nonwestern histories, cultures, institutions, etc. There are two primary objectives: to prepare students to read and analyze contemporary scholarly theory and practice; and to examine the goals and histories of various disciplines in constructing their object of study. The aim is not merely to present some of the critical impasses of various disciplinary approaches, but more importantly to discuss alternatives.

We will discuss the reading or readings indicated in the schedule on that date, with an emphasis on analyzing these texts in terms of their aims/hypotheses, assumptions/conclusions, and modes of analysis. Students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the readings. The readings are organized around a certain problematic. At the end of each unit, a response on that unit will be due, as marked on the schedule. In general, the response will comprise five pages: one page of critical summary for each of four different readings from that unit (which will be announced), with a fifth page presenting a more general response. There will be, in total, four of these five-page responses. Students are encouraged to use the fifth page to relate the readings to a specific research project, such that, in the course the term, student can develop a critical perspective for that project. Students are welcome to write a short paper based on that project instead of the fourth response paper.

20% - Participation
80% - 4 responses, 20%


Winter 2018

ARTH 630 (CRN 7429) Directed Reading 1 (3 credits) Advisor approval required

Advisor approval required.

ARTH 646 (CRN 17209) / EAST 503 (17277) Topics: Chinese Visual Culture (3 credits) Prof. Jeehee Hong, T, 0905-1155, Ferrier 230

Borders and Boundaries in Traditional Chinese Art 

Boundary-making is one of the most fundamental ways in which humans engage with their environs. While the core workings of the boundary-making are universal in a philosophical sense, its manifestation—at both conceptual and physical levels—is configured through specific historical and cultural conditions. In the field of visual art in which the image-maker encounters her/his surroundings as a multifaceted “self” (e.g., the self as a being in the phenomenal world; the self as a creator of art; the self as an occupier of social and political orders; the self as a member of certain religious communities, etc.), the visible world is dynamically represented in response to that complexity of the artist as a boundary-maker of the world. This seminar explores various modes in which the visual art in traditional China reveal conceptions of the boundary in philosophical, social, and religious terms as negotiated through the artist’s eyes and hands. While including the mimetic aspect of the images representing borders/boundaries of the cognizable world in the familiar dualistic scheme (e.g., self vs. the other, inside vs. outside, elite vs. non-elite, mundane vs. sacred, etc.), the central theme in our inquiry will revolve around how the two sides divided by a border were visualized (as well as whether the binary scheme was always the case), and how our recognition of such modes can give us better understanding of the intersections between diverse “selves” of society in classical China.  

ARTH 660 (CRN 16872) Contemporary Art and Criticism 1: “Revisiting Bill Viola’s Video Works II" (3 credits) Prof. Christine Ross, T, 1435-1725, Arts W-220

American artist Bill Viola (1951-) is internationally recognized as one of the leading pioneers of video art. His work has been pivotal to the establishment of video as a fundamental form and media of contemporary art. For over 40 years, he has created videotapes, works for television broadcast, video performances and installations, sound environments, electronic music performances and digital video. Although his work has unfailingly addressed the spiritual themes of life, death, birth and re-birth, his early work is especially known for its exploration of human and nonhuman perception—its electronic unsettling of the viewer’s perception of the image and consciousness of time. This exploration entailed the development of innovative techniques, including: jarring edits, the clashing of scales, conflicts of sound and image, the filming of hallucinating natural phenomena, slow time, extreme slow motion, and the spatialization of screens inviting the viewer to perceive while moving in the environment. Since the mid-1990s, however, the disquieting of human perception has progressively retreated behind the spiritual and religious dimensions of art—dimensions that support contemporary art’s growing reinforcement of experiential and immersive receptions of the artwork. This seminar takes advantage of the ongoing solo exhibition of Viola’s latest works—Bill Viola: Naissance à rebours organized by DHC/ART—to revisit his oeuvre. It asks three questions: “Is there a rupture between Viola’s early and more recent video works?”; “How does his work articulate a religious turn (what does the religious turn consist in)?”; and “Does the religious turn cancel any possibilities of developing other (non-religious) readings of Viola’s latest works?” To address these questions, the seminar historicizes and examines some of the prevalent dimensions of Viola’s artistic practice: cybernetics, anti-television, expanded media, time, embodiment, phenomenology, affect and gesture, the sublime, spiritual life, immersion and elemental media. It gradually engages with recent literature on contemporary technogenesis—the idea that humans and technics coevolve—as a way to further our discussion of media perception, consciousness and nonconsciousness. 

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

Supervised independent research work on an approved topic relating to thesis preparation.

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

Compulsory examination for all doctoral candidates.

ARTH 714 (CRN 14814) Directed Readings 2 (3 credits) Advisor approval required

Directed reading.

ARTH 724 (CRN 17859) / / COMS 637 (17860) / EAST 527 (17794) Art Criticism 2 (3 credits) Prof. Thomas Lamarre, M, 1135-1425, Leacock 15

Course description coming soon.

ARTH 725 (17214) Methods in Art History 1: "Risk, Negligence, Indemnity: Art and the Actuarial Imaginary" (3 credits) Prof. Matthew Hunter, Th, 1135-1425, Arts W-220

Decisions about where art can be transported, how it can be shown, and what financial value it represents are now inseparable from calculations of insurance. But, how has insurance come to occupy such a central position as arbiter of art’s movement and display? When and where did actuaries begin assigning value to aesthetic works colloquially known as “priceless”? And how precisely should we apprehend the differences between the indemnity sold under the name of insurance from older models of protecting art and its subjects? Art history possesses few working narratives—let alone a comprehensive critical understanding—of how insurance has ramified through the visual arts and architecture on its way to literally underwriting their conditions of contemporary possibility. This graduate seminar pursues a prolegomenon to that critical history. Introducing the general problematic, we will work through a sequence of cases as we aim to build a provisional genealogy of the crossings between art, architecture, the museum and what Lauren Berlant has called the “actuarial imaginary.” This thematic focus also opens a larger methodological problem. For, insurance appears to be a matter of significant abstraction: a business of statistics, tables, populations. Where should we expect to find its impact in works of visual art? Should we be seeking to find its visible imprint on art at all? What exactly should count as evidence for insurance’s impingement on the arts? Moving with a larger drive to parse the boundaries between “theory” and “method”, the seminar highlights practical resources and expert knowledge on campus through which insurance’s evidentiary base might be used to interrogate art history’s compulsive privilege of visibility. 

Assessment in this seminar is determined by four factors:

40%) class performance (including attendance and contribution to discussion)
5%) paper prospectus 15%) in-class presentation of in-progress research paper
40%) research paper: 20-25 pages on a topic of your choice relating to the problematic of the course