Graduate Courses in Art History 2023-2024

On this page: Fall 2023 | Winter 2024

Please note that room locations and schedules are subject to change and all details should be confirmed before the start of the class.

Fall 2023

ARTH 501 (CRN 1333)
Advanced Topics in Art History and Visual Culture (3 credits)

Prof. Jeehee Hong
Tuesdays, 11:35 am-2:25 pm
ARTS 385

The era of the pandemic has exposed our obsession and frustration with the face. The face has always occupied the center of social engagement, virtual and real, constantly re-inscribing the negotiation between the self and that self’s image. While we live in a culture where the authenticity and expressiveness of the face—real and represented alike—is generally celebrated, not all cultures share (or have shared) the currency of the ideal faciality. How might we understand different forms of such negotiation in the culture where representation of explicit emotional expressions — the faces that smile, frown, or cry — is largely shunned? What could the very negotiation tell us about social, cultural, religious, or political milieu of that society? This seminar draws on historical and conceptual dimensions of how such “making” of faces was interwoven with the lives of the people in premodern China, beyond its seeming role as a simple sign of their inner, emotional interests. Underlying such interests were certain attitudes toward defining, making, and remaking of boundaries that derived from the shifting landscape of social classes, religious beliefs, as well as of image making itself. Focusing on linkages between the represented facial expressions and senses of boundary making, the seminar explores a set of often contrasting subjects through distinctive modes of representation. Each mode reveals particular practices of seeing revolving around various sites of social and religious encounters, ranging from spaces of commemoration or worship (such as monastery or tombs), through street corners (shared by commoners and literati alike, or selectively shared with women and foreigners), to the expanded world (shared by humans and animals). 

Note: Cross-listed with EAST 503.

PDF icon ARTH 501/EAST 503 Course Outline

ARTH 600 (CRN 1334)
Advanced Professional Seminar (3 credits)

Prof. Chanon Kenji Praepipatmongkol
Tuesdays, 11:35 am-2:25 pm

This graduate seminar takes aim at the often-unarticulated grounds of comparison that underpin the precipitous rise of "global art history" in recent decades. Together, we will examine claims to the novelty and utility of recent approaches to the study of relationality, connectivity, and difference. Discussions will consider art historical methods and case studies alongside debates in comparative literature, comparative history, and area studies.

ARTH 645 (CRN 1336)
Medieval Art and Archaeology (3 credits)
Threaded Worlds: Medieval Textiles and Modern Collections

Prof. Cecily Hilsdale
Wednesdays, 11:35 am-2:25 pm
ARTS W-220

medieval artSilk was the diplomatic gift par excellence in the medieval Mediterranean. It offered the maximum advantage for long-distance diplomacy: easily transported, lightweight and flexible, silk bore the highest economic value, sometimes equivalent to specie. Its circulation was heavily regulated, with harsh punishments for silk workers who strayed beyond the prescribed confines of guild systems. Beyond economics and diplomacy, silk and other sumptuous textiles fundamentally index the body and its spatial environments as adornment. Silk garments proclaimed status for their wearers, offering a finely calibrated visual coding for court cultures; they also were used to wrap the most sacred bodies in churches, both as funerary dress for entombed bishops and as the lining of reliquaries for the relics of saints. Fabric hangings also offered the possibility of portable monumentality and flexible architecture, serving as adornment for altars or means to divide church space, or as tents for rulers on battlefields or brides in transit to new lands.

Today most museums hold fragments of these threaded worlds, many collected by wealthy industrialists and dealers in the nineteenth century. Because there is little evidence of provenance or origin, many textile collections remain unpublished or poorly documented; and because of their delicate state of conservation, many fragments remain in museum storage, rarely if ever seen by visitors. This seminar will be anchored by one particularly rich collection of fragments in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which is planning to exhibit some of its textiles for the first time. The museum houses over 700 pre-modern fragments of Byzantine, Andalusi, Safavid, Seljuk, Coptic, and Ottoman textiles. This diverse corpus offers a singular opportunity for original research. To aid this endeavour, the seminar, in addition to historical contextualization, will address theoretically-inflected scholarship on such themes as portability, materiality and materialism, speculation, fragmentation, translation and pre-modern globalism.

While a background in medieval art or textiles is not required for the seminar, an openness to original and in-depth research is necessary. One key aim of the seminar is to build provisional histories for fragments that have been profoundly decontextualized and out of sight. Final research projects will be based on textiles in the museum. With student permission, research results may be shared with the curatorial team of the museum to start populating the object files.

PDF icon ARTH 645 Course Outline

ARTH 675 (CRN 1337)
Topics: 19th-Century Art and Architecture 1 (3 credits)
Temporal Conflicts: The Body and Time in the Age of Impressionism

Prof. Mary Hunter
Mondays, 11:35 am-2:25 pm

A man standing on his hands from a lying down position, with each image depicting a moment in the process. hotogravure after Eadweard Muybridge, 1887Nineteenth-century France is often characterized as an era of rapid change and speed. Historians have focused on the hurried pace of modern life, the quick succession of technological advances, the hustle of capitalist economies, and the ‘sketchy’ look of modern paintings. This seminar will explore modern speed but will also read against the grain of these histories by examining the co-existence of slow temporal modes, such as waiting. While waiting’s sluggish temporality may seem antithetical to the speed that has come to typify late nineteenth-century French culture – and art in particular –, this class will explore how slowness and deceleration were also key components of modern life: modernity’s speed was felt, rationalized and understood through its relationship with slow time.

This seminar will focus on the intersections between identity and temporality in later nineteenth-century France. By studying various historical, philosophical and artistic conceptions of time and temporality, we will explore how time alters, constructs and affects identities, and vice versa. In particular, the class will:

  • Consider the temporality of media and materials – paint, pastel, plaster, photography, wax, film and the human body.
  • Question histories that privilege speed and rapidity in their understanding of modernity and modern art.
  • Correlate the implementation of measured time in various sectors – government, art, medicine, industry, finance – with cultural fears and fascinations about waiting, slowness and speed.
  • Trace the emergence of new spaces, materials and representations of temporality (both fast and slow) to technological and medical innovations.
  • Explore the construction and emergence of ‘modern types’.
  • Reflect upon the crucial role of sex, race, class, age, gender and geopolitics in experiences and representations of modern time, particularly in light of French colonialism and emerging global concerns.

In many classes, we will explore artworks, technologies and texts from the present day so that we can re-think our own understandings of time, self and society.

ARTH 725 (CRN 1342)
Methods in Art History 1 (3 credits)

Prof. Gloria Bell
Tuesdays, 2:35 pm-5:25 pm

Critical examination of art historical methods.

Winter 2024

ARTH 501 (CRN 7469)
Advanced Topics in Art and Visual Culture
Art, Activism and the Aesthetics of Resistance

Prof. Reilley Bishop-Stall
Thursdays, 2:35 am-5:25 pm
ARTS W-220

This course will examine the longstanding relationship between art, activism, aesthetics and resistance. Art and activism have long been intertwined and the introduction of the Internet and the rise of social media have radically altered activism and, by extension, activist art. This course will investigate the impact of changing technologies and social structures on protest movements, community mobilization, and social justice campaigns by looking specifically at their accompanying art and imagery. Although the course has a fairly contemporary focus, many of the events and artworks covered will be historically contextualized and examined in relation to prior events and representational histories. We will consider the aesthetics of defiance and resistance even before the development of any notion of “activism” as we understand it today as a way of interrogating reductive and established narratives of power and victimization, noting that collective action, resistance and resilience is future oriented and rooted in imagination. In addition to the art and information produced by activists and allies this course will also investigate the representation and framing of protest movements and social justice initiatives in the media and the popular imaginary.

This course will consist of weekly thematic group discussions as well as close engagement with current exhibitions and local events. Together we will visit the exhibitions Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and Wampum: Beads of Diplomacy at the McCord Stewart Museum. We will also interact with Montreal’s vibrant street art scene and remain attentive to activist interventions that arise during the course of the semester. Student participation and collaboration is necessary for the success of this seminar.

ARTH 502 (CRN 1203)
Advanced Topics in Art and Architectural History (3 credits)

Prof. Matthew C. Hunter and Prof. Alex Blue V
Wednesdays, 11:35 am-2:25 pm
ARTS W-220

Focused investigation of a special topic in the history of art and architecture.

Note: Cross-listed with COMS 500.

ARTH 647 (CRN 1205)
Topics: Renaissance Art and Architecture 1 (3 credits)
The Premodern Body

Prof. Chriscinda Henry
Fridays, 11:35 am-2:25 pm
FERR 230

anatomical drawing of a hand dating to 1585. a cross section of a hand reveals a mechnical mechanism. image from Lane Medical Library, Stanford University School of MedicineThis seminar explores conceptions and figurations of the human body in medieval and early modern Europe. The aim is for participants to explore and capture multiple facets of the body as conceptualized, imaged, experienced, treated, and manipulated by historical actors. Beyond the impact of ancient philosophy and major theoretical works written by twentieth-century social theorists and historians (Norbert Elias’ The Civilizing Process; Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World; Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality; Pierre Bourdieu’s The Logic of Practice), the physical body and tropes of the body lie at the heart of much important work in medieval and early modern studies, including art and architectural history since the late 1980s. Understanding and representing the human body in all its manifestations and conditions—physical, spiritual, and metaphorical—were major foci of attention, exploration, and debate between 1300 and 1700, as they are again now. Yet, as Jonathan Sawday first noted in The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (1995), “in essence, we have lacked a history of the creation of the body as a cultural field of inquiry in the European Renaissance.” This seminar attempts a selective survey of that history as examined in the past thirty years including recent turns to materialist and sensory studies approaches.

ARTH 653 (CRN 1206)
Topics: Early Modern Visual Culture 1 (3 credits)
Making Worlds: Global Mobility, Invention, and Catastrophe in the early modern period

Prof. Angela Vanhaelen
Wednesdays, 11:35 am-2:25 pm
LEA 927

Making Worlds book cover featuring a little dog and a group of priests, on a gold-yellow backgroundThis seminar assesses the intersections of global mobility, planetary crisis, and artistic invention before the advent of the modern era (ca 1492-1700). We will investigate how the escalation of global capitalism, colonization, extraction, and exploitation generated innovative forms of art that were simultaneously creative and destructive. The focus of the class will be on worldmaking and the role of visual imagery, built environments, and material culture that advanced new understandings of the world as a human-made invention. We will take up questions raised by decolonial, anti-racist, and ecocritical approaches to art and art history and be attentive to conflicting and oppositional worldviews.

Potential research topics include (but are not limited to):

· in-between spaces: the sea, gardens, plantations, ports, markets, coastal areas, ships, menageries, curiosity collections, utopias, heterotopias

· extraction: mining, quarrying, fishing, logging, hunting, monocropping

· labour: practices of enslavement and exploitation, colonialism and anticolonialism, patronage systems, resistance, opposition, and rebellion

· Indigenous knowledges and lifeways

· visual and material forms that embody, employ, or contribute to transformation, degradation and/or renewal

· phenomena that challenge human experience: mountains, waterfalls, ice, caves, storms, forests, rainbows, earthquakes, etc., and aesthetic responses (wonder, horror, the sublime)

· tools, processes, technologies, media, and systems of managing, transforming, collecting, and classifying materials, animals, plants, artifacts, and ‘curiosities’

· transportation, transplantation, and commodification: people, animals, insects, birds, trees, plants, waters, minerals, rocks, soil, etc.

PDF icon ARTH 653 Course Outline

On this page: Fall 2023 | Winter 2024
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