ARTH 600 (CRN 3400) Advanced Professional Seminar (3 credits), Prof. Jeffrey Moser, Th, 0835-1125, Arts W-5.
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. Each session will be led by a different faculty member from AHCS and will address critical
debates in the field. 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
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:
I. 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?
II. 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 two critical essays reflecting
on departmental lectures and a final paper due December 5th. Reading and discussion in Week 6 will
also be dedicated to the practice and conceptual implications of descriptive writing.
III. 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 lead research presentations
in advance of the final paper. Student presentations are scheduled for the last two classes of the semester.
IV. Visual analysis. Sophisticated visual interpretation is a key skill that art historians bring to the
interdisciplinary table. When doing the readings, consider how the author approaches visual material. We
will also analyze images in many of our sessions.
Weekly Responses and Participation: 25%
Departmental Lecture Essays: 20% (10% each)
Grant Writing: 10%
Final Research Paper: 45% (5% proposal, 10% presentation, 30% paper)
ARTH 606 (CRN 7027) Research Paper Preparation (3 credits)
ARTH 608 (CRN 8957) Research Paper 1 (6 credits)
ARTH 609 (CRN 14699) Research Paper 2 (6 credits)
ARTH 630 (CRN 5256) Directed Reading 1 (3 credits)
ARTH 660 (CRN 17003) Contemporary Art & Criticism 1 - Perception as Something We Do III: New Materialist Approaches to Spectatorship in Contemporary Spatial Arts (3 credits), Prof. Christine Ross, T, 1135-1425, Arts W-5.
Seminar Content and Objective:
Since the late 1990s, spatial art practices—a category that has expanded to include installation art, relational interventions, new media environments, intelligent architecture, augmented reality and net localizations—have set about a significant re-articulation of the aesthetics of space. This shift is one in which artistic practices invested in the critique of space have moved away from the 1970/80s demythologization of space (the disclosure of the discursivity of specific sites) to engage with its materialization and singularization—processes that have encouraged non-dualistic connections between the spectator and the environment, as well as the spectator’s mobilization in space. The shift has been a progressive yet contrasting one. Site-specific activities emblematic of the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s concurred to problematize the notion of space as a passive receptacle of objects and subjects. This problematization took different forms. It included the Minimalist integration of the gallery space in the spectator’s perceptual experience of the art object; institutional critique; the turning of space into place; the production of counter-monuments; and the unfolding of site as what art historian Miwon Kwon, in her influential One Place after Another (2004), identified as a “discursive vector” (a vector rooted in language and context). Many of these practices shared the democratic impulse to disclose what art historian Rosalyn Deutsche, in her as equally influential Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics (1998) and exemplary analysis of Krzysztof Wodiczko’s installations, designated as the hidden conflicts and exclusions constitutive of social space. In the last two decades or so, these critical practices have not so much disappeared than been re-articulated, with varied success, in participatory practices that explore the primacy of matter—the materiality of space, objects, bodies, and beings—as a modality by which the artwork can be endowed with some form of dynamism.
The main objective of this seminar is to examine this “new materialist” shift in contemporary art and the redefinitions it has endeavored to set about—redefinitions of notions and practices of agency, perceptibility, corporeality, criticality, mediality and mediation, spatial politics, representation, and temporality. Deemphasizing the representational dimension of the artwork to reemphasize its reception; moving away from the view that to perceive an artwork is mainly to produce internal representations of it; probing the vivacity of non-human and human relationships; searching for unperceivable properties of matter; seeking to problematize the boundaries of the mind and the body: recent artistic practices engaged in new materialism partake of an interdisciplinary concern—including the disciplinary fields of philosophy, political science, science studies, media studies, feminist studies, postcolonial studies, and intellectual history—for overlooked, rediscovered and novel reconfigurations of dichotomies fundamental to Western thought: nature/culture, interiority/exteriority, body/mind, and human/non-human. To account for this shift, the seminar will investigate the relationalities set into play in these reconfigurations, examining artworks and analytical models that address the ways in which they attempt to complicate Western dichotomies: relational aesthetics; anthropomorphism; tangled thingness; animism; vibrancy; topology; intro-action; co-affectivity; the mangle of practice; autopoiesis; flowing mediation; embodied interfacing; the moving-situatedness of participants in mobile network cultures; ecology and material participation. These models will be addressed critically and historically, so as account for the ways in which they work and don’t work; the ways in which the spectator entangles with the environment but also blocks that entanglement through disengaging operations. Artists whose work will be investigated as pivotal players of new materialism include: Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau, Blast Theory, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Seiko Mikami, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Pierre Huygue, Olafur Eliasson, Thomas Hirschhorn, Mark Lewis, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Alba D’Urbano, Diller & Scofidio, Chris Marclay, Ernesto Neto, Ann Hamilton, Carsten Höller, Zeger Reyers, Jimmie Durham, Marjetica Potrč, Superflex, Natalie Jeremijenko, Francis Alÿs, Fischli & Weiss, Joachim Koester, Sadr Haghighian, and Kobe Matthys. Special emphasis will be put on phenomenologically-oriented cognitive models that aspire to explain how living beings dynamically interact with their environment through specific perceptual processes—such as the enactive model that describes perceptual experiences as tactile enactments conditioned by the body in action (by what we do) and by one’s possession of bodily skills (by what we know how to do) (Noë, 2004); the extended model that maintains that external features of the environment can become partly constitutive of cognitive activities (Clark and Chalmers, 1998); and the extensive model for which “minds are fundamentally, constitutively already world-involving” (Hutto/Myin, 2013, 137).
Overall: seminar participation ...................................................................................................................... 20%
- October 22: one-page outline of your research topic (to be submitted to all members of the seminar) ……………….…. 15%
- November 15/16: attendance at the Participatory Condition Media@McGill colloquium ........................................ 15%
- November 26/27: 20 min oral presentation discussing the subject, hypothesis & corpus of your essay ………………….. 20%
- December 6: 20-25pp essay on artwork(s) of your choice, dealing with the topic of the seminar .......................... 40%
ARTH 673 (CRN 17004) Topics: 18th Century Art & Architecture 1: "Liquid Intelligence: Thinking the Fluid Image in the Long Eighteenth Century" (3 credits), Prof. Matthew Hunter, W, 1135-1425, W-5.
In an influential essay, contemporary artist Jeff Wall has sketched a suggestive genealogy linking
chemical photography to a range of wet, atavistic processes and their modes of “liquid intelligence.”
Using Wall’s model as point of departure, this experimental seminar explores how liquid intelligence
might be expanded and deployed as a broader category of art-historical investigation. What, we will ask,
can be revealed by applying the analytical solvent of liquid intelligence to an expanded field of visual
production? How might doing so enable us to reciprocally reconsider relations between photography and
other visual media? Drawing upon a range of theoretical perspectives, novels and film, this seminar takes
its focus from visual practitioners and theorists of the early modern period and long eighteenth century
(including Cellini, Titian, Poussin, Hooke, Reynolds, Turner, Talbot, and Courbet, among others) who
engage significantly with the problematic of making and thinking liquid images. Framing our discussion
in light of historical dynamics of maritime empire, the sciences of fluids (mechanics, geology, and
chemistry among others) and shifting conceptions of liquidity itself, this seminar will aims to complement
and expand upon “Liquid Intelligence and the Aesthetics of Fluidity,” an international conference to be
held at the McCord Museum in October (see http://liquidintelligenceconference.wordpress.com/).
25%) class performance (including attendance, contribution to discussion, and any other activities assigned by the instructor)
25%) in-class presentations (of weekly readings and research)
50%) research paper: 15-20 pages on a topic of your choice relating to the problematic of the course
ARTH 675 (CRN 17005) Topics: 19th Century Art & Architecture 1: "From Adject to Uncanny: Critical Concepts in the Visual Culture of Medicine" (3 credits), Prof. Mary Hunter, Th, 1435-1725, Arts W-220.
This seminar will explore key concepts and critical terms that can help us understand the pertinent role of the visual in both artistic and medicine spheres. By using seminal theoretical texts as starting points and analytical ‘lenses’, this class will examine a wide variety of ‘medical representations’. While each class will begin with a
nineteenth-century French image or object as a case study, students will be encouraged to examine works - medical and/or artistic - from various historical periods and geographic locations. This seminar will pair close visual analyses of images and objects with focused readings on bodies, sexualities, objectivity, death, race, illness and health. This will allow us to look at the ways in which medical ideas were embedded in visual and textual representations of bodies, and also how medical iconography relied upon formal practices borrowed from the art world in order to communicate medical conceptions of sickness and health. Through an investigation of a wide assortment of images and objects from artistic and medical milieus, including wax models, painted portraits, medical photographs, advertisements, popular prints and video art, this class will examine how medical discourse infiltrated the public sphere and popular culture. Many of the seminars will take place at the Osler Library for the History of Medicine at McGill. This will give students the opportunity to work directly with primary sources and examine the materiality of medical atlases, textbooks, photographs, etc. We will discuss the ways in which artists and doctors used artistic conventions, particularly those associated with realism, in order to produce images that appeared ‘objective’ and ‘truthful’, and therefore ideal for scientific documentation. Since this course is concerned with the histories of both art and medicine, we will discuss how we can approach images as art historians, as well as the problems that we may encounter when we have to deal with two different specialized histories. By comparing and contrasting images from a variety of sources, we will consider the importance of medium specificity. We will also think through the problems and benefits of visual culture approaches.
Method of Assessment
Discussion Leader: 20%
Research Presentation: 20%
Research Paper: 50%
ARTH 678 (CRN 13948) Topics: 19th Century Art & Architecture 2: "Caribbean Art, Culture and Theory" (3 credits), Prof. Charmaine Nelson, M, 1135-1425, Arts W-5.
The modern uniqueness of the Caribbean resides in its connections to imperialism and
colonialism. The Caribbean’s extreme hybridity – “natural” and human - was forced upon
it through a process of colonization that included the extermination and forced out
migration of Natives, the forcible transplantation of Africans and waves of European and
other migration. Managing and regulating this rich and problematic diversity has
simultaneously spawned histories of racial brutality, sexual exploitation and intrusive
external representation, as well as organized resistance, trans oceanic cultural survivals,
and generations of great thinkers. This course will examine the complexity of racial
identity in the Caribbean and work comparatively between the Caribbean (Dutch, British,
French and Spanish) and other related regions of the Americas. This course combines an
exploration of Caribbean art history, history, culture, theory and thought in an effoexplore
the unique histories and legacies of a diverse and complex region.
Short Essay: 10%
Archival Presentations and Catalogue Entries: 30%
Seminar Presentation: 20%
Final Paper: 25%
ARTH 701 (CRN 3402) Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam (0 credits)
ARTH 607 (CRN 7305) Research Paper Proposal (3 credits)
ARTH 609 (CRN 8029) Research Paper 2 (6 credits)
ARTH 630 (CRN 7429) Directed Reading 1 (3 credits)
ARTH 645 (CRN 10266) Medievel Art and Archeology (3 credits) Prof. Cecily Hilsdale, T, 1735-2025, Arts W-220.
“The story of objects asserting themselves as things…is the story of a changed relation to the human subject and thus the story of how the thing really names less an object than a particular subject-object relation.”
—Bill Brown, “Thing Theory,” 4.
Drawing on Heidegger’s distinction between the object and the thing, Bill Brown’s introduction to “thing theory” casts things as fundamentally social and metonymic. This seminar responds to the tendency to look through things in order to frame historical, social, natural, or cultural contexts while only momentarily catching a glimpse of things themselves. Specifically it attempts to gain a clearer picture of things themselves in the Middle Ages. By considering the particularities of medieval things in time and over time as well as their theorization, this seminar remains acutely aware of the fine line between over-determining the context or social history (looking through things) and reductive essentialism or formalism on the other. In this way, it ultimately takes up the challenge to take medieval things seriously and the particular and historically specific subject-object relation they demand.
ARTH 647 (CRN 12752) Renaissance Art and Architecture 1 - Topic: Portraiture (3 credits) Prof. Chriscinda Henry, F, 1135-1425, Arts W-5.
Purpose of the Course:
The seminar examines portraiture as a visual and social phenomenon from Greek antiquity to contemporary North America. We will make a close examination of the foundational art-historical literature—including discussions by Alois Riegl, Edgar Wind, and Walter Benjamin—as well as explore more recent interventions in this field. Themes under discussion will include: likeness and presence; portraiture, power, and the royal body; self-fashioning and self-portrayal; portraiture and the construction of gender, class and ethnic identities; portraiture and genealogy; the conversation piece and multi-figure portraits; studio practices and portraiture; portraiture and modernism; spaces of portrayal; and the collecting and display of portraits. The course will include a group visit to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with its excellent collection of early modern and modern portraits. Participants are encouraged to focus on portraits in local collections—or other portraits they can see first-hand—for their final research projects.
ARTH 661 (CRN 12755) Contemporary Art & Criticism 2: "TBA" (3 credits) Prof. Amelia Jones, M, 1435-1725, Arts W-5.
ARTH 701 (CRN 2935) Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam (0 credits) Instructor’s Approval Required
ARTH 730 (CRN 13535) Topics: Early Modern Visual Culture 2: “Performance Theory Intensive” (3 credits), Dr. Peggy Phelan, Arts W-5 (Please click for seminar dates).
Seminar scheduled on the following days:
- Tuesday March 18, 11:35-14:25
- Wednesday March 19, 14:35-17:25
- Tuesday March 25, 11:35-14:25
- Wednesday March 26, 14:35-17:25
- Wednesday March 26, 18:35-20:25
- Tuesday April 1, 11:35-14:25
- Wednesday April 2, 14:35-17:25
This is an intensive seminar on performance theory. We will read key texts in the field together and all students will have an opportunity to select one key essay in their own field of interest and present that essay in a twenty minute talk or creative piece. (These should be low tech presentations). The schedule is as follows, but please keep in mind that all classes, except for the first one, will have one additional reading. Also be aware that for reasons that will be made clear in the seminar itself we are reading “canonical” texts in this field. I expect and encourage you to select works and to respond to this material from alternative points of departure.
All seminar participants will write a final paper of about 20-25 pages. (First year students can write about 20 pages; more advanced students can write somewhat longer papers. No papers should have ‘filler.’ I would rather read a well-argued concise paper than a fluffy meandering essay). The final paper will constitute about 65% of your grade.