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Courses and Requirements

The goal of Hamilton's Art History Department is to introduce students to the rich cultural and historical contexts in which art is created and experienced through courses that cover a range of periods, cultures and critical approaches.

A concentration in art history consists of nine art history courses and at least one course in studio art. The nine art history courses must include 245, 248, 254 or 258; 282; 285; 292 or 293; 330 (beginning with the Class of 2016); three electives; and 401, 406, 490 or 491 to be taken during the senior year. A second course in studio art or a second 300-level course may be counted as one of the electives.

A minor in art history consists of five courses in art history, including at least one pre-modern or Asian course.

The Senior Project in art history includes an extensive research paper prepared in connection with the senior-year seminar and its oral presentation before the Department.

Beginning with the Class of 2020, students concentrating in Art History will satisfy the Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies (SSIH) requirement by completing coursework in any one of the following courses: Art History 120 (Introduction to the History and Theory of Film), 259 (Defining American Art), 330 (Theory and Methods in Art History), or 350 (Gender Issues in Art History). While all Art History courses engage with issues of hierarchies and bias, the courses listed above most directly address those constructed on the bases of racial, gender, ethnic, class and geographic biases.

Honors in art history will be awarded on the basis of a cumulative average of 3.3 (88) or above in coursework toward the concentration and distinguished achievement on the Senior Project.

Students planning to apply for graduate studies in the history of art are advised to acquire or consolidate a fluency in two foreign languages. Students interested in preparing for a professional school of architecture should consult with the Chair as early as possible.

120F Introduction to the History and Theory of Film.
A general introduction to the wide world of cinema and cinema studies, focusing on crucial films from many cinematic traditions. Topics include the evolution of film from earlier forms of motion picture, the articulation and exploitation of a narrative language for cinema, the development of typical commercial genres, and the appearance of a variety of forms of critical cinema. Focuses on basic film terminology, with the cinematic apparatus and ongoing theoretical conversation about cinema and its audience. (Same as Literature and Creative Writing 120 and Cinema and Media Studies 120.) MacDonald.

[145] Differencing the Visible: Perspectives on African-American Art and the Black Historical Experience.
Traces the cultural achievements and struggles of African-American artists, both men and women, to make a people and a world they had known visible, and to be true to those who were misrepresented or erased entirely from the visibility of American history. The goals of the course are to foster an historical memory, intuitive empathy, and responsive understanding of the works of African-American artists, in the context of the societal and historical circumstances in which they were produced. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16.

152F,S Proseminar in Art History.
A writing-intensive course designed to introduce students to ways of critically evaluating differing viewpoints on the meaning and social significance of art. Writing assignments provide opportunities to engage students in a critical examination of the power of images to promote certain social values and to shape viewers'' understanding of themselves, their relations to others, and to the world around them. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) Open to first- and second-year students only. Maximum enrollment, 16. McEnroe and Pokinski.

153F,S Proseminar in Architectural History: Architecture as Political Communication.
An introduction to the study of architecture focusing on the ways in which architectural monuments create, reinforce, or disrupt political, socioeconomic, and religious hierarchies. Emphasizing architecture in the Western tradition, we will begin with the first major monuments in the ancient Near East and finish with the role of architecture in contemporary politics. Class time will emphasize discussion and examination of buildings around Hamilton’s campus. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Ferguson, B.

154F Arts and Cultures of Asia.
An introduction to the traditional arts of India, China and Japan. Discussion focusing on the cultural and aesthetic values, religio-philosophical beliefs and historical conditions informing the practice of art and its reception within these cultures. Goldberg.

[245S] Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic Arts of India.
An introduction to Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic traditions of art and architecture in India, as well as the art and architecture of the colonial and post-colonial periods.

254F Courtier, Samurai, Priest and Chonin: The Arts of Japan.
A historical examination of the social and aesthetic values and sensibilities expressed in the indigenous arts associated with the court aristocracy, samurai warrior, Zen priest and chonin or townsman. Japanese material culture, including painting, calligraphy, sculpture, architecture, gardens, kimono, ceramics and the tea ceremony. Goldberg.

257F The World of Spanish Art: From the Alhambra to Guernica.
Intensive study of the artistic production of Spain, as reflected in the most significant expressions of architecture, painting and sculpture, along with the cultural and historical context in which these works were created. To be included, among others: Moorish, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassic and Modernist styles (in architecture); El Greco, Velázquez, Zurbarán, Ribera, Murillo, Goya, Sorolla, Picasso and Dalí (in painting); and Vasco de la Zarza, Bigarny, Diego de Siloé, Juni, Montanás, Cano, Mena, Berruguete (in sculpture). Prerequisite, 200, 201 or consent of instructor. Taught in Spanish (Fall 2017) (Same as Hispanic Studies 257.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Medina, J.

258F Political Power and Cultural Authority: The Arts of China.
Historical examination of the ethico-aesthetic, religio-philosophical and socio-political values expressed in the indigenous arts associated with the imperial court, the scholar's studio, the marketplace and the subtle art of dissent. Chinese material culture, including painting, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, jade, ritual bronzes, architecture and silk robes. Goldberg.

259F Defining American Art.
The role of art and its development in the United States between 1800 and 1950. Topics include the effects of the colonial experience, the search for a national identity, expressions of race, class and gender, the sense of inferiority in relation to European art, popular and vernacular art forms, and debates over public support of the arts. Prerequisite, one course in art history, American history, American literature or American studies. Pokinski.

[261S] Art of Ancient Greece and Rome.
An examination of Mediterranean art from the Bronze Age through the Roman Empire. Special emphasis on the archaeological discovery and reshaping of ancient art by later scholars and the concept of the “classical.” (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one course in art history or classics. (Same as Classics 261.) Maximum enrollment, 20.

262S Greece, Rome, and the Mediterranean.
Traditionally we have studied ancient Greece and Rome in isolation from the surrounding world, as places that shaped the beginnings of “western” civilization. This course takes a broader view. We shall explore the ancient Mediterranean as a place of dynamic interaction from the Levant though Egypt, North Africa, Greece, Italy, and the islands in between. Far from standing in isolation, the arts of ancient Greece and Rome participated in these transnational cultural networks. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as Classics 262.) Maximum enrollment, 20. McEnroe.

[266S] Art of the Islamic World.
The Near and Middle Eastern origins, the classical inheritance, and the Eastern and Western diffusion of Islamic civilization. Prerequisite, Art History 150 or one 200-level art history course.

270F Medieval Art and Architecture.
Examines the arts of Europe and the Mediterranean from the Early Christian to the Gothic periods. Major questions include: Why do these objects and buildings look the way they do? How did medieval people use and think about them? Did different types of people – monks, nuns, nobles, city dwellers – use and think about them differently? What roles did the arts play in interactions among Romans, “barbarians,” Christians, Jews, and Muslims? Our objects of study will include architecture, sculpture, paintings, mosaics, metalwork, and manuscripts. Ferguson, B.

282S Renaissance Art History.
An examination and reevaluation of Renaissance art. Topics include the relations between art and craft, the social functions of art, gender and ethnic stereotypes. McEnroe.

[283S] Global Renaissance.
Whose Renaissance? An introduction to visual and material cultures in the early era of global expansion and colonization (1450-1600). The course focuses on European relations with Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. In addition to painting, sculpture, and architecture, it includes ceramics, textiles, and maps. A series of transcultural case studies will interrogate approaches to global networks of exchange, confrontation, and conflict. Themes include: immigration, commerce, religion, and science; also definitions of center/periphery, native/foreign, and self/other. (Writing-intensive.) There is no overlap with ARTH 282; students may elect to enroll in either or both. Maximum enrollment, 20.

285F Seventeenth-Century Art.
The internationalization of Italian Renaissance classicism in the Age of Expansion, beginning with its origins in Rome and continuing with its development in the new artistic capitals of southern, western and northern Europe. Emphasis on major figures such as Caravaggio, Rubens, Bernini, Velasquez, Poussin, Vermeer and Jones. R Carter.

[286S] Art in the Age of the Enlightenment.
The 18th century in Europe and its overseas dominions seen as a watershed between a rational and an empirical attitude to nature and reality. The rococo, sentimental and picturesque/sublime traditions and their assimilation into neoclassicism. Attention given to the landscape garden and the decorative arts as well as architecture, painting and sculpture.

288F Show and Tell: Comics and Graphic Narratives.
In Reading Comics, Douglas Wolk states “The cheap way of referring to them is “comics” or “comic books”; the fancy way is “graphic novels”. Erasing these common prejudices, this class reinforces that comics is a sophisticated and complex medium that bears close affinities with art, film, and literature. This is an introductory study of comics across cultures and within global contexts—Tintin, Astro Boy, Wonder Woman, Watchmen and others—one that emphasizes visual narrative storytelling as well as the socio-political and visual trends that have shaped the powerful creative industry of comics. (Theory or Intermedia) (Same as Literature and Creative Writing 288.) N Serrano.

290F Facing Reality: A History of Documentary Cinema.
The history of cinema as representation and interpretation of "reality," focusing on nonfiction film and video from a variety of periods and geographic locales. Emphasis on the ways in which nonfiction films can subvert viewers' conventional expectations and their personal security. Forms to be discussed include the city symphony, ethnographic documentary, propaganda, nature film, direct cinema, cinéma vérité, the compilation film and personal documentary. (Same as Literature and Creative Writing 290 and Cinema and Media Studies 290.) MacDonald.

291S American Film Comedy: Classic and Modern.
An exploration and analysis of major contributions to the history of American film comedy, from its origins in slapstick to the flowering of silent physical comedy in the 1910s and 20s (performer/directors Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd); to the sophisticated comedy that dominated the early decades of sound (directors Ernst Lubitsch, George Cukor, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder); to attempts in the 1960s and 70s to rethink comedy by commercial directors and independent filmmakers working "underground" (George Kuchar, John Waters); to recent work that has built on this tradition. (Same as Cinema and Media Studies 291.) MacDonald.

[292S] Modern Architecture: 1750 to the Present.
The origins of an essentially modern attitude toward architecture during the late 18th century and its development in the 19th and 20th centuries.

293F Modernism into Contemporary Art.
Developments in European and American art from the beginnings of Modernism through the emergence of Contemporary Art. Topics include the effects of shifting social and gender roles on subject matter and audience, the hegemony of formalist aesthetics and avant-gardism, the relationship between art and popular culture, the role of the audience, and the role of art institutions. Pokinski.

[301F] Cinema as Theory and Critique.
A history of alternatives to commercial movies, focusing on surrealist and dadaist film, visual music, psychodrama, direct cinema, the film society movement, personal cinema, the New American Cinema, structuralism, Queer cinema, feminist cinema, minor cinema, recycled cinema and devotional cinema. While conventional entertainment films use the novel, the short story and the stage drama as their primary instigations, experimental and avant-garde films are analogous to music, poetry, painting, sculpture and collage. Not open to first-year students. (Same as Cinema and Media Studies 301 and Literature and Creative Writing 301.)

330F Theory and Methods in Art History.
Changing interpretations of art from the Renaissance to the present: biography, connoisseurship, formalism, iconology, feminist and postmodern theory. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one 200-level course in art history. Maximum enrollment, 20. McEnroe.

[350F] Gender Issues in Art History.
Examination of the role of gender in the production and content of art in the Western tradition. Special attention to the challenges facing women artists, the role of images in constructing and reinforcing gendered identities, the impact of feminist and gender-based scholarship. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one 200-level course in art history. Next offered Fall 2018. Maximum enrollment, 20.

352S Contemporary Chinese Art in the Global Cultural Economy.
Examines the radical transformations in Chinese visual culture in the post-Mao era (1976-present): painting and calligraphy, sculpture and photography, installation and performance art. Topics include the impact of transnational forces of cultural and economic globalization, artistic expressions of cultural identity, historical memory, personal subjectivity and voice independent of the official government line, the rise of a Chinese avant-garde movement, art after Tiananmen, and the place of contemporary Chinese art within a global perspective . (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, 154, 293 or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 20. Goldberg.

[359F] North American Architecture before the Civil War and the British North America Act.
A brief outline of architecture, planning and design in the Americas before Columbus, followed by a fuller discussion of the period of European colonization and the era of political independence. The Canadian experience will be included. Field trips to accessible sites.

[365S] Major Figures in Cinema.
Focus on crucial contributors to the wide world of cinema. The work of one, two, or three particular filmmakers, each from a different sector of the geography of cinema, will be examined in detail. Possible filmmakers include Alfred Hitchcock, James Benning, Ross McElwee, Stan Brakhage, Fritz Lang, the Coen brothers. Prerequisite, ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 120; or ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 290; or ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 301; or permission of the instructor. (Same as Literature and Creative Writing 365 and Cinema and Media Studies 365.)

371S The Gothic Cathedral: Architecture, Art, and Christian Practice in Europe, c 1140-1300.
Gothic cathedrals are among the most striking buildings in cities across Europe. We will consider these cathedrals in their political, social, economic, and religious contexts, including their beginnings within the political setting of Capetian France; their spread through Europe; how they were funded and constructed; the political functions they had; how people used and thought about them; what types of objects filled them; and what cathedrals and the artworks that decorate(d) them tell us about how later medieval Christians thought about themselves and about religious outsiders. Prerequisite, One 200-level Art History course or permission of the instructor. Ferguson.

[375S] Seminar: Religion, Art and Visual Culture.
What do the visual arts tell us about religions in ways that written texts alone cannot? How do religious practices actually train religious people to see? Such questions will begin our examination of various media (including painting, calligraphy, architecture, film, and comics) in conjunction with various religious traditions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism). Prerequisite, one course in either art history or religious studies. Required weekend field trip to New York City. (Same as Religious Studies 375.) Maximum enrollment, 12.

[406S] Seminar in Modern and Contemporary Art.
Topics in modern and contemporary art and historiography. Prerequisite, 293. Maximum enrollment, 12.

410S Topics in Art History.
Topic for Spring, 2018 is: Arts of 18th Century France. Prerequisite, Two courses in Art History at the 200 and 300-level or permission of the instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Ferguson.

[490S] Seminar: History of Design and the Decorative Arts.
Study of style and social function in the arts of design, with special emphasis on furniture and interior design. Student presentations may include such media as ceramics, glass, metalware and textiles. Visits to public and private collections. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, 285 or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.

(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)

Contact Information


Art History Department

198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
315-859-4380 315-859-4464 arthistory@hamilton.edu
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