Courses and Requirements
The goal of Hamilton’s Art History Department is to educate students in visual literacy. We seek to both familiarize students with the historical and theoretical concerns that have shaped the creation, circulation, and reception of visual art over time, and to foster a critical understanding of the strategies of production and display that govern the experience of images in contemporary society.
A minor in art history consists of any five courses in art history.
The Senior Project in art history includes an extensive research project completed in the context of a 400-level seminar and its oral presentation before the Department.
Students concentrating in art history will satisfy the Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies (SSIH) requirement by completing any one of the following courses: 120; 145; 152; 231; 287; 330
Honors in art history will be awarded on the basis of a cumulative average of 3.7 (90) or above in coursework toward the concentration and distinguished achievement on the Senior Project.
Introduction to Art History.
Introduction to Art History pursues three objectives: 1) to provide a historical and contextual understanding of the production, reception, and circulation of art since 1450; 2) to introduce students to the discipline of art history and the various methods and approaches that scholars use to interrogate the significance of works of art; and 3) to begin to develop students’ visual literacy so they may navigate their own visual environment from a critically informed perspective. Not open to seniors. Jarosi, Susan.
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.
Sacred Art of South Asia.
An introduction to the sacred art and architecture of South Asia. We will examine the development of aniconic and iconic representations of the divine, the emergence and evolution of sacred architecture, and continuities and transformations in art and in architectural style, spanning two millennia and across religions. Students will gain an understanding of the historical patronage, artistic agency, and diverse material expression of religion throughout the region. Menon.
Introduction to Visual Studies.
Our world is saturated by images, from the screens that surround us to retinal projection, yet most of us struggle to interpret what we see. We are immersed in visual technologies that shape our behavior, from computer games to AR, yet few of us know how such technologies are created. The course introduces students to a critical examination of images both by tracing current visual technologies to their historical origins and by working with emerging technologies to produce such applied examples as: logo design, digital mapping, and 3-D modeling within the context of a Digital Studio component. (Proseminar.) (Same as Cinema and Media Studies 130.) Maximum enrollment, 16. James Bloom.
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.
“Art into Industry”: German Bauhaus 1919-1933.
Investigation of the Bauhaus from its origins in WWI to its 1933 shutdown by the Nazis. Examination of the relationship between art and technology, along with the social and political implications of modern design. Topics include the Bauhaus’ interdisciplinary and experimental approach, its position within larger intellectual debates of early twentieth-century Germany, and its impact on modern art and design across the world. Conducted in English; no German required. (Same as German Studies 147.) Schweiger.
Intersections in Global Art.
In this course we will look closely at 32 objects (roughly one per day) that embody significant intersections among different cultures and/or periods. The objects range from a prehistoric African axe to contemporary street art in Athens, Greece. We will be learning about how to look at works of art and how to effectively express our thoughts about them in spoken and written words. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar). Open to first- and second-year students only. Maximum enrollment, 16. McEnroe. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) Open to first- and second-year students only. Maximum enrollment, 16. McEnroe.
: Architecture and Politics.
An introduction to the study of architecture and the ways in which it creates, reinforces, or disrupts political, socioeconomic, and religious hierarchies. Topics include nationalism, colonialism, destruction, exclusion, and discipline. Major assignments in this speaking-intensive seminar include substantial case study presentations, campus architecture tour, and a willingness to engage in mock-debates on controversial issues. (Speaking-Intensive.) (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Lo.
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.
Copies, Forgeries, and Fakes.
The class examines our obsession with originality by focusing upon what may be understood as its opposite: the copy. Copies play a pivotal part in the history of art, from Roman copies of Greek sculptures to the role of copying in artists’ training to reproductive art forms such as prints and photographs that are, in effect, “copies.” Closely related to the concept of the copy are forgeries and fakes, which present themselves as “originals” yet destabilize the very foundations of the term. Ultimately, the class addresses how we establish notions of artistic value by looking at the overlooked. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
Architecture in History.
This introductory course is both a survey and a thematic approach to learning about the built environment from prehistory to the 18th century. Students will gain historical and contextual understanding of architecture and urbanism, theories and historiographical approaches to the study of the built environment, and develop visual literacy of formal and aesthetic expressions. Emphasis is on global exchange and connections across time and geography. Not open to seniors. Lo.
Visual Storytelling & Digital Methods.
This project-based course teaches students to combine current digital technologies with traditional archival research to visualize historical narratives. Using a survey of the visual strategies artists have used to tell stories – from cave art to cinema, from continuous narrative to graphic novels – as a historical backdrop, students will learn how images communicate narrative content, and how to distinguish modalities of visual storytelling from oral or textual accounts. Collaborative group work is fundamental to this class. . Maximum enrollment, 16. Bloom.
This course introduces students to the history of documentary photography by looking at key moments when the camera has been used to shed light on social injustices and argue for systemic change. We will explore photography’s evidentiary status and unpack the aesthetics and emotional appeal of documentary photographs. Students will gain experience speaking and writing about single images, image-text relationships, and large-scale documentary projects through working with digital collections of documentary photographs. (Speaking-Intensive.) Maximum enrollment, Other. Nadya Bair.
The Social Life of Prints.
The array of functions exhibited by printed works in Western visual culture is remarkable: prints served, among other things, as a form of mass communication; as scientific records of the natural world; and as an affordable imitation of paintings. More broadly, prints stimulated the visual and critical skills necessary to negotiate cultures that were increasingly saturated by images. As such, particular attention will be paid to the technologies of the print medium, to the relationships between making and meaning, and to the critical value of prints for the interpretation of images in general. Maximum enrollment, 16. James Bloom.
Painting in South Asia.
This course explores the history of painting in South Asia from prehistory to the present. We will examine a range of painting traditions, including the murals of rock-cut Buddhist shelters and Hindu temples, narrative paintings in sacred texts, the art of storytelling in miniature manuscripts and royal court painting, and painting in the colonial and postcolonial periods. Students will learn to identify, analyze, and historically situate paintings from diverse regions, and of styles, schools, and spaces, both secular and sacred. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Menon.
Sites of Divine Encounter.
How did Christians, Jews, and others in antiquity imagine God/gods were active in their lives? What is the relationship between space and this divine-human encounter? This site-based class will consider these questions through attention to ancient texts and material culture, studying divine-human interaction at sites where it was thought to occur and the practices that facilitated it. We will explore, for example, a sacred tree in Athens, healing sanctuaries in Asia Minor, ancient city acropoleis, the earliest Christian churches, and underground temples to chthonic gods. (Same as Religious Studies 221 and Classics 221.) Sarah Griffis.
City Senses: Urbanism Beyond Visual Spectacle.
Architecture and urbanism provide multisensory experiences of space that don’t necessarily privilege visual perception. This course explores alternative approaches to design and an understanding of the built environment through explorations of all the senses. We will read philosophical ideologies from different disciplines and the history and historiography of the senses across time and place. Through the identification of non-visual sensory markers (e.g. sounds of bells, smells of food, feelings of light and shade) found on campus, we will create a digital exhibition of interactive maps. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Ruth Lo.
The Portrait from Pharaoh to Facebook.
The course is both a chronological study of portraiture and an exploration of the complex strategies by which individuals and groups have deployed visual forms to construct representations of their identities. We will explore the myriad purposes to which such representations have been put, including tomb effigies and commemoration, state-certified identification, mug shots, and the digital construction of self. Ultimately, we will try to better understand the power and persistence of the portrait genre, from self-portraits to wax seals, from selfies to statues, and from pharaoh to Facebook. James Bloom.
Art & Feminism.
This course examines the ways feminist ideas have challenged us to re-think art & art history, both past & present, particularly with respect to feminism’s mandate to consider race, class, sexuality, and other aspects of social location alongside the interrogation of gender. Thematic concerns include the institutions & structural conditions within which marginalized artists have worked and continue to work; the challenges of representation & self-representation that black/queer/female artists encounter; and the innovative forms of feminist art & activism that have shaped culture more broadly (Same as Women's and Gender Studies 231.) Susan Jarosi.
Why do visual artists write? What purposes do their writings serve? The course considers these questions in both historical and current artistic contexts. Beginning with early twentieth-century manifestos and extending to artists’ statements, correspondence, and interviews, it examines the vast literature in which artists have discussed their intentions and values and have elaborated, theorized, and contextualized their own work. It also considers language-based conceptual art, where text is presented as the “art object” and experimental forms of artists’ writings that resist categorization. Prerequisite, One 200-level course in Art History.
What, exactly, defines installation art? This course investigates the historical, cultural, and disciplinary circumstances through which what we now call "installation art" came to be the defining medium of late-twentieth and twenty-first century artistic production. Susan Jarosi.
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.
Paths to Enlightenment: The Art and Architecture of Buddhism.
This course examines Buddhist art from its rise and development in India to its transmission and transformation across Asia. Particular attention is given to the continuities and discontinuities within this multifaceted tradition of artistic practice as it adapts to and evolves within different cultures and their indigenous belief systems and artistic practices. At the center of this inquiry is a fundamental question: How may we understand the distinguishing features of Buddhist works of art as the culturally specific expression of both artistic and religious values? (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 18.
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.
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.
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, 18. McEnroe.
Art of the Islamic World.
Begins with the emergence of Islam in the 7th century and continues to the present. Emphasis will be on how early Islamic art and architecture drew on Classical, Sassanian, and Byzantine forms; the development of Islamic art in response to the religion’s spread into Asia, Africa, and Europe; comparisons of sacred and secular space; developments in art and architecture associated with various dynasties (Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Ottoman, and Mughal, among others); and perceptions of religious outsiders within Islamic culture as well as perceptions of Islam by religious outsiders
Economic Histories of Art.
Economic Histories of the Arts explores the implications of considering art through the lens of economic history. It shifts the focus to looking at art as a commodity, rather than the product of individual creative expression – as things that are bought and traded, sold and re-sold. The course pursues these topics both chronologically and thematically: examining modes of production; art markets and valuation; and the roles of artists, patrons, dealers, and collectors from the fifteenth century to the present. (Speaking-Intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
Art in Renaissance Italy.
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.
Northern Renaissance Art.
This course explores the distinctive ways in which art was crafted and consumed in northern Europe during the age of Renaissance and Reformation. We will examine paintings and prints, propaganda and princely splendor, and carved altarpieces and ceremonial armor against the backdrop of both city and court, while considering issues of religious function, social use, and the economic history of the arts. The course also fosters a critical awareness of the methods of art history by drawing attention to scholarship on Northern art that has, in many ways, laid the foundations for modernity.
Art and Social Change.
“Art and Social Change” explores the history of artistic production as political activism. From the early efforts of painters and sculptors in the nineteenth century to more recent developments in experimental media – ranging from performance art, street art, and institutional critique to documentary studies and even activism itself – artists have offered not only social critique but also attempted direct political intervention. Whether addressed to issues of race, class, gender, environmentalism, or globalization, this course grapples with art’s ability to affect social change. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
This seminar examines visual constructions of Otherness across a wide array of cultures. Otherness comprises categories of identity defined not only by race, religion, gender, class, and ethnicity, but also through the identification of immigrants, foreigners, and outsiders. Picturing Otherness, then, while universal in practice, is nonetheless heterogeneous in expression. The course seeks to discover what we can learn by considering myriad examples of Otherness in both art and visual culture as a coherent set of strategies used to forge concepts of the self and the group. (Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies.) (Speaking-Intensive.) Prerequisite, Permission of the instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Bloom.
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.
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.)
This course surveys architecture from late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. We will interrogate the idea of ‘modernity’ and its dissemination through analyses of global projects and their associated theoretical concepts. The emphasis will be on the impact of historical forces such as industrialization, colonialism, nationalism, capitalism, and globalization on aesthetic and formal developments. We will also address persistent concerns in architectural history: excessive focus on male designers and Western exemplars, the impact on race and gender, and the exploitation of the environment. Ruth Lo.
History of Performance Art.
History of Performance Art investigates the international developments in performance art after 1950. It considers the experimental strategies and ideological aims of visual artists who used their bodies as the primary vehicle of expression, information, communication, and social change. Performance art has had the distinction of being the most censored art form, a highly significant social fact that draws attention to its particularly disruptive aesthetic codes and materials – emphasizing presentation over representation; human bodies over inanimate objects; and temporality over spatiality. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Susan Jarosi.
Global Contemporary Art.
Global Contemporary Art surveys the expanding definitions, contexts, and forms of art in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries, paying particular attention to the significance of artistic agency, artists’ writings, globalization, the art market, and political engagement and social transformation. Susan Jarosi.
Avant Garde: 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.) MacDonald.
Architecture and the Environment.
This course examines architecture’s historical relationship with the environment by engaging with broad Anthropocene questions. We will trace changing conceptions of "nature" through the study of the co-production of architecture and the environment, and the ways in which designers continually reconceive the human-nature relationship. Topics include colonial land management, materiality, infrastructure and resource extraction (eg. Erie Canal, dams, solar farms), waste, architecture of logistics (eg. Walmart and Amazon), eco-cities and sustainable urbanism, and landscapes of food production. (Same as Environmental Studies 302.) Maximum enrollment, 12. Ruth Lo.
Architecture and Race.
This course explores the intersections of race, racial theory, and architecture from the eighteenth century to the present. We will focus primarily on the construction of race in the material, discursive, and experiential aspects of the built environment by deconstructing the canon from within. Topics include racialized spatial practices such as designing, zoning, extracting, occupying, and memorializing. Students will connect theory and history to present-day social problems through a digital final project that analyzes the relationship between architecture and race in the Utica area. (Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies.) Restricted to Juniors and Seniors Maximum enrollment, 12. Lo.
African Americans in American Cinema.
CNMS 305: African Americans and American Cinema Exploration of the history of cinema produced by African Americans and the representation of African Americans in cinema. Topics include early cinema, D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation; Oscar Micheaux and the “race films” of the 1920s-1940s; early jazz films; Richard Wright’s Native Son as novel and films; radical 1960s-1970s experiments by William Greaves, Melvin Van Peebles, and the “LA Rebellion”; Daughters of the Dust; Spike Lee, and Marlon Riggs. Course hosts visits by accomplished filmmakers and scholars. (Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies.) Scott MacDonald.
Art of Devotion: Visual and Material Culture of Islam.
What is the relationship between aesthetics, material culture, and religious experience? In this course we explore this question by examining the aesthetic traditions of Islam, focusing on how Muslims have used literature, visual art, musical performance, and architecture as modes of religious expression and creativity. Through studying aesthetics and devotion in the Islamic tradition, we will reflect on questions of cultural appropriation and reuse, politics of representation, and the global circulation of objects, peoples, and capital. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one 200-level course in Asian Studies, History, or Religious Studies. (Same as Religious Studies 329 and Asian Studies 329 and History 329.) Maximum enrollment, 12. Usman Hamid.
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, 18. McEnroe.
Chinese Visual Culture, 1850-Present: From Modernization to Globalization.
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, 18.
Representing Trauma in the Visual Arts.
How have conceptualizations of trauma evolved since 1945? What are the therapeutic and social consequences of representing trauma? How has visual art advanced our understanding of traumatic subjectivity, experience, and memory? This interdisciplinary course follows a historical trajectory from the most profound of collective traumas, the Holocaust, to the refinement of clinical definitions of trauma following the Vietnam War, to the advent of trauma studies in the 1990s, to the recent “pictorial turn” in scholarship on trauma as a means to examine the dynamics of trauma & its representation. Prerequisite, One 300-level course in the humanities or social sciences. Maximum enrollment, 12. Susan Jarosi.
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. Prerequisite, ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 120; or ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 290; or ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 301; or permission of the instructor. (Same as Cinema and Media Studies 365.) MacDonald.
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. Rodriguez-Plate.
Senior Seminar in Global Contemporary Art.
Examination of art historical topics addressed to global art since 1960. Includes the development of the Senior Project, from topic selection and bibliography development to reviews of research skills and conceptual and theoretical frameworks resulting in a final essay or project formally presented before the Department. Open to senior concentrators only, or by consent of the instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Susan Jarosi.
Senior Seminar in Art History.
Examination of selected topics in Art History culminating in the Senior Project. Topics vary according to interests of students. Includes the development of the Senior Project, from topic selection and bibliography development to reviews of research skills and conceptual and theoretical frameworks resulting in a final essay or project formally presented before the Department. Open to senior concentrators only, or by consent of the instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Bloom. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, Four courses in Art History. Maximum enrollment, 12. Bloom.
(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)