Fall 2011 Graduate Seminars



ART H 001S                                                                                    Dr. William Dewey

“First-Year Seminar:                                                                        TuTh 4:15-5:30 pm

Africa and its Diasporas”


This first-year seminar examines the arts of the African Diaspora by examining the aesthetic, philosophical and religious patterns of the African descendants of South American countries such as Brazil, Surinam and Ecuador; the Caribbean countries such Haiti, Trinidad and Cuba, and the United States. Some African cultural practices and art forms will be examined for background information and to establish a comparative basis. The major emphasis will be on such topics as examining the modes of transmission of African artistry to the Americas and exploring the significance of the preservation and transformation of artistic forms from the period of slavery to the present. Emphasis will be placed on the full range of art forms, including the sculptural and performance traditions as well as architecture, textile, basketry and pottery art forms.  No Prerequisite (open to all majors)


Art History 197A                                                                                    Dr. Amara Solari

“Introduction to Pre-Columbian Art History”                                    MWF 11:15-12:05


This course is an introduction to the artistic production of a variety of cultural groups from the ancient Americas, primarily focusing on pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and South America.  It is geared towards students without cultural familiarity of this region and historical era. We will examine how artworks reflect, support, and actively construct the worldview of the people who created and used them.  This course not only focuses on the aesthetic aspects of art, but its cultural function as well.  To ascertain these social functions it is necessary that an interdisciplinary approach be taken; we will study these cultures and their art from the perspectives of art history, anthropology, archaeology, history and ethnography, only to name a few.  With this interdisciplinary approach we will be able to partially reconstruct the cultural practices under study, contributing to a clearer understanding of the societies that existed in the Americas prior to the European arrival in the sixteenth century and how these cultures continue to construct social identities today.

No Prerequisite.


Art History 350W                                                                        Dr. Brian A. Curran

“Undergraduate Seminar in the History of Art:                        TuTh 2:30-3:45 pm


Art History 350W provides a critical and professional introduction to the discipline of Art History for undergraduate majors and minors. This writing-intensive course is intended to familiarize its participants with the research methods and tools and writing and speaking skills required for successful achievement in the field, as well as the institutions: museums, libraries, archives, research and educational institutions, scholarly journals, etc, that define and support this work. Our weekly meetings will provide a forum for discussion of relevant readings, as well as each student’s progress in the preparation and presentation of written and oral work. The readings are intended to provide a concise “crash-course” in the history and methods of the discipline, and also to present models for the student’s own research and writing. In addition to the weekly readings, each student will be required to submit a total of 5 written assignments-a personal statement (for application to internships, graduate schools, and/or jobs), a description of a work of art, an exhibition review, a book report, and a final research paper. Each of these will likely go through a number of drafts and revisions.  In the final weeks, a conference-paper style presentation will be delivered orally before the rest of the class.

Prerequisite:  5th-semester standing, 6 credits in art history at the 300 level or above


Art History 420                                                                                    Dr. Craig Zabel

“Russian Architecture”                                                                        MWF 10:10-11:00 am


This course will examine the architectural history of Russia from the conversion of Kiev to Orthodox Christianity in 988 to post-Soviet Russia after the fall of communism in 1991.  The course will begin with the development of early Russian culture and its architecture in the cities and regions of Kiev, Novgorod, Pskov, and Vladimir-Suzdal.  The conquering and subjugation of the Slavic peoples of Russia by the Mongol Horde from Asia will have major implications in Russian architecture beginning in the 13th century.  With the rise of Muscovy, the way in which architecture served the Russian Orthodox Church from the cathedrals in the Moscow Kremlin to the monasteries and convents of Moscow’s “Golden Ring” will be a particular concern.  Attention will also be given to the seclusion of women and children in the terem of the traditional Russian home.  Peter the Great and his new capital of St. Petersburg dramatically attempts to “Westernize” Russian architecture, at the expense of the traditional Slavic architecture of Muscovy and its Byzantine legacy.  Late Baroque/Rococo and Neoclassical palaces, gardens, institutions, and urban spaces characterized the architecture of Russia during the 18th and early 19th centuries, one of the greatest eras of female patronage of architecture, with such Empresses as Elizabeth and Catherine the Great.  By the late 18th century, Russia had become an empire that stretched across three continents:  from eastern Europe, through Siberian Asia, to Alaska (and California) in North America.  The architecture of “conquest” of native peoples as the Russians searched for furs and other natural resources will be examined.  By the 19th century there was a reaction against Westernization in Russian culture resulting in the Slavophile movement, which had a strong architectural component as seen in the Moscow Revival.  In the architecture of the Soviet Union after the 1917 Revolution, one sees the utopian dreams of avant-garde architects in the 1920s, the architecture of dictatorial control with Stalin, and the ambitious schemes to define an architecture appropriate for a socialist and atheistic “union” of many diverse regions and peoples.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian architecture has seen the nostalgic reconstruction of a few lost monuments that were destroyed by Stalin, juxtaposed against a rampant commercialism. Throughout the course, Russian architecture will also be considered in the context with contemporary cultural developments elsewhere in the world.

Prerequisite: ART H 100 or 111 or 112 or 201 or 202


Art History 422                                                                                    Dr. Elizabeth B. Smith

“Studies in Medieval Sculpture:  Gothic”                                                MWF 1:25-2:15 pm


 This course covers the development of Gothic sculpture, from its beginnings in the 12th century through its full flowering in the 13th century up.  We will primarily examine the respective roles of patrons and sculptors in the creative process as they relate to issues of purpose, placement, style, and iconography. We will also consider the impact of sculpture on the medieval public.  While the main emphasis will be on monumental sculpture, we will also look at small-scale works by ivory carvers and goldsmiths.  Students will be expected to become familiar with the major monuments and with the key problems encountered in the study of the sculpture of the Gothic era. The course is primarily a lecture class but will include assigned readings and discussions on specific topics. While there are no set prerequisites, students who have taken Art H111, Survey of Ancient and Medieval Art and/or Art H312, Survey of Romanesque and Gothic Art, will be at an advantage.  Those who have not taken these courses or the equivalent should equip themselves with some background in medieval art and architecture and with the Middle Ages in general. 

Prerequisite:  ART H 100 or 111 or 201 or 302 or 312


Art History 426                                                                                    Dr. Charlotte Houghton

“Iconoclasm:                                                                                    TuTh 2:30-3:45 pm


Images and their Discontents—6000 Years”

Images have been granted extraordinary powers in many human societies, and the destruction of potent images has been a recurrent feature of political, religious and social strife.  This course explores how and why humans have granted such power to images, and the subsequent reactions that have resulted in periodic outbreaks of iconoclasm.  We will consider events leading to the purposeful destruction of art and architecture from 2000 BC through September 11, 2011 and beyond.   Topics include the historical specificity of image destruction, the role of art and its detractors in precipitating the Protestant Reformation, French revolutionary iconoclasm, Nazi censorship, reactions to Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, and the manipulation of iconoclasm in modern mass media.  Throughout, we will examine resistance—and complicity—within contemporary cultural institutions such as the museum and the academy. The purposes of the course are to illuminate the deep implication of visual culture in specific historical events, and to provide insight into the historicity of art’s function as a societal lightning rod.

Prerequisite:  3 credits of ART H in any area


Art History 440                                                                                    Dr. Madhuri Desai

“Monuments of Asia:  The Temple in South Asia”                        TuTh 9:45-11:00 am


As religious, cultural and political institutions, temples in South Asia have been the focus of patronage, contention, iconoclasm and revivalism. From early experiments in single cell and cave shrines, architects and patrons evolved unique regional architecture and complex political and religious systems. The temple was further re-imagined in Indo-Islamic and colonial contexts, as South Asia experienced religious and cultural shifts. This course is an exploration of the temple as edifice and institution through a history of creation and reinvention. Sample weekly topics will include “Patronage and Religion in Asia,” “the Medieval Temple as an Institution,” “the temples of Khajuraho,” “the temples of Orissa,” “the Chola temple,” “the Mughal temple,” “a ‘revival’ at Vijayanagara,” “the temple in a Modern Age,” etc. The course will build on a foundation laid by survey courses in Art History, Architectural History and Asian Studies. Weekly readings will be assigned and discussed in class. The development of analytical and writing skills will be stressed, and grades will be based partly on essay exams and short response papers. In addition, students will write a research paper, to be completed by the end of the semester.

Prerequisite: ART H100 or 120 or  315 or 320 or 330 or 340


Art History 440                                                                                    Dr. Robin Thomas

“Renaissance & Baroque Palaces”                                                            MWF 9:05-9:55


The Renaissance and Baroque Palace was both a private home and a semi-public space.  Families therefore valued them for their utility as well as their communicative potential.  And messages of wealth, power, and political alliance were conveyed through their facades and interior decorations.  This class will explore palaces in multiple dimensions: from reading the plan, to looking at facades, to unpacking their social function.  We will focus on general characteristics as well as specific buildings in order to provide an overview of the period and its art historical themes.  Units will include:

  • England and France: Castle and Donjon
  • Family Façades
  • Palazzo Medici in Florence
  • The Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome
  • A Visit to the Pope: the Vatican Palace of Raphael
  • At Home in Venice: the Ca’Corner
  • The Villa as Palace: Palazzo Te in Mantua
  • Reading the Plan: the Enfilade
  • Baroque Splendor and Papal Nepotism: Palazzo Barberini in Rome
  • The Palace of the Sun King: Versailles
  • The English Manor: Blenheim
  • German Princes and Bishops: Würzburg
  • The Royal Palace at Caserta

Prerequisite: ART H100 or 112 or 202 or 303 or 304


Art H 475                                                                                                Dr. Irina Aristarkhova

“Contemporary Women Artists”                                                            Tuesdays 4:00-7:00 pm


This course focuses on contemporary women artists and their histories through case studies and selected readings. In the past five years there have been many major exhibitions addressing issues of art and gender. We will discuss new issues facing women artists working in contemporary world, with special focus on aesthetics and how aesthetic issues relate to globalization and transnationalism in art. The questions surrounding “art and gender” are to be discussed in their historical context, with emphasis on painting, sculpture, installation, video / new media and performance art. Classes are conducted as seminars, with most of the readings available on-line or in PDF format. 
In the Fall 2011 semester we will also collaborate with the Palmer Museum and have guest speakers coming to class. For more information, contact Dr Irina Aristarkhova at ixa10@psu.edu

Prerequisite: ART H100 or 112 or 202 or 303 or 304 or 313 or 314


Art History 497A                                                                                    Dr. William Dewey

“Art and Archaeology of Ancient Africa”                                                TuTh 1:00-2:15 pm


This course is a one-semester examination of some of the most important historical art traditions of sub-Sahara Africa. Topics to be covered will include prehistoric rock paintings; art from archaeological sites such as Djenne, Nok, Igbo Ukwu and Mapungubwe; and ancient kingdoms such as Ife, Benin, Kongo and Great Zimbabwe. The time period covered ranges from the first and second millennia BCE for some of the early terracotta sculpture and rock paintings, to the 11th through 19th centuries CE for the later ancient kingdoms. Students will learn how artistic, archaeological and ethnographic evidence combine to help us reconstruct the religious, political and social contexts in which these early African art forms were used.


Art History 497B                                                                                    Dr. Elizabeth J. Walters

“Ancient Villas:  Egyptian, Greek Roman”                                    TuTh 11:15-12:30 pm


Greek interest in marble and often irresistible masterpieces created in the Mediterranean served as a wellspring for the elite, that austere Romans such as Pliny the Elder in 70's CE could denounce. Many Romans chose to enjoy the arts as leverage and power, treating the villa and its appointments as an extension of self, one's self worth and intellect. Mediterranean models and inspiration for Roman and Pompeian residences include villa and palace remnants as early as 14th c BCE and ancient texts regarding the rulers of Egypt, Macedonia in the 4th c BCE, the townhouses of Delos in 2nd c BCE, and the so-called house of the columns in Cyrenaica (Libya) of the first century BCE. The 'four styles' of Pompeian wall painting owe their origin and much of their content to Greece and Egypt. Hence what is Roman??  Fortunately we can learn from specific residences and we have important information in the letters of Cicero (50's BCE), texts from Pliny about his villa and his comments on the property of others, and the court poets serving patrons as well as hedonistic emperors Nero (60's CE) and Domitian (90's CE). Our goal is to recognize specific Mediterranean 'roots,' what was retained, developed or transformed, and finally what was the Roman contribution.


Art History 497C                                                                                    Dr. Patrick McGrady

“Problems in Connoisseurship:                                                             Mondays 1:25-4:25 pm


Prints and Drawings at the Palmer Museum of Art”

Examines the history and practice of connoisseurship in the museum, with a particular focus on prints and drawings. Readings pertaining to the development of connoisseurship in relationship to the art world, particularly in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, will lay the groundwork for discussions on the role of the discipline within the museum environment. Participants will explore the major print processes and drawing techniques through an intimate study of the works on paper in the Palmer Museum of Art’s permanent collection, and then select works from the collection to form a part of a theoretical exhibition to be presented as a work-in-progress during class and as a final paper at the end of the semester.


Art History 551                                                                                    Dr. Nancy Locke

“Historiography of Art History”                                                Wednesdays 2:30-5:30 pm


Although writings on art date back to antiquity, the discipline of art history was founded in the eighteenth century. “All history is contemporary history,” wrote Benedetto Croce, and the same could be said for the history of art: its questions have been formulated and its methods framed in ways that remain inextricably linked to their times. This graduate seminar will examine a range of texts from Winckelmann to more contemporary thinkers. Topics to be covered include style, aesthetics, iconography, formalism, social history, gender studies, Marxism, psychoanalysis, semiotics, and deconstruction. As a group, we will practice the fundamentals of formal analysis and attribution. Participants will write brief papers each week to analyze the principal points of the methods and approaches under consideration. A final presentation (20 minutes) and paper (7–10 pages) on a single major figure in the field will also be required.


Art History 597A                                                                                    Dr. Amara Solari

“Americas Seminar:                                                              Wednesdays 2:30-5:30 pm


Sacred Spaces in the Age of Exploration”

This seminar engages the growing field of “spatial theory” by closely examining the religious practices enacted in the American continents during the pre-Columbian and later colonial periods.  We will conduct interdisciplinary investigations of sacral loci, including architectural complexes, pilgrimage destinations and sacred landscapes by utilizing methodologies and theoretical frameworks from the discourses of art history, anthropology, archaeology, history and linguistics.   Moreover, this course will closely analyze the ritualized behaviors used to encode these places with symbolic referents.  By adopting a diachronic perspective, the course examines the transformation of pre-Columbian sacred sites in the colonial period as the Spanish administration attempted to usurp indigenous religious significance as part of Spain’s newly introduced imperial project.


Art History 597B                                                                                    Dr. Anthony Cutler

“Methods of Research”                                                            Wednesdays 7:00-10:00 pm


The “Methods Seminar” is intended primarily for advanced graduate students aiming at a long-term career in an academic department or museum. It offers basic training in the preparation of articles and the selection of professional journals in which to publish. Starting from fundamental research tools it moves from grant writing, through methods of presentation at meetings like the College Art Association, the difference between such presentations and published papers, and a great variety of techniques directed toward the building of a professional reputation.