Special Topics Courses Spring 2017




Art History 001S (GA)                                                         Dr. Elizabeth Walters


Section 1                                                                                 MWF 1:25-2:15

 “First-Year Seminar—                                                       


To evaluate the past: ancient Egypt, or don’t let sleeping jackals and the author of chaos Seth fool you.

Egypt's popularity here and abroad continues long past Tutankhamon.  Mummy movies aside, our public has a love for Egypt's past that we can develop, separating the kitsch and fostering the valuable. We will explore ancient Egyptian interests, myth and ritual evident in sites and monuments.  This seminar is intended to sharpen our awareness and analysis by probing current views and seeking to gain those of the ancient Egyptians. We will use and evaluate various research methods and media.  I have chosen this subject because of my research interests and archaeological field work at Hierakonpolis in southern Egypt.  Beyond this early site important to kingship and distant ancestors, falcons and jackals, later rulers and the falcon god Horus celebrated a triumph over the cosmos. Animal imagery for the gods and powers of nature was mocked by the first emperor of Rome, Augustus, but the Egyptians would honor each ruler, including Augustus, as Horus who at home speared a hippopotamus also in the form of a cake -- their own joke and ‘sweet victory.’ 

No prerequisite, open to all majors.


Art History 001S (GA), Section 2                                         Dr. Joyce Henri Robinson


Section 2                                                                                 TuTh 3:05-4:20

“First-Year Seminar:                                                           


  Twentieth-Century American Art at the Palmer Museum of Art”

This first-year seminar will explore twentieth-century American art (painting, sculpture, photography, and prints), particularly as it relates to the permanent collection of the Palmer Museum of Art. Topics will range from Gilded Age (expatriate) artists, Ashcan realism, Stieglitz circle modernism, and American Scene painting to modern sculpture and contemporary art.  Students will also be introduced to a variety of arts offerings (music concerts and theatre performances) in the College of Arts and Architecture, which will require ticket purchases. Writing (including reviewing basic gramar) will be an important component of the course. 

No prerequisite, open to all majors.

Art History 350W                                                                 Dr. Sarah K. Rich

“Undergraduate Seminar in the History of Art”               TuTh 9:05-10:20


Description forthcoming

Prerequisite:  5th-semester standing, 6 credits in Art History at the 300-level or higher


Art History 409                                                                     Dr. Dana Kletchka (Art Ed)

“Museum Studies”                                                               Mondays 1:25-4:25 pm       


Museum Studies explores the theory and practice of American art museums in the midst of philosophical and theoretical transformation.  The Palmer Museum of Art serves as a space wherein students may negotiate both the connections and dissimilarities between theory and practice.  The objectives of this course are to:

·      Introduce current museum philosophy developed by scholars and museum administrators, curators, educators, exhibition designers, and registrars.

·      Explore the historical and cultural foundations of art museums in the United States as well as the discursive social and political forces that shape them.

·      Develop a critical assessment of both theory and practice in the museum context.

·      Facilitate understandings of how each department/position functions as part of an institutional body.

·      Discuss the ethics and accountability standards to which all museum personnel are expected to adhere.


Art History 411                                                                     Dr. Elizabeth J. Walters

“Roman Art & Architecture”                                              MWF 9:05-9:55

  Augustan Legacy or Julian?


Roman Empire has given us in her first emperor a paragon in leadership promoted by generations and later rising politicians. Octavian by birth and Caesar by adoption became exceptionally elevated as Augustus in the third year as emperor.  Did he merit his acclaim?  The arts and architecture flourished under Augustus who proudly clad Rome in marble. The terrors of the civil war of the 1st century BCE were finally resolved with the death of Anthony and the fall of Egypt to Rome. Peace and prosperity forged his supremacy and yet the people openly cherished and deified his uncle and adopted father Julius Caesar. Will we ever be able to measure charisma of each man? Things done (res gestae) and successful use of art as power and new blending of traditions may permit us in this course to measure nephew Octavian against his uncle, and perhaps we may perceive that the ideal Roman head of state was first abused by Octavian, or by Julius Caesar? No doubt it was distorted by this family’s successors, Nero for example with whom this course may end.

We benefit from the excellent study of Paul Zanker,  The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, 1991 which we will set against the drama of the civil war earlier in the first century BCE (Julius Caesar against Pompey) conveyed by Lucan, court poet to Nero (whom we will read in translation selectively and critique). This will be a discussion class concerning texts and monuments to assess Roman values and use of the arts.


Art History 435                                                                     Dr. Chang Tan

“Studies in Modern Art:                                                      MWF 10:10-11:00


  Modern Chinese Art”

How did the arts of China move from the understated refinement of landscapes and seals to the bombastic dramatization of heroes and villains, before proceeding to the clever hybrid of the avant-garde and the kitsch that score spectacular successes in the global market today? How did the very concepts of “art,” modernity, and contemporaneity come to shape in this process, in a context where contacts with the “West” were critical yet haphazard? This course examines Chinese art from the mid-19th century to the present day, with an emphasis on the transformation of artmaking in the past four decades, during which artists experimented with mediums from prints and photography to installation and performance, and responded to styles and concepts ranging from Dada and Pop to Earthwork and Relational Art. Aside from a roughly chronological study of artworks and the critical discourse that conditioned their making, we will also read about and discuss topics such as colonialism and nationalism, the institutionalization of art education, production and exhibition, alternative and periphery modernisms, the anxiety of influence and strategies of appropriation, as well as the potentials and perils of art as activism.    


Art History 440                                                                     Dr. Madhuri Desai

“Monument of Asia:                                                             TuTh 9:05-10:20

  Modern Architecture in Asia”

The twentieth-century Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard-Jeanneret) designed (1951) his well-known capital complex in Chandigarh for a client in South Asia. This was not an individual or a corporation, but the government of the newly independent nation-state of India, intent on visibly embracing the project of national modernization. Le Corbusier subsequently inspired devoted admiration as well as criticism among a generation of Indian architects who also took seriously, their roles as shapers of a national cultural identity. More recently, the architect Rem Koolhaas saw his iconic CCTV project completed (2012) in Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China. Again, critics and admirers have been equally impassioned in this case, underling modern architecture’s charge as a symbol of cultural identity. What has architectural modernism meant for cultures and nations across Asia, as the Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal and Ming empires were transformed into various modern nation-states? This journey was often a tortuous process, marked by direct and/or indirect colonization, de-colonization, nationalism and globalization, as geographical boundaries were redrawn, and modern national identities were defined and shaped. We will explore the relationship between modernity and modern architecture across Asia, between the 19th and 21st centuries. The emergence of distinct aesthetic preferences and stylistic trends, the role of architectural history as a field of knowledge and interactions with global architectural movements (including the International style and Critical Regionalism) will be discussed. We will explore architectural ideas, buildings built (and unbuilt) as well as the writings of architects, architectural historians and theorists.


Art History 446                                                                     Dr. William Dewey

“Topics in African Art:                                                        MWF 12:20-1:10

  Eastern & Southern Africa”

This course is a one-semester survey of the art traditions of the eastern and southern regions of Africa. Sculpture, painting, pottery, textiles, architecture and human adornment will all be examined in this survey. Some ancient Stone and Iron Age traditions will be examined, but the main emphasis will be on the diverse ethnic and regional art traditions practiced in the area from the 19th century up to the present. The geographic area to be covered extends from the modern nation of South Africa up through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi and Zambia and along the east coast, including Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. Examples of some of the art forms we will investigate include: San rock art of southern Africa, a tradition which we know began at least 26,000 BPE and lasted until the 19th century CE; The stone walls of Great Zimbabwe, some of which are 36 feet high, and all were constructed of granite blocks without any mortar; Exquisite woven burial shrouds of the Merina people of Madagascar used in periodic reburial ceremonies; Masquerades of the Chewa of Malawi that are so large that 5-10 young men are needed to  wear and perform them.


Art History 464                                                                     Dr. Nancy Locke &

“French Art & Architecture, 1589-1789”                           Dr. Robin Thomas

                                                                                                TuTh 10:35-11:50

Over the course of a dynamic two centuries architects and patrons shaped, refined, and innovated upon distinctly French classical styles. Through an examination of some of the leading figures, such as François Mansart and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Claude Perrault, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, and Étienne-Louis Boullée, the course will introduce not only a wide range of key buildings, but also a distinct idea about the status of the architect in French society. Classes will also be devoted to specific themes, such as the role of academies in standardizing training, and the influence of public opinion on specific works.  We will also examine the urban transformation of Paris into the capital of a centralized French state. 

This course examines painting, sculpture, and architecture in France from the Wars of Religion through the French Revolution, from the close of the sixteenth century through the end of the eighteenth. In the seventeenth century with the art of Poussin, French painting can be seen to have come into its own, as Poussin broke with his contemporaries in establishing a particularly French mode of classicism in Rome. We see the efflorescence of classicism in history and landscape painting in the work of Poussin and Claude Lorrain, monumental realism in the work of the Le Nain brothers, and the development of complex allegories of power in the work of Peter Paul Rubens in France. We examine the Rococo style in terms of its eroticism, its artisanal ethic, and the new patterns of aristocratic patronage that emerge in the eighteenth century. We will also consider the rise of the public sphere and its impact on artists such as Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Jacques-Louis David, and David’s pupils. With regard to sculpture, we will look at a range of styles from the baroque to the neoclassical.


Art History 470                                                                     Dr. Sarah K. Rich

“Contemporary Art:                                                            TuTh 1:35-2:50

  Art Since You were Born”

Description forthcoming


Art History 497A                                                                  Dr. Amara Solari

“Andean Art in the Palmer Museum”                                TuTh 12:05-1:20

This course uses the impressive collection of ancient Peruvian ceramics housed in Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art as a starting point to studying the cultural history of the Andean region. The ultimate goal of the course is to recurate the ceramic collection, providing visitors with a historical and art historical overview. In addition to learning about the relevant cultural worlds of the ceramic producers, students will also become versed in current debates in museum studies.


Art History 514                                                                     Dr. Andrew Schulz

“Seminar:  Digital Art History”                                          Wednesdays 2:30-5:30 pm

This graduate seminar will examine the ways in which digital and computational tools and methodologies are reshaping the practice of art and architectural history. The many questions we will examine and seek to answer include: What is the genealogy of digital art history, and how does it relate to the broader field of digital humanities? Who are its leading theorists, practitioners, and critics? What kinds of infrastructure—funding, journals, professional organizations, research centers, etc.—has emerged around it? What scholarly questions are well suited—or not—to digital or computational analysis? How should digital scholarship be evaluated, and which projects are exemplary? How does such work disrupt traditional notions of authorship? What are the implications of project-based scholarship? How can/should issues of sustainability and access be addressed in light of rapidly changing platforms and interfaces? What are viable funding and institutional models for enabling digital art historical work? What are the existing and potential impacts of digital tools and methodologies on museology, and on teaching and learning? The seminar will be conducted in close collaboration with the Department of Art History’s Visual Resources Collection, the College of Arts & Architecture eLearning Institute, and the PSU Libraries. In-person and Skype visits are planned by several leading figures in digital art history, and with faculty in various departments with relevant expertise. No specialized knowledge related to digital technology is assumed or expected.