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Terra Courses

Winter Term 2024/25 (Alexis Salas) 

  • Latinx Art (BA) 

Wednesdays 10 a.m. – noon, Kennedy Institute (Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin) room 319; course number 32101-W24, first session on November 6, 2024.

This introductory course in contemporary art focuses upon Latinx art produced between 1960 and 2024, with an emphasis on art from the 1990s to the present. Readings, primary source documents, lectures, and museum visits include sociological accounts, meetings with artists and artists and theorists, and historical overviews. The course explores bodies of work by artists who experimented with materials and contextual relationships, and considers how avant-garde art confronts institutions (galleries, museums and cultural centers) and functions as protest. Using a number of theoretical frameworks (biopolitics, politics of difference, rasquachismo, relational aesthetics, repudiation of respectability politics, Third World-ism/Majority World-ism) in order to discuss political realities (migration, globalization, diaspora, crisis, and violence) we engage the works of artist collectives and artists. This is a course in active learning with communities who live and thrive in the present. As we work with contemporary art and mostly living artists, we will critically engage with methodologies in oral histories, reflect on our own relationship to these communities, Our historical scope encompasses various Civil Rights movements in order to critically scrutinize the boundaries of contemporary "American" through critical race studies. Case studies include art of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, environmental racism, Afro-American punk queers, and indigenous photographers from throughout the Americas. How do Latinx artists allow us to understand the contemporary art world as a space of critique of both institutions and the art historical canon? How does Latinx art, like contemporary art on the whole, both participate in and stand apart from the world in which and for which it was made? 

  • Queer Trans Feminist Art of the Americas (MA)

Wednesdays noon – 2 p.m., Kennedy Institute (Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin) room 319; course number 32112-W24, first session on November 6, 2024. This seminar examines queer, trans, and feminist art practices of the Americas (North + Central + South America + the Caribbean) which challenge heteronormative, cis, settler colonialist, Western, and patriarchal frameworks of bodies, histories, and, ideas. Transnational and transgenerational love letters and critiques help us consider the tensions at work between allies in the destabilized discourses of gender, sexuality, and body. We survey the state of research by reviewing exhibitions, reading and meeting with theorists and practitioners, and taking inventory of archives and resources. Using tools from queer theory, Latin American and Latinx studies, women's, gender, and sexuality studies, critical race studies, as well as media and visual culture studies; we discuss works of performance art, craft, conceptual practices, fashion, public actions, music videos, and fine art. We culminate with the presentation of a research-based project.

Summer Term 2024 (Rizvana Bradley)

  • Horror and the Cinematic Unconscious (BA)

Wednesdays noon – 2 p.m., Kennedy Institute (Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin) room 319; course number 32101-S24, first session on April 16, 2024. 

The philosopher and media theorist Eugene Thacker has argued that “horror is about the paradoxical thought of the unthinkable.” But how might such a conception of horror be complicated, enriched, or problematized if we were to approach the genre by way of the racial underside of the unthinkable? This course will explore cinematic and artistic exemplars of horror in order to think through the philosophical intersections of race and gender with notions of the haunted, the macabre, the Gothic, the monstrous.

  • Political Depression and the Aesthetics of Sovereignty II (MA)

Wednesdays 4 – 6 p.m., Kennedy Institute (Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin) room 319; course number 32114- S24, first session on April 16, 2024. 

Last winter term, Political Depression and the Aesthetics of Sovereignty (I) began from the following questions: How might we begin to approach the affective contours of what Lauren Berlant theorized as the “impassivity” of the historical present, in ways that do not immediately circumscribe the terms of inquiry by demanding they lead to resolution, reparation, or redress? What forms of attunement, accompaniment, and experimentation might be occasioned by inhabiting what the Feel Tank Chicago termed “political depression” as an open question, rather than through predetermined diagnostics? Political Depression and the Aesthetics of Sovereignty II differentially extends these questions by attending to cinematic exemplars of the catastrophic imagination associated with the socio-ecological crises of late capitalism and the so-called Anthropocene. This course takes up such lines of inquiry through explorations of affect theory, its interlocutors, and its critics, with a particular emphasis on what Sianne Ngai terms “minor feelings” and “negative affects,” in their racial and gendered dimensionality. We will pay special attention to films that obliquely take up this constellation of affective themes, investigating how they aesthetically refract, rather than simply reflect, the myriad impasses (economic, ecological, scientific, political, racial, gendered, etc.) of the present and the project of recuperating sovereignty in the midst of global crisis. Completion of Political Depression and the Aesthetics of Sovereignty (I) is not a prerequisite for enrollment.

Winter Semester 2023/24 (Rizvana Bradley)

  • Art, Race, and Media Poetics (BA)

Wednesdays noon – 2 p.m., Kennedy Institute (Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin) room 319; course number 32101-W23, first session on November 1, 2023.

This course focuses on the relationships between black aesthetics and the ongoing redefinition and reinvention of art and media cultures. Poetics will be taken up, not as a specific literary form per se, but as a modality of formal innovation that obtains across a variety of genres and mediums. The course will take three modes of black cultural production as its foremost objects of inquiry: film, art, and poetry. Our aim will be to draw from texts and visual material in order to critique the nature of what the contemporary poet, Claudia Rankine, terms the “racial imaginary.”

  • Political Depression and the Aesthetics of Sovereignty (MA)

Wednesdays 4 – 6 p.m., Kennedy Institute (Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin) room 319; course number 32115- W23, first session on November 1, 2023.

How might we begin to approach the affective contours of what Lauren Berlant theorized as the “impassivity” of the historical present, in ways that do not immediately circumscribe the terms of inquiry by demanding they lead to resolution, reparation, or redress? What forms of attunement, accompaniment, and experimentation might be occasioned by inhabiting what the Feel Tank Chicago termed “political depression” as an open question, rather than through predetermined diagnostics? This course takes up such lines of inquiry through explorations of affect theory, its interlocutors, and its critics, with a particular emphasis on what Sianne Ngai terms “minor feelings” and “negative affects,” in their racial and gendered dimensionality. We will pay special attention to films that obliquely take up this constellation of affective themes, investigating how they aesthetically refract, rather than simply reflect, the myriad impasses (economic, ecological, scientific, political, racial, gendered, etc.) of the present and the project of recuperating sovereignty in the midst of global crisis.

Summer Term 2023 (Julia Rosenbaum)

  • Art and Environment: Perspectives on Land, Landscape, and Ecology (BA)

Wednesdays 2 – 4 p.m., Kennedy Institute (Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin) room 319;
course number 32101-S23, first session on April 19, 2023.

This course explores the relationship between the natural world and United States culture, considering specifically the visual expression of that relationship: How have Americans imagined “nature” and represented it? How have concepts of land and landscape shaped perceptions about social order, identity, and sustainability? The course provides both a historical framework for thinking about these questions as well as a contemporary perspective, particularly in the context of a potential new era known as the “Anthropocene.”

  • Visualizing Freedom: Revolution, Emancipation, Rights (MA)

Thursdays 2 – 4 p.m., Kennedy Institute (Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin) room 319;
course number 32115-S23, first session on April 20, 2023.

Political and cultural revolutions from the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries ignited debates about basic human rights and equality. How were these rights defined, promoted, and resisted? This course explores the role of visual material in developing discourses of freedom in the Atlantic World of this period. Fundamental to that pursuit were, and are, conceptions of what makes a citizen. We will examine the relationship between art and citizenship through three lenses: revolution, abolitionism, and enfranchisement. The class will address a range of media as well as reflect critically on connections between historical and present-day struggles for political, racial, and gender equity.

Summer Term 2022 (JoAnne Mancini) 

  • Sounding American Art (BA)

Since the eighteenth century, when the silversmith and printer Paul Revere engraved the frontispiece to the first book of published music by a US composer, William Billings, there has been an ongoing relationship between American art and American music. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this module will consider that relationship frmo the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. At the same time, it will also explore some of the ways in which intersection has been explored not only by art historians but also musicologists and others outside of art history.

  • Topics in American Art History (MA)

This module will explore the history of American art through recent research and writing. Focusing on a series of topics explored by contemporary scholarship, its aims will be to developo familiarity with current approaches to American art by art historians and interdisciplinary scholars. 

Winter Term 2021/22 (JoAnne Mancini)

  • Landscapes of American Art (BA)

This module will explore the history of American art through the theme ‘Landscapes of American Art’. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, it will consider some of the ways in which American artists have engaged with built and natural environments, how that engagement has changed over time, and how that engagement relates to broader trends in American culture. At the same time, it will also explore some of the ways in which the making and unmaking of landscapes is itself an aspect of American visual and material culture, analysed not only by art historians but also by disciplines such as geography, history, and urban studies.

  • Issues in American Art History (MA)

This module will explore the history of American art through recent research and writing. What issues, themes, and concepts have motivated recent scholarship? How has recent scholarship attempted to change the discourse and the discipline of American art? How have recent scholars in the field engaged with other disciplines, and what might the future hold for American art history?

Summer Term 2021 (David Getsy)

  • Queer History of American Art, 1950s to 1990s (BA)

In the wake of the Second World War, demographic shifts fostered new concentrations of lesbian, gay, and otherwise non-heterosexual people in U.S. cities starting in the 1950s. Visual art that addressed these increasingly visible communities began to flourish in these decades, and this course will track the shifts in the queer production of art during this time. We will examine the transition from highly coded and covert registrations of queer lives in the 1950s to the forthrightness and activism that emerged after the Stonewall uprising in 1969 to the rage of the 1980s spurred by government inaction on the AIDS crisis. The course will be structured around case studies that examine changing attitudes toward the politics of visibility, the question of assimilation, the need for radical refusal, and the disruption of norms and naturalized roles. Throughout, our examinations will be focused on larger questions for the history and historiography of U.S. art, including the erasure of non-white subjects from queer art historical narratives, the appropriation of transgender histories by queer art and politics, and the continuing institutional censorship of queer art. 

  • American Art and Transgender History (MA)

This graduate seminar in theory and methodology will ask what transgender studies and art history have to say to each other. The seminar will introduce transgender studies and examine the ways in which the discipline of art history can contribute to its debates about form, the status of the human figure, the legibility of bodies, and the visualization of complex and successive states. Our primary focus will be on how transgender studies compels us to read and write U.S. art history differently. Our topics will include work by transgender cultural producers and artists, but we will also examine the ways in which transgender and nonbinary methods can be used to look at canonical, mainstream, and ostensibly non-trans topics in a new and more accurate light. While there will be case studies from contemporary art, the majority of the seminar will be focused on the methods that can be used to write new historical narratives of nineteenth- and twentieth-century in U.S. art history. This is a reading-intensive, theoretically-focused graduate seminar. 

Winter Term 2020/21 (David Getsy)

  • Objects, Agents, and Audiences: Sculpture and its Expansions in the United States from the 1950s to 1990s (BA)

The second half of the twentieth century saw a fundamental reorganization of the medium of sculpture, and this course will chart its major developments. From the 1950s onward, sculptors in the United States became preoccupied with their work’s relationship to everyday objects, industrial products, mass consumer goods, and the human body. Sculptural representation was left behind as abstraction, assemblage, objecthood, and dematerialization took hold, and we will examine sculptors’ restless attempts at greater degrees of relation to everyday things, institutional contexts, and human bodies. Artists were energized by how sculpture could expansively incorporate architecture, performance, and the lived body; but they also prophesied its disintegration and obsolescence. Pushed to its limits, sculpture came to occupy a central role in American art theory, and it became an analogy for debates about gender, power, history, and commodification. This course will examine the ways in which these contestations of the sculptural object registered important cultural and intellectual shifts in American art and culture across these decades. 

  • Street Actions: Public Performance Art and the City of New York in the 1970s and 1980s (MA)

This seminar will examine how New York City's urban spaces enabled the proliferation of performance art in the 1970s and 1980s. The tumultuous shifts in the economic landscape of New York City facilitated new modes of non-commercial artistic practices that turned away from the commodified object and toward performance, event, and action. We will study the ways in which artists created disruptive public tactics, urban interventions, infiltrations of institutions, and public protests. Emphasis will be placed on performance art at public sites, often unauthorized and unsanctioned. A central question will be how artists actively sought unexpecting audiences and new locations for performance in order to contest mainstream narratives of race, sexuality, and/or gender. Case studies will include Adrian Piper, Scott Burton, Betsy Damon, Tehching Hsieh, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Stephen Varble, Pope.L, Papo Colo, Tseng Kwong Chi, Lorraine O’Grady, and ACT UP. From eroticism to activism, performance art interacted with the city’s urban geography, contested zones, and infrastructure. We will examine how performance artists in these decades made the street the stage and confronted new audiences. 

Summer Term 2020 (Joshua Shannon)

  • The Human Being in Contemporary American Art (BA)

This course offers an overview of innovations in American art since 1950, while specifically asking how this art has represented what a human being is, or could be. Thus, we will consider a range of ideas about the human that contemporary American art has proposed or played with: individualism, collectivity, heroism, modesty, dreams of mastery, dreams of merger with nature, etc. Of particular concern will be the fluctuating myth, in American culture in this period, of a universal human condition, as it has confronted identity categories such as gender, race, sexual orientation, and class. We will consider subjects ranging from portraiture and landscape art to abstraction, in media including painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation, and performance. Some meetings will be devoted broadly to movements, others to specific artists. Frequent in-class discussions will complement the lectures.

  • How to Look at American Art in the Era of Climate Change (MA)

Does the history of American art look different from the era of climate change? This course offers an MA-level overview of visual art in the United States since the Civil War, while specifically asking what relationships this art has represented (or imagined) between human beings and the non-human world. We will seek to identify and critique such evolving concepts in American art as nature, wilderness, civilization, and the human being. Looking especially at paintings, photographs, sculptures, films, and songs that represent the landscape, we will consider the history of these key concepts as they pertain to the sustainability of life on earth. How has art enabled environmental degradation and hastened climate change? How has it modeled a more sustainable set of relationships between the human and the non-human? Readings will cover climate change and ecocriticism as well as art history, while meetings will be devoted primarily to close interpretations of works of art.

Winter Term 2019/20 (Joshua Shannon)

  • The Americans: Photography in the United States since 1950 (BA)

In this course, we will consider the many uses and meanings of U.S. photography over the last seventy years. A broad variety of photographic practices will be considered, including street photography, figure and portrait photography, and the recent boom in photography of the environment. In addition to this focus on work conventionally understood as artistic photography, the course will consider the increasingly prominent roles that photography has played in other recent artistic practices, including pop art, performance, conceptual art, site-specific sculpture, and painting. We will also critically analyze American photojournalism as well as the ascendancy and changing roles of amateur snapshots. Some meetings will introduce particular themes and movements, while others will focus intensively on small bodies of work.

  • The Future is a Rectangle: American Modernist Architecture in its Global Context (MA)

This course offers a history of modern architecture in the United States, with an emphasis on its ideological aspirations and socio-political contexts. The course emphasizes the period 1945-1985, focusing especially on the adaptation of modernism to serve as the default style for new schools, post offices, university campuses and other ordinary civic building projects. We will investigate in particular the political meanings of this vernacular use of “International Style” modernism.

Summer Term 2019 (Laura Katzman)

  • New Deal Art: The Visual Culture of Thirties America (BA)

This seminar examines the visual culture of thirties America, in the context of the economic crisis of the Great Depression and the rural devastation wrought by the Dust Bowl that ravaged much of the American South and the Midwest. We will investigate the unprecedented role the New Deal government played as art patron, with the establishment of federal art programs that commissioned artists to create public murals, sculpture, graphic art, design, photography, literature, film, theatre, dance, and music, which aimed to bring art to the “masses” and construct a distinctive national culture. Contemporaneous debates about government support for the arts, cultural democracy, and national identity, will also be studied, along with recent scholarly approaches to New Deal art that consider perspectives of race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Other topics of discussion will include: the political radicalization of artists; art as weapon against war and fascism; and art and the labor movement. We will analyze artistic approaches associated with the broad phenomenon of American scene painting, ranging from regionalism to social viewpoint. Particular attention will be given to the pervasive documentary impulse of the era, as exemplified by the iconic photography commissioned by the now legendary Resettlement Administration/Farm Security Administration (RA/FSA).

  • Commemoration and Controversy: Public Art in the United States (MA)

This seminar examines the artistic, social, historical, political, and philosophical issues in public art at critical moments in the history of the United States, from the early Republic to the present day. We will investigate the nature of public art, its uses and functions, as well as civic and official attitudes towards art in the public sphere. Particular attention will be given to issues of censorship, propaganda, and the “culture wars” that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, as they relate to on-going, heated debates over government support of the arts. Many of our sessions will focus on commissioned monuments and memorials, looking at the ways in which Americans remember, articulate, and memorialize their past. Given the highly contentious debates that have exploded in recent years around Confederate monuments and Civil War commemoration, we will probe the multi-faceted national discussion about America’s slave history and the legacy of racism in contemporary U.S. culture. As Berlin is a city with a renowned memorial culture, cross-cultural comparisons between German and American public monuments will be an essential part of this seminar, as will field trips to iconic and lesser known memorials in the German capital.

Winter Term 2018/19 (Laura Katzman)

  • A Social History of Photography in the United States (BA)

This course examines the history of photography in the United States, considering the aesthetic, technological, social, cultural, and political factors that contributed to the development and practice of photography from its beginnings in 1839 through the mid‐twentieth century. Particular emphasis will be given to the relationship between photography and society, the role that photography has played in shaping ideology and informing popular thought, as well as the ways that photographs have been used to raise political awareness, inspire civic and global engagement, and promote social change. Photography’s complex status as art and document, and how the medium has been theorized by critics, scholars, and artists, will also be studied. The ultimate goal of this course is to encourage critical looking, thinking, and writing about photographic images, texts, and institutions. Fields trips to museums in Berlin with strong photography collections and/or photography exhibitions will be required.

  • The Museum in America: Histories and Controversies (MA)

This seminar examines the history, functions, and meanings of museums in society, focusing primarily on the art museum in the United States. Drawing on the ever‐growing literature on museology, the course critically addresses the ways in which museums—through their policies, programs, exhibitions, technologies, and architecture—can define regional or national values, shape cultural attitudes, and inform social and political views. The intersection between museum theory and practice will be investigated. Students are encouraged to analyze the ways in which American museums present, display, and interpret the art of the United States as well as that of non‐American and non‐Western cultures. Using the 20th‐ century American art collections at the Hamburger Bahnhof and the Neue Nationalgalerie, the seminar also considers how contemporary American culture is presented through a European lens. Field trips to the plethora of museums on Museuminsel and throughout Berlin will be required.

Summer Term 2018 (Lauren Kroiz)

  • History of American Art: 1607 to the Present (BA)

This course will examine the history of American Art from the period of earliest European settlement through the present. Works of art and other forms of material culture will be explored and discussed within the context of philosophical, historical, social, and cultural developments. In this course, works of art and artifacts are interpreted not as formal objects isolated from history nor as passive objects that "reflect" the past, but rather as active agents that have the potential to influence and shape broader historical, social, and cultural patterns. Attention will also be given to the writings of artists and critics, as well as canonical texts in the formulation of the discipline by art historians, historians, and other scholars which illustrate the variety of methodologies and interpretations brought to bear on American art, architecture, and material culture.

  • American Art and Diaspora (MA)

This seminar will introduce students to theories of diaspora, using them as a lens through which to examine the relationships of American art’s audiences, authors, and objects. We will consider diaspora broadly as heterogeneous movements that scatter individuals and populations. Our course will work comparatively to consider multiple groups within the context of the United States, drawing especially on theorizations developed in African diaspora studies and Jewish studies. In so doing we will be attentive to the varied forms of voluntary and involuntary migration as they occur within transnational networks of power. Case studies on creative expression will include exile, self-determination, cooperation, trauma, display and narrative. Introducing “otherness” and “difference” as key terms, our emphasis on diaspora will trouble the idea of a singular American art.

Winter Term 2017/18 (Lauren Kroiz)

  • Race and Representation in the United States since 1890 (BA)

This class focuses on theories and visualizations of race in the United States during the twentieth century. Class sessions will be organized around chronological case studies of diverse subjects made in varied media, including Thomas Dewing’s tonalist paintings, baby albums, the art of the Harlem Renaissance, photographs of WWII Japanese American internment, civil rights movement posters, and conceptual art by the collective ASCO. Drawing on critical theories of race and representation, in this course we will interrogate complex and sometimes vexing notions of race, ethnicity, visuality, visibility, authorship, identity and display in historical context.

  • U.S. Modernism and the Culture of Things (MA)

This seminar will introduce students to the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of “thing” theory to examine the relationships of objects, subjects and things. We will consider the materiality and agency of inanimate objects themselves, as well as the role of objects in establishing and mediating social relationships. In addition to our theoretical focus on things, we will also situate U.S. modernism historically as a phenomenon formulated within a culture of proliferating consumer goods. We will draw on methodologies from art history and material culture studies, as well as literature studies, anthropology, and political science. We will also examine primary source materials from the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century.

Summer Term 2017 (Allison Stagg)

  • Art in the Age of Hamilton (BA)

Following the success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award winning Broadway musical, Hamilton, there has been great enthusiasm and interest for the world of the Founding Fathers during the early Republic. To that end, this course will focus on the culture and art of Alexander Hamilton’s New York between the American Revolution up until the death of his wife, Eliza in the 1850s. Class meetings will consider how history has been remembered today in the musical and will explore the art of the period: the need for an artist market in early New York, the rise of portraiture, the emergence of museums and exhibitions, and the appeal for national monuments in the mid 19th century.

  • National Identity in American Art (MA)

The course will explore the various kinds of visual political propaganda made in America from the Revolution up until the early 20th century by focusing on representations of American power and identity as defined by both American and European artists. Several of the classes will meet at museums and study rooms in Berlin and will involve working directly with 18th, 19th, and early 20th century archival documents and art objects.This course is designed especially for students who seek in-depth knowledge of American Art and may even plan to write their thesis on the subject. 

Winter Term 2016/17 (Allison Stagg)

  • American Art Between the Revolution and the Civil War (BA)

An introduction to art produced in America between the 1770s and the early 1860s. This class will focus thematically on the paintings, sculpture, and graphic art of the period. Several classes will meet at Berlin museums to view art objects made by both American and European artists.

  • "The Lovers of Fun may be gratified": Early American Caricature Prints and Visual Culture, 1789-1840 (MA)

George Washington at the guillotine, Thomas Jefferson pictured with his slave, and Andrew Jackson as King. This course will focus on the history of political caricature in Europe and its emergence in America at the beginning of Washington’s presidency as a popular medium of propaganda and attacks. There will be several class visits to the Deutsches Historisches Museum to view prints made after American artists such as Charles Willson Peale and Gilbert Stuart, and to the Kunstbibliothek to view political caricature prints.

Summer Term 2016 (Heather Diack)

  • The Challenge of Contemporary Art within American Culture (BA)

This course provides a critical survey of visual art practices from the 1950s to the present with the United States. By analyzing the multiple legacies of the early avant-garde and the development of the global art market, this course will consider the social, political, and philosophical questions raised by postmodernism and its formative influence on art after WWII. Movements to be covered include Conceptual art, Land art, Performance, installation, site-specificity, relational aesthetics, and other manifestations of the expanded field. Methodological approaches include deconstruction, as well as feminist and post-colonial critique. Students are encouraged to critically consider the changing status of social and cultural values in an image-saturated world alongside themes and concepts such as the everyday, the artificial, hyperreality, mass-reproduction, difference, appropriation, and affect

  • Theorizing American Photography (MA)

This seminar introduces students to critical methodologies for studying American photography, interrogates the historic and aesthetic boundaries between art and documentary in the American context, and examines how the photograph has been established as the central mode of self-representation in the United States for both individuals and the nation at large. Other topics under consideration include, how the American landscape has served particular intellectual constructions of ‘nature’ in the American tradition, the ways in which attitudes towards social change, along with the history of poverty, immigration, and urban development in the United States, have evolved within American documentary photography, and how the American obsession with advertising and the media shape the production of contemporary modes of image-making. Using foundational art historical texts about photography as well as recent American studies approaches to the analysis of visual culture, we will examine the cultural and political work that photographs perform at particular historical moments. We will explore the larger discourses they participate in, with a focus on the contingent roles of race, gender, class, nation, and citizenship.

Summer Term 2015 (Michele Bogart)

  • Arts for the Public, 1890-2010 (BA) 

This course explores the history of efforts to develop forms of artistic work that engaged broad audiences of citizens and consumers. We will examine a range of enterprises, including monuments, murals, animated cartoons, propaganda, and the Web. Drawing on perspectives from art history, social history, and cultural studies, the course considers developments throughout the twentieth century in the United States such as urbanization, political and business expansion, class and racial conflict, war, and technological innovation in relation to art work.

  • From Public Sculpture to Public Art (MA)

This class will examine the history and significance of three-dimensional public art in the United States, with particular focus on patronage and process. We will start with public monuments of the turn of the twentieth century, and move on to investigate public art from the Depression on into the present. Our investigations will be divided (somewhat arbitrarily) between memorials and more deliberately self-expressive non-commemorative work. Readings and student-led class discussions will explore the shifting forms, sites, meanings of, and audiences for, public art, and the relationships among creativity, aesthetics, public policy, urban politics, and signification. Analysis and critique of specific works of art, as well as of the practical side of public art-making and conservation will also be a crucial objective, with inquiry guided by some of the following questions: How do we assess public art in the present day? Is it appropriate to use the same criteria as we use to evaluate art in the gallery? How do we protect the public interest but not mistreat artists? Does contemporary public art serve a real public purpose? Under what circumstances? How do concerns for excellence stack up against desires for community participation and affirmation? Should 21st-century public art be permanent? Students will do written work that either builds upon issues studied in class or proposes alternative points of view.

Winter Term 2014/15 (Michael Schreyach)

  • Art and Culture in the United States after 1945 (BA)

  • Abstract Expressionism and Formalist Criticism in Context, 1940-1967 (MA)

Summer Term 2014 (Kenneth Haltman)

  • History of American Art (BA)

A close consideration of representative works produced in the North American colonies, later the United States, between roughly 1750 and 1950, accompanied by an equally close scrutiny of relevant scholarly texts.

  • Visual Analysis (MA)

A graduate seminar involving consideration of visual analysis understood as offering a privileged avenue to historical interpretation, with close attention to relevant examples from recent scholarship in American art history.

Winter Term 2013/14 (Andrew Hemingway)

  • New Deal Culture (BA)

There is a scholarly consensus that the New Deal was a watershed in the history of the United States, both in terms of the emergence of a more powerful Presidency and of a more interventionist governmental role in the economy and social welfare provision. Its legacy is still a matter of contention. The policy of "bold, persistent experimentation" that Roosevelt promised in 1932 before he was even selected as the Democratic presidential candidate issued not only in such measures as the National Industrial Recovery and Agricultural Adjustment Acts, but also in the largest programs of direct state patronage of the arts in U.S. history. The most important of these initiatives were the projects for the visual arts, theater, writing, and music contained within the vast work relief program of the Works Progress Administration, 1935-43. These projects were highly controversial at the time in part because they became a focus for the cultural ambitions of the communist left and attracted the hostile scrutiny of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Another charge - that they functioned as a covert form of New Deal propaganda - has been echoed in some contemporary interpretations. The administration certainly used the media of photography and film on an unprecedented scale to publicize its policies, stimulating the development of the documentary genre in these and other fields. This course explores the tensions between the cultural programs' functions as short-term showcases of New Deal values and the more radical ambitions of the left to build a genuine cultural democracy by making state patronage a permanent feature of American cultural life and curbing the role of the market. It also considers the relation between state-sponsored culture and documentary record and the presentation of American society in the mass media. Preliminary Reading. Listening, and Viewing: Anthony P. Badger, The New Deal: 1933-40 The Depression Years (1989) Richard D. McKinzie, The New Deal for Artists (1975) Jane De Hart Matthews, The Federal Theatre, 1935-1939 (1967) Andrew Hemingway, Artists on the Left: American Artists and the Communist Movement, 1926-1956 (2002), Parts 1 and 2 James Guimond, American Photography and the American Dream (1991), chapter 4 Listen to: Marc Blitzstein, The Cradle Will Rock, Jay Productions, CDJAY2 1300 (1985 Recording + Introduction by John Houseman) Watch: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (dir. Frank Capra, 1939) The Grapes of Wrath (dir. John Ford, 1940)

  • Art and Radicalism in the United States, c. 1901-1929 (MA)

The starting point of this course is the year of the founding of the American Socialist Party (SP); its end point is marked by the Wall Street Crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The course also pivots around two other events, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and US involvement in World War I from 1917-18. Although these episodes are not echoed directly in stylistic or iconographical shifts in the arts, their cultural impact was profound. The period prior to World War I witnessed the SP and the great Syndicalist union the International Workers' of the World (IWW) reach the height of their influence, as well as the rise of the New Woman and the founding of the first national civil rights movement. These developments provided the ideological framework for the radical subculture of New York City's Greenwich Village, which fostered revolutionary magazines such as The Masses and Mother Earth, and dissentient artistic groupings such as the Ashcan School and the Provincetown Players. At the same time, European modernist tendencies in the arts were increasingly taken up by American artists as a sign of their counter-cultural orientation. Over 1917-20, the war, the accompanying Red Scare, and the Palmer Raids broke up the radical culture of the pre-war period and contributed to the mood of disenchantment associated with the phrase "the Lost Generation," which has often been taken to define the culture of the 1920s. However, even with the political formations of the SP and IWW in long-term decline - and with a communist party that was small, beleaguered and fragmented - American modernist culture of the 1920s was distinctly anti-capitalist in tenor. This course tracks the culture of radical dissent across the little magazines, the modernist novel, experimental photography and film, Dada, the art of the "New Negro," and the post-Cubist painting of the decade. Preliminary Reading and Viewing: Alan Dawley, Struggles for Justice: Social Responsibility and the Liberal State (1991) Adele Heller & Lois Rudnick (ed.), 1915: The Cultural Moment (1991) Yale University Art Gallery Art for the Masses (1911-1917): A Radical Magazine and its Graphics (catalogue by Rebecca Zurier, 1985) Rebecca Zurrier et. al., Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan School and their New York (National Museum of American Art, 1996) Andrew Hemingway The Mysticism of Money: Precisionist Painting and Machine Age America (2013) Novels: Sherwood Anderson and John H. Ferres, Winesburg, Ohio: Text and Criticism (1996) John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer (1925; Houghton Mifflin edition, 1991) Watch the movie: Reds (1981, directed by Warren Beatty)

Summer Term 2013 (Patricia Hills Summer) 

  • Visual Culture of Slavery and the American Civil War, 1840-1870 (BA)

The seminar focuses on American visual culture of the Civil War era: Slavery, the Civil War, Emancipation, and early Reconstruction, including paintings, sculpture, book illustration, graphics in the illustrated weeklies, photography, exhibitions, and organized urban spectacles. Topics will include but not be limited to: slavery and the slave auction in sculpture and paintings; illustrations for such books as Uncle Tom's Cabin; the visual record of the Civil War in the illustrated press, such as Harper's Weekly; the carnage of battle in the photographs of Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O'Sullivan; picturing wartime activities of soldiers at the front and women on the home front; the "Emancipation Proclamation" in popular imagery; images of the death and mourning of President Lincoln; the radical John Brown in graphics and text; visual conceptions of the Freedmen's Bureau; and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in popular imagery.

  • African American Art from the Jazz Age to Hip Hop (MA)

The seminar surveys African American painting, sculpture, and photography from 1920 to 1990. Topics for discussion will include the visual arts produced during the Harlem Renaissance (1920s), the 1930s government projects, the Post-World War Two Civil Rights Era, the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and today. In these decades debates within the African American artistic communities generated lively exchanges about modernism, black nationalism, the social responsibility of art to "uplift the race," the relevance of the legacy of Africa, the persistence of Africanist traditions from slave culture, the critique of Euro-American representations of race, and issues of voice and identity.

Winter 2012/13 (Vivien Green Fryd)

  • American Art 1945-1970 (BA)

This course explores the theory and practice of mostly American art since 1945, focusing upon modernism and postmodernism. Beginning with the emergence of large-scale abstract painting in New York in the post-war years, we go on to explore challenges to 'formalist' conceptions of the picture and its priority on aesthetic quality as the guarantor of artistic value. We consider what was at stake in the redeployment of avant-garde artistic strategies in the 1950s, and the adoption of serial forms and mechanized production processes by Minimalist and Pop artists in the 1960s. We examine the so-called 'dematerialization' of the art object and the rise of Conceptual Art; the relationship between art, its institutions and politics; the emergence and impact of new media; and the rise of installation art as a dominant presentational form. We will also bring our concerns up to date by engaging with the work of selected contemporary artists. As well as examining a range of different art forms, we will also keep track of the critical debate that surrounded their emergence. Students will be given an initial introduction to key ideas drawn from formalist, Marxist, psychoanalytic, and postmodern theory with an emphasis upon gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. A priority is placed upon the visual analysis of specific art objects which we will view at the Neue National Gallery and the Hamburger Bahnhof and an attentive, critical engagement with key texts. The format will be a lecture class although class discussion is encouraged.

  • American Icons and Monuments (MA)

This course is designed to examine icons and monuments in American visual art and culture. Why are particular images and monuments renowned throughout the world? What do they say about national identity, historical memory, or political ideologies? How and why do different social groups contest certain monuments? How and why do certain images of people, historical events, and/or national symbols like the American flag become iconic?

Summer Term 2012 (Angela Miller)

  • Comparative Cold-War and Post-War Cultures (MA)

  • American Modernisms (MA)

Winter Term 2011/12 (Katherine Manthorne)

  • Global New York, 1915-1945 (BA)

This course explores New York City as a site of international artistic exchange, with artists from all over the world living, working, and training here. The phenomenon of European exiles in the interwar years is well known, as is the presence of the Mexican Muralists. We discover, however, that from the dawn of the 20th century New York was already a thriving art metropolis. We explore multiple facets of the city as sites of global dynamics: museums, commercial galleries, art publishing industry, state/government support for the arts, and art academies. The Art Students League alone drew contingencies from Europe, Asia, and across the Americas, as did the 1939 World’s Fair. As a contributor to the exhibition that reopened El Museo del Barrio in Fall 2009 – entitled New York Nexus – I put special attention on the presence of Latin American and Latino/a artists in my opening lectures. The presence of Asian pictorial artists is another understudied aspect of this phenomenon. Establishing these exchanges, we critique and in part re-write the prevailing construct that New York became a world art city after World War II.

  • 'Sweet Fortunes': Sugar, Race, Art and Patronage in the Americas, 1750-1950 (MA)

Adopting a trans-American scope, this course interrogates the “global turn” in the field. Major artworks produced across the Americas, from J.S. Copley’s Watson and the Shark (1778), Winslow Homer’s Gulf Stream (1899), and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Pineapple Bud (1940) to Latin American artists Francisco Oller’s Hacienda Aurora (1899; Puerto Rico), Carlos Enrique’s Abduction of the Mulatas (1938; Cuba) and Wifredo Lam’s The Jungle (1943; Cuba) share a common root. They owe their subject and iconography to the trade between the US, Africa, and the Caribbean. Vessels left the United States carrying rum and other commodities to trade for African slaves, headed for the West Indies to exchange human cargo for sugar and molasses so necessary to the American economy. We therefore draw upon the visual imagery of race and slavery, but with the more specific lens of the Sugar Trade. By 1860 Brooklyn was the sugar refining capital of the world. With the Spanish American War (1898), New York City became the de-facto capital of the growing Caribbean Empire. Huge wealth derived from the sugar manufacture was used to acquire art by major patrons including the Havemeyers. We therefore also examine the legacy of these “sweet fortunes.” Lectures move chronologically from colonial through modern, analyzing visual culture – including fine and decorative arts and their patrons—intersecting with these hemispheric relations and global trade.

Summer Term 2011 (Jochen Wierich)

  • Picturing the Empire: Paintings and Photographs of the American West (BA)

  • Temporale Fotografie (BA) 

In temporaler Hinsicht gelten Fotografien meist als immobile Standbilder, die sich durch die Abwesenheit von Zeit und Bewegung charakterisieren lassen. Anders als beim Film nämlich wird der einzelne Moment in der Fotografie dem Fluss der Zeit entnommen und gewissermaßen „eingefroren“. Der Blick in die Fotografiegeschichte verdeutlicht jedoch, dass das Verhältnis des fotografischen Bildes zu Zeit und Bewegung wesentlich komplexer ist und sich den historischen und technologischen Bedingungen entsprechend als äußerst wandlungsfähig darstellt. Unterschiedliche fotografische Praktiken korrespondieren in diesem Sinne auch mit unterschiedlichen „Temporalitäten“. Ziel dieses Seminars ist es, diese unterschiedlichen Temporalitäten in ihrem jeweiligen kulturellen Kontext zu erfassen und zur Diskussion zu stellen. Bezug genommen wird dabei – von der Portrait- und Momentfotografie des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zur „Street Photography“ und den „Rephotography“-Projekten im 20. Jahrhundert – auf Beispiele aus der amerikanischen Fotografiegeschichte. Zu den im Seminar behandelten Fotografen und Fotografinnen gehören u.a. Eadweard Muybridge, Etienne-Jules Marey, Berenice Abbott, Robert Frank, Jeff Wall, Sam Taylor-Wood, Mark Klett, Camilo José Vergara und Hiroshi Sugimoto.

  • Zwischen Demokratie und Sklaverei: Geschichtsbilder aus der Zeit des amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs (MA)

Winter Term 2010/11 (Alan Wallach)

  • Rethinking the Hudson River School (MA)

After a long series of blockbuster and quasi blockbuster exhibitions beginning with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "American Paradise" (1987) and ending with the Brooklyn Museum's "Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape" (2007), now is a perfect time to take a fresh look at the history of the Hudson River School and its offshoots. This course provides an opportunity to assess what has been learned over the past two decades and to explore further the influence of new social formations, new cultural practices, and new technologies of vision on American landscape representation in the period 1800-1875.

  • A Critical Historiography of the History of American Art (MA)

This course aims to develop a critical awareness of the history of writing about American art by focusing on a series of questions and conundrums: How have scholars and critics defined what is – and by implication what is not – American art? What accounts for or explains the ways in which they have written about its history? How have they dealt with the apparent historical split between a supposedly “provincial” pre-1945 American art and a “cosmopolitan” postwar American art? Finally, can the study of American art escape or evade art history’s Hegelian legacy? To help concretize our discussions, a part of the course will be devoted to sampling the voluminous scholarly literature devoted to Thomas Eakins’ best known painting, The Gross Clinic (1876).

Summer Term 2010 (David Lubin)

  • American Art to 1900 (BA)

  • Cultural Revolutions: American Romanticism from a Transnational Perspective (BA)

With its emergence in Britain and Germany in the 1790s, Romanticism fundamentally altered our thinking about questions of historical progress, religious truth, and the functions and capacities of the human imagination. Pairing both canonical and lesser known texts by writers of the American Renaissance and central works of German Romanticism, we will investigate the transformations and reconstructions which these three core concerns undergo on both sides of the Atlantic. 
The body of literary writings in which America’s first major cultural movement invented itself was framed by impassioned battles over scriptural interpretations and discussions over idealist visions of the powers of the imagination. The intellectual historical cross-overs between these American debates and developments in the fields of philological, historical, and biblical research in Germany have only recently begun to take center stage in histories of Transcendentalism. We will explore this linkage in works by writers such as Emerson, the Schlegel brothers, Melville, Herder, George Ripley, James Marsh, Germaine de Staël and Margaret Fuller. In what ways does the growing popularity of historico-critical research inform their thinking about relations between ancient and modern literatures? How does the emergence of a historical consciousness alter ideas of creativity, or the role of the imagination in moments of aesthetic or religious experience? How do these writers negotiate questions of artistic truth and religious authority?
With its cross-cultural focus, this course will follow recent critical interests in exploring America’s cultural history as a transnational project. Moreover, we will also examine the functions of shared Romantic concepts and methodologies for the emergence of a specifically American culture of modernity. How can our transnational perspective contribute to illuminating the making of a uniquely American cultural tradition in the antebellum period?

Winter Term 2009/10 (Joshua Shannon)

  • American Photorealist Painting, 1970 (MA)

  • Jeff Wall (MA)

Over a forty-year career, the Canadian artist Jeff Wall has achieved extraordinary critical renown, especially for his large, back-lit photographic transparencies of contemporary interiors and suburban landscapes. But the interpretive response to Wall’s work has been widely varied, with some critics viewing it primarily as a reactionary effort to build a sumptuous naturalism after the traumas of modernism, and others arguing for its status as a uniquely revealing and critical representation of everyday life.

In this course, we will undertake an intensive and sympathetic examination of Wall’s work, looking closely and considering much of the related literature. As we go, we will address topics including landscape art, narrative representation, cinema, documentary, and the history and theory of photography since World War II. Especially important will be an investigation into whether some of these works—often appearing at once naturalistic and self-evidently staged—might indeed constitute a credible, postmodern realism, and if so, what the meanings of that strange realism might be. 

Readings will include articles by Peter Bürger, Jean-Francois Chevrier, Thierry de Duve, Steve Edwards, Michael Fried, Peter Galassi, Hilde van Gelder, Rosalind Krauss, Stewart Martin, Laura Mulvey, Michael Newman, John Roberts and Gregor Stemmrich, as well as Wall’s own writings.