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Art Historical Methodologies

Purpose of Course  showclose

This course is an introduction to the major methodologies that have been and are used by art historians. Although not a history of art history per se, it is organized in a roughly chronological order that traces major methodological developments within the discipline from the birth of art history in the nineteenth century through the late twentieth century. By focusing on several outstanding historical and critical readings, as well as secondary discussions of different types of art historical analysis, the student will be introduced to some of the major methodologies that have shaped the field: formalism, biographical analysis, connoisseurship, technical analysis, iconographical analysis, psychoanalysis, Marxism and the social history of art, feminism, post-colonialism, and semiotics. The course will also examine how artworks are displayed in modern art museums.

After completing this course, you will be able to explain the strengths and weaknesses of different art historical methodologies and explain how they can be used to analyze works of art.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to ARTH301, Art Historical Methodologies. Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements.

Primary Resources: This course makes use of a variety of different online resources, including:

Requirements for Completion: To complete this course, you must work through all the assigned resources (readings, interactives, lectures, and videos), complete seven assignments (Writing a Visual Description, Writing a Stylistic Description, Writing an Iconographic Analysis, Critical Summary of James Elkins’s “The Failed and the Inadvertent: Art History and the Concept of the Unconscious,” Critical Summary of Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,” Short Answer Questions: Raymond Spiteri’s “A Farewell to Modernism? Re-Reading T. J. Clark,” and Critical Summary of Matthew Martin’s “Relics of Another Age: Art History, the ‘Decorative Arts,’ and the Museum”), and pass the Final Exam with a grade of 70% or more.

Time Commitment: Approximately 130 hours.

Tips/Suggestions: Although throughout the course every effort has been made to supply links to images and discussions of works that the student may be unfamiliar with, you are encouraged to briefly research works discussed in the readings that you have not seen or do not know much about. You should also note that many of these readings are theoretical and therefore very dense, so you may have to read over them, or at least sections of them, several times.



Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  • explain what art historians study and what kinds of questions they ask about works of art;
  • identify major art historical methodologies and their associated theories and theorists;
  • write a critical summary of a piece of art historical scholarship;
  • explain the major aspects of the methodological approaches outlined in this course and how they relate to the philosophical, historical, and social context in which they first appeared;
  • explain how different methodologies can be used to analyze works of art;
  • compare and contrast major art historical methodologies; and 
  • use different art historical approaches to interpret, analyze, and write about works of art.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed ARTH101: Art Appreciation and Techniques, ARTH110: Introduction to Western Art History—Pre-Historic to High Gothic, and ARTH111:  Introduction to Western Art History—Proto-Renaissance to Contemporary Art

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