The Politics of Representation: Art History and Power

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Academic Year: 
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Description: 

This course offers students a critical introduction to traditional histories of art. While providing students with the tools necessary to comprehend and identify traditional temporal periodization and widely acclaimed masterpieces, it will continually question the politics of representation that led to these narratives and reflect on alternative ways of making meaning. Students will be introduced to artworks from across the spectrum of production and consumption chosen from across the globe. Some meetings concentrate on specific key themes or theoretical models, while others focus on object types and their usage. The course aims to develop student’s visual literacy by providing students with the basic tools of visual analysis and with an overview of the history of the discipline. The course includes two museum visits and the creation of a scrapbook “textbook” that chronicles each student’s own unique history of art in conversation with what is discussed in class and in the readings.

Learning Outcomes: 
  • identify a select group of masterpieces (chosen by the student) in time and geography
  • develop a vocabulary to discuss the aesthetic qualities and political entanglements of cultural products, and their representativeness across different genres and historical periods
  • explain how primary sources relate to works of art
  • develop a broader but more nuanced understanding of the historical context of architecture, painting, calligraphy, decorative arts, music and poetry.
  • comprehend the interrelated forces of cultural borrowings, traditionalism, and innovation.
  • develop visual literacy and independent study skills
  • evaluate historical material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment

Students will be graded using a variety of assessments that are evenly distributed between in-class (50%) and take-home (50%) assignments.

The in-class grade is built up as follows:

  • active participation in discussions (10%),
  • one oral visual analysis (roughly 3 minutes) (5%),
  • one in-museum visual analysis (roughly 5 minutes), (5%)
  • six short in-class quizzes focused on themes and definitions from readings and discussions (30%).

The take-home assignment grade is built up as follows:

  • student’s own “textbook,” i.e. the scrapbook collected throughout the semester (20%),
  • one written reflection on the readings (10%),
  • and a take home final exam (20%).