Dr. Caitlin Fisher
208 Winters, 736-2100 x 20744
Office Hours: Thursday 3-5 (F), Friday 3-5 (W) and by appointment
Course meets: Wednesdays 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Vari Hall D
|Download a PDF
file of the class outline distributed on the first day of
Historicism contents itself with establishing
a causal connection between various moments in history. But no fact
that is a cause is for that reason historical. It became historically
posthumously, as it were, through events that may be separated from
it by thousands of years. A historian who takes this as his point
of departure stops telling the sequence of events like the beads
of a rosary. Instead, he graps the constellation which his own era
has formed with a definite earlier one. Thus he establishes a conception
of the present as the "time of the now" which is shot through with
chips of Messianic time.
Walter Benjamin,"Theses on the philosophy
of history, XVII A,"in
Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt,
trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schoken, 1968), p. 263.
Focusing on the European tradition, this course looks at the arts within the context of the societies and
cultures which produced them. It begins by examining various definitions proposed by cultural studies of
'history', 'culture', and 'society'. While introductory surveys are often taught with the assumption that the
history of art is the history of art is one story, and the narrative of its development has something to do with
progress and the achievement of 'naturalism', this course will challenge this assumption by arguing that
there is no one history of art, that histories of art need not follow an evolutionary model, that art is a form
of cultural communication rather than perceptual imitation -- one that involves a broad spectrum of cultural
values. We will consider such issues as the use of artworks as historical documents; connections between
"high art" and popular culture; and the relationship between artist, viewer, artistic tradition, and society.
GOALS. This course will:
- encourage understanding of a cultural
studies approach to the study of Western art, histories and societies
- foster cultural knowledge,
and self- reflection and group work
- promote critical reading skills
and skills in analysis, synthesis, and the construction of an argument
- promote increased computer
- emphasize written
and oral presentation of ideas and arguments
1. Ioan Davies, Comparative Aesthetics (entire website). Available
online through this class website.
2. Additional online readings available on our class website.
3. Art Spiegelman Maus: A Survivor's Tale. New York: Pantheon
4. Course packet of print materials -- required in October.
5. Text for Group Studies Project (see below)
Suggested, but not required:
6. John Berger, Ways of Seeing, London:
7. Thinking it Through:
A Practical Guide to Academic Essay Writing. Academic Skills
Centre, Trent University, 1989.
8. Library research roadmap.
A self-guided tutorial to doing bibliographic research, for undergraduate
students in the social sciences and humanities. <http://info.library.yorku.ca/guides/roadmap/>
As noted above, many compulsory readings for this course
are available only through this website. In addition to
readings, copies of all assignment handouts, review sheets and some
lecture notes will be made available to you on-line. The website
will also connect you to style guides, tips on essay writing, administrative
and academic resources and community events.
This syllabus lays out deadlines for assignments clearly, and the group presentation allows you to choose
your deadline. If any of these dates pose a problem for you, please consult me well in advance to negotiate
a different due date. Exceptions can be made for reasons of domestic affliction or illness, with proper
documentation; otherwise, work must be turned in on time.
A note on participation: being
part of an intellectual community means attending class regularly
and punctually, reading thoughtfully in advance and involving yourself
in class discussions in a way that enables you and other students
Lastly, I encourage you to contact me whenever you are having trouble with your work for this course or
would like to bounce your ideas off me. I am in my office regularly on Thursday afternoons in the Fall term
and on Friday afternoon in the Winter term, but I realize that since you all lead busy lives, these times may
not work for you. I am available at other times, too. The best way to ensure that I'll be around is to set up
an appointment in advance. I teach immediately following this class so it is best to telephone or email me to
work out something that suits both our schedules.