Courses of Study 2015-2016 
    Nov 12, 2019  
Courses of Study 2015-2016 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

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ARTH 4761 - Art and Social Histories

(crosslisted) AMST 4306 , VISST 4761  

Fall, spring. 4 credits. Letter grades only.

Permission of instructor required. Not open to freshmen. Co-meets with AMST 6761 /ARTH 6761 . Auditing not permitted. Interested students should send a brief description of background course work to Professor Meixner at

L. L. Meixner.

Seminar topics rotate each semester.

Topic for fall 2015: De-mythologizing Van Gogh & Gauguin

This seminar focuses on Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin through the lens of twenty-first century scholarship. Long mythologized as “genius” and “savage,” both artists are receiving fresh attention through major exhibitions, newly discovered archives and conservation technologies, and ground-breaking interpretations. We will relate their paintings to larger currents of post-Impressionist art and late-nineteenth century economies, particularly French trade with Japan, cultural cross-dressing, the twin projects of tourism and colonialism in Tahiti, and the exhibition of empire at the 1889 World’s Fair. We begin with Van Gogh and Gauguin at Arles, where Van Gogh combined his “Japanese dream” and French socialism to envision a marketplace cooperative at the Yellow House; we will then trace Gauguin’s transformation from a stockbroker to a self-fashioned “exotic” at the Brittany Peninsula and later Papeete (Tahiti). We will consider the roles of ethnographic photography, popular illustrations, Japanese prints, and Javanese sculpture in their art. Texts include Van Gogh’s Collected Letters (indexed and available on-line) and Gauguin’s fictionalized travel journal Noa Noa.

Topic for spring 2016: Mass Culture & the Great Depression

This seminar explores public art and popular entertainments as the means for everyday people to politically engage or escape the Great Depression (1929-41).  Discussions include Living Newspapers, the Federal Theater Project, Popular Front and Socialist printmakers, FSA photographers (Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks), and artists’ collectives and strikes. Connecting these is FDR’s New Deal, its controversial government support for the arts, and censorship.  We consider “slumming” and spectatorship, Woody Guthrie and migrant camp music, “hobo” culture, dance as political theater, women’s films, Busby Berkeley “gold diggers” musicals, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers spectaculars.  We begin with the importance of radio in the home and how it constructed gender, race, and the city through serial thrillers, especially the Green Hornet and the Shadow.  Films include Gold Diggers of 1933, Stella Dallas, and Preston Sturges’ Popular Front classic , Sullivan’s Travels.

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