ARTH 6761 - Art and Social Histories
(also AMST 6761 )
Fall, spring. 4 credits.
Permission of instructor required. Not open to freshmen. Co-meets with AMST 4306 /ARTH 4761 /VISST 4761 . Auditing not permitted. Interested students should send a brief description of background course work to Professor Meixner at email@example.com.
L. L. Meixner.
Topic for fall 2013: Mass Culture and 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, WPA muralists and printmakers, FSA photographers (Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Arthur Rothstein), and Social Realist painters (Reginald Marsh, Ben Shahn). Connecting these is FDR’s New Deal, its controversial government support for the arts, and censorship. We consider dance as political theater, Broadway (Porgy and Bess), big bands and swing, pulp and comic strips, star tabloids, “screwball” comedies, Busby Berkeley musicals, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers spectaculars. We will examine the importance of early radio in the home through soap operas, and serial thrillers such as the Green Hornet and the Shadow. Students will draw on the American Memory Project, Ken Burns’ documentary The Dustbowl, and the Johnson Art Museum print and photography collections. Films include It Happened One Night, My Man Godfrey, Sullivan’s Travels, Woody Allen’s Radio Days and Purple Rose of Cairo.
Topic for spring 2014: De-mythologizing Van Gogh & Gauguin
This seminar re-frames Van Gogh and Gauguin through twenty-first century scholarship. Highly mythologized figures, both are receiving fresh attention through major exhibitions, newly discovered archives, and ground-breaking interpretations. We will relate their paintings to larger currents of the late-nineteenth century, particularly French trade with Japan, 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 create the Yellow House, and then trace Gauguin’s construction of the “primitive” at the remote Brittany Peninsula and Papeete (Tahiti). Texts include Van Gogh’s Collected Letters, Gauguin’s fictionalized journal Noa Noa, and the well-known meditations of Martin Heidegger and Meyer Schapiro on Van Gogh’s Shoes (1886).
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