Visual Studies Core Course Descriptions

Introduction to Visual Studies: Eye Openers

Eye openers are flashes of insight. As an introduction to Visual Studies, this course relates the historical and theoretical study of visual culture—from painting, photography, graphic design, architecture, and film—to contemporary life, popular culture, mass media, advertising, and communication.

Topics we discuss in class are the effect of consumer culture on our habits and surroundings (e.g., fast food; suburbia; the mall); the impact of communication technologies such as computer and television on our understanding of and approach toward the world; the question of identity in subcultures and as it is expressed in visual media such as zines and comics (e.g., Art Spiegelman's Maus); and the effect of the politics of art collecting, display, and the art market on contemporary artists.

The goal of this course is to develop techniques of critical analysis and interpretation of visual phenomena and to learn to understand the complex social, cultural and political power structures that govern them.

Prerequisites
Intro to Modern Art
Intro to the Arts

Contemporary Art History

This course is a specialized survey of art after World War II, focusing mainly on the United States. Throughout the semester, we examine art after 1940 within the larger context of the 20th century, frequently looking to Asian, African, and European artists for points of comparison and analysis.

The objective of this course is to give an overview of the major movements and artists of this period, as well as to provide a critical analysis of the contexts in which these objects were produced. The textbook reading for each week is complemented by critical readings, including artists' statements, literary sources, and contemporary art historical commentary. We address issues in the vocabulary of art and in specific artists' intellectual contexts—political, social, or even personal—in order to engage these works of art on a serious level.

Over the semester we listen to music, watch movies, and read poetry in an attempt to understand the entire environment of the period we are studying. At the conclusion of the semester, we expect to be able to address such pressing questions as, Why is the experience of visual art in the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century so dramatically different from that which preceded it?

Prerequisites
Intro to Modern Art
Intro to the Arts

Methods & Theories

This seminar prepares CCA students to participate actively and confidently in conversations about the visual arts. Students investigate the historical bases of contemporary debates and begin to frame their own work and that of others in terms of these ideas.

We examine the critical philosophies that shape the arts and consider the various frameworks for interpreting and judging visual images and objects. Seminar members read about and discuss important critical methods and apply these approaches to artworks, exhibitions, institutions, and systems of production and distribution through oral presentations and written arguments.

Prerequisites
Eye Openers
Intro to Modern Art
Intro to the Arts

Advanced Visual Studies

The past two decades have witnessed an explosion of interest, research, and writing on visual culture within the humanities, arts, and social sciences. This emerging field recognizes the predominance of visual forms of media, communication, and information in our times.

Advanced Visual Studies provides an informative and extensive analysis of key aspects of contemporary culture that rely on visual images. By using a broad spectrum of approaches that include cultural studies, philosophy, anthropology, art history, media studies, gender studies, performance studies, and critical theory we explore a series of works, practices, and phenomena in the fields of art, cinema, videogames, advertising, television, comic books, music videos, cartography, fashion, and digital media.

Advanced Visual Studies does not limit its investigation to the study of representation alone. Rather, it investigates the material production, dissemination, semiotics, and remediation of images and imaging systems in all their various manifestations—artistic, popular, and commercial.

The course has three main goals: to provide a deep understanding of a wide range of methods, approaches, themes, and paradigms that constitute image-based research; to invite students to rethink the role and function of the critic in an image-saturated culture; and to develop an innovative form of research that employs a mixture of visual methods and analytical approaches within one study.

Among the others, we will be reading and discussing contributions from Anne Friedberg, Slavoj Zizek, Jean Baudrillard, Lev Manovich, Susan Sontag, Marshall McLuhan, Scott McCloud, Regis Debray, Linda Williams, Edward Tufte, and William Gibson.

In short, following Nicholas Mirzoeff's definition of Visual Culture, this course provides students with "a tactic for studying the functions of a world addressed through pictures, images, and visualizations, rather than through texts and words."

Advanced Visual Studies presupposes a high level of participation. In addition to a final project, students are required to do weekly written responses to a variety of topics based on readings, screenings, and class discussions.

Prerequisites
Intro to the Arts
Intro to the Modern Arts
Eye Openers

Visual Studies Practicum

Students in this course develop skills that will prepare them for professional activity after graduation. Participants have the opportunity to network with journalists, curators, conservators, dealers, registrars, and teachers, while learning about the array of career opportunities open to them as Visual Studies majors.

Additionally, students hone their skills in writing résumés, grants, and graduate school applications and in the presentation of lectures and professional talks. Mentored participation in the graduate Visual and Critical Studies Program forum and annual spring symposium is an integral component of the course, as is preparatory work for the junior review.

Prerequisites
Advanced Visual Studies
Eye Openers
Intro to Modern Art
Intro to the Art
Methods & Theories

Senior Project I

This course guides students through the process of writing an analytical, thesis-driven research paper 25 to 30 pages in length. Working closely with the instructor and, if necessary, an outside advisor, students identify and research a topic, then develop an outline, write multiple drafts, and complete a final paper that could be submitted as part of a grant or graduate school application. Required for Visual Studies majors, open to others with instructor permission.

Prerequisites
Advanced Visual Studies
Eye Openers
Intro to Modern Art
Intro to the Art
Methods & Theories
Practicum

Senior Project II

Designed to model real-world experiences in the field of Visual Studies, this course guides students through the process of reworking their senior paper into two publicly presentable forms. Working closely with the instructor, students approach the challenges of turning a lengthy academic piece of writing into a 20-minute scholarly talk to be presented at the annual spring Visual Studies symposium, and into a short text to be published in the Visual Studies journal.

Students design, organize, and execute the event and the publication. Course is offered in the spring semester. Required for Visual Studies majors, open to others with instructor permission.

Prerequisites
Advanced Visual Studies
Eye Openers
Intro to Modern Art
Intro to the Art
Methods & Theories
Practicum
Senior Project I