Art History

The art history curriculum at Sarah Lawrence College covers a broad territory historically, culturally, and methodologically. Students interested in art theory, social art history, or material culture have considerable flexibility in designing a program of study and in choosing conference projects that link artistic, literary, historical, social, philosophical, and other interests. Courses often include field trips to major museums, auction houses, and art galleries in New York City and the broader regional area, as well as to relevant screenings, performances, and architectural sites. Many students have extended their classroom work in art history through internships at museums and galleries, at nonprofit arts organizations, or with studio artists; through their own studio projects; or through advanced-level senior thesis work.

Sarah Lawrence students have gone on to graduate programs in art history at Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Bard, Williams, Yale, University of Chicago, Oxford University, and University of London, among others. Many of their classmates have pursued museum and curatorial work at organizations such as the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago; others have entered the art business by working at auction houses such as Sotheby’s or by starting their own galleries; and still others have entered professions such as nonprofit arts management and advocacy, media production, and publishing.

2019-2020 Courses

Art History

First-Year Studies: Histories and Theories of Photography

Open , FYS—Year

What is a photograph? This course looks at that question from many different vantage points, including photography theory, social history, art history, media theory, and material culture studies. How is a photograph both a transcription of the world—an index, decal, or one-to-one transfer of a thing—and a representation, a culturally-encoded image that tells us about how we see ourselves and others in the world? We each hold thousands of photographs on our phones, but they are digital, disembodied, and dematerialized images that are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. What can the history of photography (from 1839 to the present) teach us about the medium’s materiality—or how photographs were to be found in albums, lavish frames, photobooks, archives, the wall in a museum, or as slides projected on a screen? What do these material histories tell us about what photography was—and now is? This course will look closely at specific themes within the history and theory of photography, including: documentary aesthetics and discourses of colonization; photography’s archival practices and forms of social control; identity politics and the photographic representation of visibility; digitization and contemporary photography; globalization, labor, and photojournalism; and the ethics and politics of the photography of war and violence. Not a comprehensive survey, this course instead looks at focused case studies structured chronologically. We will do close readings of theoretical and primary source texts and consider scholarly, literary, and aesthetic texts. The course also places strong emphasis on what it means to write about and describe photographs. Whenever possible, we will look at photographs in person. Individual conference meetings will alternate biweekly with group activities that may include field trips to New York City collections, writing workshops, and research sessions in the library.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Histories of Modern and Contemporary Art

Open , Lecture—Year

This is a yearlong course but will be open to new enrollments in the spring.

This course is an introduction to modern and contemporary art from 1880 to the present. In the fall semester, we will explore modernist histories of art, investigating how artists responded to a world that was ravaged by fascism, colonialism, and war; altered by industry, technology, and rationalized forms of labor; and tested by shifting national, ethnic, and gendered identities. What representational strategies did artists use to respond to those upheavals? How is the history of Western avant-gardist art also one of colonization and cultural appropriation? The course serves as an introduction to the historical avant-gardes in the United States, Mexico, and Europe—including Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Constructivism, Vorticism, Dada, Surrealism, Muralism, the Harlem Renaissance, and Abstract Expressionism—and to alternative modernisms that fall outside the canon, including so-called “outsider” art, queer modernisms, and modernisms in India, Japan, and Latin America. In the spring, we will explore a sea change that began in the 1960s—against a changing social, economic, and political sphere—as artists tested modernist categories of painting and sculpture; incorporated new technologies such as television and video into their art; and questioned the hierarchies of art’s production, reception, and display through protest, activism, and audience participation. We will look closely at how artists embraced radicality by protesting for civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ rights and by claiming an antiwar politics. In the last 20 years, all of this shifted with the return to traditional categories of painting and sculpture and the rise of the global art market. Although we will look at art since the 2000s, the main focus is art from 1960 to 2000, including Gutai, happenings, neoconcretism, pop art, Fluxus, minimalism, global conceptual art, site-specificity, earthworks, the Chicano Art Movement, AfriCOBRA, feminism, video art, institutional critique, installation, activist art, participatory art, relational aesthetics, craft, and new media. Throughout, we will focus on specific artworks and gain a vocabulary for close looking while also attending to primary sources (manifestos, letters, statements, poems) and secondary art historical and theoretical accounts. Group conferences will closely investigate works by a single artist. Assignments will include visual analysis papers based on works in New York City collections, exams, and reading responses.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Lift Up Your Hearts: Art and Architecture of the Baroque—Europe and Its Colonies, 1550–1700

Open , Lecture—Year

In Annibale Carracci’s painting of St. Margaret (1609), an Early Christian martyr, an altar is inscribed: Sursum Corda (Lift Up Your Hearts). This course explores what that meant in the 17th century—for the arts to be a vehicle of uplift and salvation, a challenge to the supremacy of nature, an analysis of history, and a site of contention, paradox, and pride for artists and architects. Using PowerPoint presentations, class discussion, and papers focusing on works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the course will cover the art of 16th-century Italy—as that art frames the questions that painters, sculptors, and architects pursued throughout Europe in the 17th century, commonly called the Age of the Baroque. Included will be studies of major movements in religion, politics, and society (Catholic reform and the founding of the Jesuits Order, the evolution of academic art, the creation of papal Rome, the importance of private patronage); issues in aesthetics and art theory (the transformation of classical models, theories of the reception of nature, the links to poetry, and the dynamics of style); the emergence of the varying national traditions (the sweet style and Bel Composto in Italy, Calvinist naturalism and the power of light in The Netherlands, and high classicism and Bon Gout in France). Focus will also be on careers of artists like Titian and the erotics of the brush; Michelangelo and transcendent form; Caravaggio and naturalism as the death of painting; Artemisia Gentileschi, biography and exemplum; Bernini and the beautiful whole; Rubens and the multiple ways of transforming; Rembrandt and the rough style; Vermeer and the discipline and technique of light; and Poussin and the modes of expression, among others. Group conferences in the first semester will focus on the art of Michelangelo as practice and problem and theories of the Baroque; in second semester, theories and problems in 17th-century architecture.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Architectures of the Future: 1850 to the Present

Open , Seminar—Year

Visionaries and builders; users and functions; thoughts, practices, and theories of architecture from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution to today...all claim in one way or another to rethink the past, realize the present, and, most importantly, create the future. Through PowerPoint presentations, readings, and discussion, this course gives a challenging, inclusive, and nuanced understanding of buildings and monuments. We will learn to read architecture in depth with architects, critics, historians, and philosophers; to analyze the concept of form and its urban, sociopolitical, and epistemological implications; and to see how architecture gives shape and meaning to its context, sense to our spatial and historical experience, and image to philosophies of human collective action. We will analyze major movements (arts and crafts, technological sublime and Brooklyn Bridge, art nouveau, Bauhaus, modernism and nachine villas, archigram and walking cities, postmodernism and DisneyWorld, deconstruction, new pragmatism, figural, digital, sustainable) and figures (William Ruskin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Sam Mockbee, Zaha Hadid, Jean Gang, and BIG—Bjarke Ingels, not "the Notorious"). Readings will be drawn from history, philosophy, literature (realist, sci-fi, and visionary), Edmund Burke, William Blake, William Morris, Buckminster Fuller, Heidegger, Foucault, Benjamin, and others. Monuments include the Eiffel Tower, the Houses of Parliament, the Einstein Tower, the World’s Fairs of 1925 and 1939, the Bauhaus building, Fallingwater, the Seagram’s building, New York monuments at Ground Zero and in Lower Manhattan, the Irish Hunger monument, among many other structures. Projects, papers, an architectural notebook dedicated to class notes, readings, drawings, musings, etc. will be required, along with a conference project in the history, theory, philosophy, and sociopolitical context—including women as users, patrons, and makers of art and architecture. Well-formulated design projects are a possibility. This course shares connections with visual arts, film, and a broad range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Masterworks of Art and Architecture of Western Traditions

Open , Seminar—Year

This is a discussion-based course with some lecture segments, in which students will learn to analyze works of art for meaning against the backdrop of the historical and social contexts in which the works were made. It is not a survey but will have as its subject a limited number of artists and works of art and architecture—about which students will learn in depth through both formal analysis and readings. The goal is to teach students to deal critically with works of art, using the methods and some of the theories of the discipline of art history. The “Western Tradition” is understood here geographically, including works executed by any political or cultural groups from the Fertile Crescent, the Mediterranean, and extending to Europe and the Americas. The course will include works from Ancient Mesopotamia through the present.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Ancient Albion: Art and Culture in the British Isles From Stonehenge to the Viking Invasions

Open , Seminar—Year

Given their geographical setting at the northwestern extreme of Europe, the arts and cultures of “Albion,” or Britain and Ireland, have often been described by the term “insular” in the sense of isolated, discrete, or peripheral—yet nothing could be further from the truth. No less than six Roman emperors spent time in Britain, and four came to power there. To a great extent, Irish clerics were responsible for the survival of classical learning during the Dark Ages. Indeed, throughout history, cultural developments in the British Isles were intimately related to ideas and events on the European Continent and the Mediterranean. Following this basic premise, in the fall semester the course will examine civilization in Britain and Ireland from the late Stone Age or Megalithic period, through the Bronze and Early Iron Ages, to the coming of the Celts and the Roman conquest. In the spring, we will focus on later Roman Britain, Irish monasticism, and the emergence of Anglo-Saxon culture down to the arrival of the Vikings. At every turn, we will consider interactions with the urban civilizations to the south and west—the early Aegean, Greece, Rome, and the early medieval Continent—to discover that Albion was an integral part of the political, religious, and economic forces that shaped the art and history of Europe up to the present time.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The City in Antiquity

Open , Seminar—Fall

The course will examine the origins and development of urban architecture and city planning in the ancient Near East, Egypt, and the Greek and Roman world. We will consider the built environment as a practical response to the requirements of social, economic, and political organization, as well as to religious belief. We will begin by examining the factors behind the earliest urban developments among the settled communities of the Near East and Egypt, culminating in the great cities of Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley. We will then shift to urban development in the Greek world, starting with the Bronze Age Aegean and then the subsequent emergence of the polis in response to the urban cultures of Egypt and the Near East. We will conclude by examining the urban elaborations of Classical and Hellenistic Greece and the Greek impact on the cultures of ancient Italy.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Romanesque and Gothic: Art and Architecture at the Birth of Europe

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course explores the powerful architecture, sculpture, and painting traditions that lie at the heart of the creation of Europe and the idea of the West. We will use a number of strategies to explore how monumental architecture and expressive narrative painting and sculpture were engaged in the formation of a common European identity and uncover, as well, the architectural vestiges of diverse groups and cultures that challenge that uniform vision. These are arts that chronicle deep social struggles between classes, intense devotion through pilgrimage, and the rise of cities and universities that could both advocate genocide and nurture enormous creativity, in styles both flamboyant and austere, growing from places as diverse as rural monasteries to Gothic cathedrals. The course will explore those aspects of expressive visual language that link the buildings to social history, the history of ideas, and political ideology.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Archaeology and the Bible

Open , Seminar—Spring

With the advent of early archaeological excavation in the Near East, biblical studies entered upon a new modern phase in which the criticism of scriptural revelation was no longer simply a matter of faith or theology. With the new discoveries at Nimrud just before the middle of the 19th century, the Assyrians and the other great powers of ancient Mesopotamia mentioned in Old Testament narratives suddenly became a visible reality, demonstrating that biblical narratives could now be evaluated or corroborated empirically against hard, material evidence. In due course, pioneering archaeologists also turned their attention to the Holy Land to pursue this new agenda. Since then, the convergence of archaeology and modern professional criticism of the Old Testament has increasingly enabled us to reconstruct the reality behind the biblical narratives. The course will explore this process, focusing primarily on the material culture of the ancient Levant—beginning in the Bronze Age with the Canaanites, the emergence and subsequent development of the Iron Age Israelite kingdom, its destruction, the Babylonian Captivity, the eventual return of the Jews under Persian rule, and the re-emergence from Hellenistic Greek domination of a Judaean kingdom under the Hasmoneans. Although focused largely on archaeological or material remains, the course will also make ample use of biblical and historical texts or sources to investigate the intersection of archaeology, culture, and religion.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Paris: A History Through Art, Architecture, and Urban Planning

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

In this course, we will trace the history of Paris—from its founding through World War I—using the arts that both defined and emanated from this remarkable city. We will use works of art, architecture, and urban design as documents of history, of social and cultural values, and as the history of ideas. Student projects will chart these relationships graphically and construct a cultural history of Paris from Roman Lutetia to the City of Lights.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

How Things Talk

Open , Lecture—Spring

A long-standing tradition within Western thought has conceptualized language as a system of signs clearly separate from material reality and aimed at enabling the transmission of information. The divide between the intangible realm of language and the material domain of things has dominated scholarship across several disciplines, leaking into common sense. This lecture course questions this deeply entrenched divide and suggests that, in order to understand our contemporary moment, we need to bring into the same analytical field both the linguistic and the material. The course readings provide an introduction to anthropology’s theories and methods through an investigation of how words and things mediate and enable human experience, creating the complex semiotic landscapes that we inhabit. Throughout the semester, students will be introduced to a series of theoretical and ethnographic readings aimed at illustrating the blurred boundaries between words and things, subjects and objects, signs and referents, artworks and artifacts, gifts and commodities, alienable and inalienable possessions. On the one hand, the course will challenge the classic language-world divide that has dominated both academic scholarship and popular common sense. Contrary to the view that language is exclusively a system of symbols that stand for and allow speaking about the world, a series of theoretical readings, practical exercises, and ethnographic case studies will reveal the materiality and performativity of language. Through this journey, language will appear as a material entity and as a form of action endowed with the power to shape the world. On the other hand, the course will dialogue with the emerging cross-disciplinary interest in materiality to invert the longstanding exploration of how people make things and generate a new reflection on how things make people. Contrary to the deeply entrenched opposition between subjects and objects, a selection of essays drawn from recent material culture studies will show how things mediate social relations and how inanimate objects may, in fact, be endowed with a form of agency.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Language and Capitalism

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Spring

One of the effects of advanced capitalism is to complicate the distinction between words and objects and between humans and things. Given the radicalization of market ideologies of our contemporary moment, what counts as inalienable spiritual values opposed to alienable material entities? What should and what should not have a price? Which is the original, and which is the copy? Is a brand a symbol that stands for a product or a product in itself? How can we distinguish medium from message? Is kindness a virtuous demeanor or a form of immaterial affective labor that requires the performance of specific acts of speech? This advanced seminar will engage the role of language—both as a symbolic code and as a material tool—in the spreading of late/neoliberal capitalism. While most analyses of the world’s current order tend to focus on political and economic aspects, this course explores how certain ways of speaking and using language may partake in producing capitalist forms of reasoning and practical conduct. Students will learn, for example, how to look at graphic artifacts (e.g., street signage, wall texts, typefaces, letterforms, logos, and other types of graphic media) as socially and politically meaningful semiotic technologies that shape our contemporary capitalist landscapes. They also will learn how to analyze new protocols of discourse that characterize our everyday lives: the customer satisfaction survey, the service encounter, the checklist, the logbook, the flowchart, the electoral mission statement, the training session, etc. In spite of their apparent ordinariness, these discursive genres/textual artifacts are key for the production of the self-improving and self-reflexive subjects required by the regimes of moral accountability and the forms of market rationality that characterize our contemporary moment. While reading ethnographic analyses of specific technologies of discourse, students will engage broader questions: How pervasive are neoliberal structures of practice? To what extent can neoliberalism be represented as an overarching and coherent global trend generated by the homogenizing forces of Western capitalism? Is our moral and affective experience completely shaped by the extension of economic rationality to all areas of life? The aim is to show how, within a regime of advanced capitalism, life and labor unfold through complex interplays of semiotic codes, affective registers, and material objects.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Writing India: Transnational Narratives

Open , Seminar—Fall

The global visibility of South Asian writers has changed the face of contemporary English literature. Many writers from the Indian subcontinent continue to narrate tumultuous events surrounding the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan at the end of British colonial rule. Their writings narrate legacies and utopian imaginings of the past in light of current images that range from dystopian visions to optimistic aspirations. The seminar addresses themes of identity, fragmentation, hybridity, memory, and alienation. These themes link South Asian literary production to postcolonial writing from varied cultures of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Accounts of South Asian communal violence (Hindu and Muslim fundamentalisms, caste and class conflicts) reflect intersectional issues and global urgencies. The cultural space of India has been repeatedly transformed and redeployed according to varied cultural projects, political interests, and economic agendas. After briefly considering representations of India in ancient chronicles of Chinese, Greek, and Persian travelers, we explore modern constructions of India in excerpts from writers of the British Raj. Our major focus is on India as remembered and imagined in selected works of writers, including Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy. Film narratives are included. We apply interdisciplinary critical inquiry as we pursue a literature that shifts increasingly from narrating the nation to narrating its diasporic fragments in transnational contexts.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Images of India: Text/Photo/Film

Open , Seminar—Spring

This seminar addresses colonial and postcolonial representations of India. For centuries, India has been imagined and imaged through the lens of orientalism. In recent decades, writers and visual artists from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been actively engaged in reinterpreting the British colonial impact on South Asia. Their work presents sensibilities of the colonized in counternarration to images previously established during the British Raj. Highlighting previously unexposed impressions, such works inevitably supplement, usually challenge, and frequently undermine traditional accounts underwritten by imperialist interests. Colonial and orientalist discourses depicted peoples of the Indian subcontinent both in terms of degradation and in terms of a romance of empire, thereby rationalizing various economic, political, and psychological agendas. The external invention and deployment of the term “Indian” is emblematic of the epoch, with colonial designation presuming to reframe indigenous identity. Postcolonial writers and artists are now renegotiating identities. What does it mean to be seen as an Indian? What historical claims are implicit in allegories of ethnicity, linguistic region, and nation? How do such claims inform events taking place today, given the resurgence of Hindu fundamentalism? For this seminar on the semiotics and politics of culture, sources include works by influential South Asian writers, photographers, and filmmakers.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Hindu Iconography and Ritual

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

This seminar explores symbols, signs, images, and icons associated with Hindu rituals and mythology. After an introduction to semiotics, we study diverse Hindu festivals, including: 1) observances based on lunar and solar calendars, 2) life-cycle sacraments, and 3) occasional ceremonies that occur due to special circumstances. Occasional ceremonies range from personal healing rites to communal rituals performed for relief from droughts, floods, famines, and epidemics. By examining popular festivals, feasts, and fasts, we analyze the multisensory modes of expression used in Hindu observances. Music, chants, and recitations coincide with mandala designs, scroll paintings, dance, and dramas to signify the message of each ceremony. Because Hindu myths and rites are so numerous and elaborate, students gain an understanding that is helpful in analyzing festivals and ceremonial practices cross-culturally. Readings and viewings are drawn from anthropology, comparative religions, and cultural studies.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First-Year Studies: Introduction to Environmental Studies: Cultures of Nature

Open , FYS—Year

In a time of extreme environmental events that include climate change, rising sea levels, flooding, toxics, and radiation, environmental imagery is part of the fabric of daily life and communication: on the Web, on television, in newspapers, and in advertisements. Images of sea rise, genetically modified salmon, or landscapes of environmental devastation in Africa are found in the subway and in Benetton ads, as well as on the front pages of The New York Times and in social media. Representations of nature are not restricted, however, to popular media and texts. They also form the terrain for scientific contestation, debate about environmental ethics, and “high” policy formulation. This FYS seminar introduces students to the insights and methods of environmental humanities, environmental history, science studies, and political ecology. How do stories, images, and maps of nature shape perceptions and practices of environmental management? How is the same patch of “nature” imagined and described by differently positioned observers? How are environmental representations, historical contexts, facts, and rhetoric linked? How are particular forms of environmental representation used? By whom? Where? To what ends? In a time of extreme environmental events, sometimes called the Anthropocene, how are ideas of nature, ecology, and environmental futures changing? How are ideas of resilience now shaping the visions and material interventions of architects, engineers, landscape architects, and urban planners? How do works of fiction, nonfiction, film, and other arts encourage imaginative interventions in an era of increasing environmental risk? In the fall, students will alternate biweekly conferences with biweekly small-group activities. In the spring, students will attend conferences on alternate weeks.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Intermediate French I (Section I): French Identities

Open , Seminar—Year

Course conducted in French. Admission by placement test (to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester) or completion of Beginning French. The Intermediate I and II French courses are specially designed to help prepare students for studying in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College the following year. 

This course will offer a systematic review of French grammar and is designed to strengthen and deepen students’ mastery of grammatical structures and vocabulary. Students will also learn to begin to use linguistic concepts as tools for developing their analytic writing. More than other countries, France’s identity was shaped by centuries of what is now perceived by the French as a historically coherent past. In this course, we will explore the complexities of today’s French identity or, rather, identities, following the most contemporary controversies that have shaken French society in the past 20 years while, at the same time, exploring historical influences and cultural paradigms at play in these débats franco-français. Thus, in addition to newspapers, online resources, recent movies, and songs, we will also study masterpieces of the past in literature and in the arts. Topics discussed will include, among others, school and laïcité, cuisine and traditions, immigration and urban ghettos, women and feminism in France, France’s relation to nature and the environment, the heritage of French Enlightenment (les Lumières), devoir de mémoire, and the relation of France with dark episodes of its history (slavery, Régime de Vichy and Nazi occupation, Algerian war). Authors studied will include Marie de France, Montaigne, Voltaire, Hugo, Flaubert, Proust, Colette, Duras, Césaire, Djebar, Chamoiseau, and Bouraoui. In addition to conferences, a weekly conversation session with a French language assistant(e) is required. Attendance at the weekly French lunch table and French film screenings are both highly encouraged.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Ancient Albion: Art and Culture in the British Isles from Stonehenge to the Viking Invasions

Open , Seminar—Year

Given their geographical setting at the northwestern extreme of Europe, the arts and cultures of “Albion,” or Britain and Ireland, have often been described by the term “insular” in the sense of isolated, discrete, or peripheral, yet nothing could be further from the truth. No less than six Roman emperors spent time in Britain, and four came to power there. To a great extent, Irish clerics were responsible for the survival of classical learning during the Dark Ages. Indeed, throughout history, cultural developments in the British Isles were intimately related to ideas and events on the European Continent and the Mediterranean. Following this basic premise, in the fall semester the course will examine civilization in Britain and Ireland from the late Stone Age or Megalithic period, through the Bronze and Early Iron Ages, to the coming of the Celts and the Roman conquest. In the spring, we will focus on later Roman Britain, Irish monasticism, and the emergence of Anglo-Saxon culture down to the arrival of the Vikings. At every turn, we will consider interactions with the urban civilizations to the south and west—the early Aegean, Greece, Rome, and the early medieval Continent—to discover that Albion was an integral part of the political, religious, and economic forces that have shaped the art and history of Europe up to the present time.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Intermediate Italian: Modern Italian Culture and Literature

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

This intermediate-level course aims at improving and perfecting the students’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, as well as their knowledge of Italy’s contemporary culture and literature. In order to acquire the necessary knowledge of Italian grammar, idiomatic expressions, and vocabulary, a review of all grammar will be carried out throughout the year. As an introduction to modern Italian culture and literature, students will be introduced to a selection of short stories, poems, and passages from novels, as well as specific newspaper articles, music, and films in the original language. Some of the literary works will include selections from Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Natalia Ginzburg, Gianni Rodari, Marcello D’Orta, Clara Sereni, Dino Buzzati, Stefano Benni, Antonio Tabucchi, Alberto Moravia, Achille Campanile, and Elena Ferrante. In order to address the students’ writing skills, written compositions will also be required as an integral part of the course. All material is accessible on MySLC. Conferences are held on a biweekly basis; topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, film, or any other aspect of Italian society and culture that might be of interest to the student. Conversation classes (in small groups) will be held twice a week with the language assistant; students will have the opportunity to reinforce what they have learned in class and hone their ability to communicate in Italian. When appropriate, students will be directed to specific internship opportunities in the New York City area, centered on Italian language and culture.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Poetry of Earth: Imagination and Environment in English Renaissance Poetry

Open , Seminar—Fall

One of John Keats’s sonnets begins, “The poetry of earth is never dead.” This course will step back from Keats to the writing of several of his great predecessors in the English Renaissance to reflect on how imagination shapes environment and environment shapes imagination in the early modern period. The late 16th and 17th centuries were a time of transition between traditional, feudal society—with its hierarchical ideas of order, of humanity, and of nature—and emerging modernity, with its secularizing humanism, its centralization of political and economic power, its development of increasingly dense and complex urban centers, and its commitments to the study and potential mastery of nature through empirical science. With early modernity come all of the challenges to natural environment and its resources that we are so familiar with and challenged by: urban sprawl and environmental degradation, privatization of land, air and water pollution, deforestation and exhaustion of other resources, and diminishment of local species populations. We will study how several major writers register and respond to these tensions and these changes in what we might call their environmental vision, their imagination of nature: as wilderness, the “other” to civilization and its values, as chaos and threat, as liminal space of transformation, as pastoral retreat, as cultivatable human habitation and home. Class reading will include major works of Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, John Milton, Andrew Marvell, and Margaret Cavendish. Conference work may entail more extended work in any of these writers or literary modes or other authors who are engaged in theorizing and imagining nature—and may include study in history, philosophy, geography, politics, or theory.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Odyssey/Hamlet/Ulysses

Open , Seminar—Spring

James Joyce’s Ulysses, one of the most important novels of literary modernism, tracks its two major characters, hour by hour, through the streets of Dublin, Ireland, on a single day, June 16, 1904. Never have the life of a modern city and the interior lives of its inhabitants been so densely and sensitively chronicled. But the text is not only grounded in the “real life” of turn-of-the-century Dublin; it is also deeply grounded in literary landscapes, characters, and plots that stretch back to Shakespeare—and beyond Shakespeare to Homer. This class offers the chance for close study of three great texts that are deeply implicated in one another: Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Joyce’s Ulysses. The themes of circular journeying, fate, identity, parent-child relations, and indebtedness—and “the feminine mystique” that we trace in the Odyssey and Hamlet—will prepare us for a careful and joyful reading of Joyce’s exuberant human comedy in Ulysses. Conference work may entail more extended work in these major authors or other authors and texts roughly contemporary with them or subsequently responding to them, whose work extends and complicates the intertextual webs we will be weaving in class.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Philosophy of Music

Open , Lecture—Spring

This course may also be taken as a semester-long component.

Music is central to most of our lives. How can we understand the experience of music? What does music express? If it expresses emotions, how do those emotions relate to the emotions we experience in everyday life? Can music without words express emotions with as much clarity as music with words? As a background to these questions, we will also be looking at issues concerning the nature and experience of art of general; and we will examine the views of writers such as Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer, Dewey, and Adorno and compare how they understand the role of art in society and in our own experience. The musical repertory will include medieval and Renaissance music, music by Bach, songs by Schubert, and examples from the symphonic repertory by composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky. We will study those works using the techniques of formal analysis that are generally used in music-history classes but also attempt to draw out the many contextual threads: How are they embedded in a culture, and how do they reflect the temperament and orientation of the composers? While most of our musical examples will be from the classical repertory, other styles will also occasionally be relevant. The goals of the class will be to understand how musical and philosophical thought can illuminate each other and to deepen our awareness of the range and power of music. No prior knowledge of music theory or history is required; we will introduce and define the terms we need as the class proceeds.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Theories of the Creative Process

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

A background in college-level psychology, social science, or philosophy is required.

The creative process is paradoxical. It involves freedom and spontaneity yet requires expertise and hard work. The creative process is self-expressive yet tends to unfold most easily when the creator forgets about self. The creative process brings joy yet is fraught with fear, frustration, and even terror.The creative process is its own reward yet depends on social support and encouragement. In this class, we look at how various thinkers conceptualize the creative process—chiefly in the arts but in other domains, as well. We see how various psychological theorists describe the process, its source, its motivation, its roots in a particular domain or skill, its cultural context, and its developmental history in the life of the individual. Among the thinkers that we will consider are Freud, Jung, Arnheim, Franklin, and Gardner. Different theorists emphasize different aspects of the process. In particular, we see how some thinkers emphasize persistent work and expert knowledge as essential features while others emphasize the need for the psychic freedom to “let it happen” and speculate on what emerges when the creative person “lets go.” Still others identify cultural context or biological factors as critical. To concretize theoretical approaches, we look at how various ideas can contribute to understanding specific creative people and their work. In particular, we will consider works written by or about Picasso, Woolf, Welty, Darwin, and some contemporary artists and writers. Though creativity is most frequently explored in individuals, we also consider group improvisation in music and theatre. Some past conference projects have involved interviewing people engaged in creative work. Others consisted of library studies centering on the life and work of a particular creative person. Some students chose to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and focus on an aspect of creative activity in young children.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Psychological Impact of Art

Open , Seminar—Spring

That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people, and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.—Dave Grohl.

The expressive arts bridge the gap between personal and collective experiences. Music, dance, literature, sculpture, and other creative pursuits allow artists a personal venue for intimate expression; but their products also have influence on thousands of others. Art evokes emotions, changes opinions, forges identities, and can be an anthem for social change. This class will explore how engagement with the arts influences who we are and how we relate to others. We will discuss the relative importance of the process of making art, versus the product itself, for personal growth and fostering social change. Although often thought of as a uniquely personal relationship, psychologists’ understanding of how the arts affect social, cognitive, and affective human behavior is expanding. In this class, students will be encouraged to engage critically with this psychological research and appreciate the difficulties associated with quantifying the impact of the arts.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Cuban Literature and Film Since 1959—Vivir y pensar en Cuba

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Taught in Spanish.

Cuba has long exerted a disproportionate fascination for US nationals, perhaps for the world in general. The only socialist country in the Western Hemisphere, Cuba’s relative isolation for decades after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 and the 57-year (and counting) economic embargo imposed by the United States have exacerbated political animosity between Cubans living on the island and the diaspora and have created polarized (and polaroidized) and stereotypical images (black-and-white or in technicolor) that either idealize Cuba as a tropical earthly paradise or denigrate it as a tyrannical dictatorship, a racially integrated island or a landscape of/in ruins, a socialist utopia or nightmarish dystopia leading to massive exodus, and the Caribbean gulag (complete with a US high-security prison in Guantánamo). This course does not aim exclusively to explore and critique these and other ideas about Cuba, though the context is both inevitable and indispensable to fully understand our subject(s). We want to focus on tracing the evolution of Cuba's literature and film since 1959 and learn about how Cubans live and think in/about Cuba. (The title of the course is the title of a Cuban anthology of essays on Cubans born in and raised with the Revolution.) The leaders of the Cuban Revolution were young and consummately aware that literature, film, photography, the visual arts, and popular culture (comics, popular or traditional music) were extraordinarily useful and effective ways to propagate the Revolution at home—especially when one considers that 57% of the population was illiterate—and abroad. We will read a couple of foundational essays (Che Guevara, Fernández Retamar) and excerpts from speeches (Fidel) in order to understand how literature and the arts are ideologically subsumed into the (new) discourse of the nation, how it evolves and changes over several decades, how the new reality impacts and leads to reconfigured genres (testimony, “social realism,” etc.), and the impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet regime and the disastrous effect on Cuba (el período especial). We will explore trends since the 1990s—including contemporary and postmodern voices from the island and those of the diaspora (writing back)—as well as how gender and race have been imagined (or not).

Faculty
Related Disciplines

3D Modeling

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course introduces students to the process of constructing digital objects and environments in the virtual space of the computer. Emphasis will be on a strong grasp of form, space, and composition. Fundamentals of hard-edge and organic surface modeling will be thoroughly exercised, while further exploration of the digital tools will cover shading and texturing, lighting, and rendering with the virtual camera. Over the course of the semester, students will be challenged to create increasingly complex objects, environments, and imagery. Through readings and discussion, students will also be encouraged to consider the conceptual ramifications of working in computer space. Contemporary examples of computer-generated imagery in art, film, and media—juxtaposed with historical views on visual illusion from art and philosophy—will form a broader context in which to examine the medium.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio II

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Open to juniors and seniors with extensive prior visual-art experience. Please bring examples of your work to the interview. Students interested in senior exhibitions are encouraged to interview.

This is a continuation of the fall-semester course and is intended for advanced visual arts students interested in pursuing their own art-making processes more fully. Students making work in painting, drawing, sculpture, video, mixed media, performance, etc. are supported. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. During this spring semester, students will focus exclusively on their own interests and will be expected to develop a sophisticated, cohesive body of independent work accompanied by an artist’s statement and exhibition. We will have regular critiques, readings, image discussions, and trips to artist studios and will participate integrally with the Visual Arts Lecture Series. This will be an immersive studio course for disciplined art students interested in making art in an interdisciplinary environment.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Basic Analog Black-and-White Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

This is an analog, film-based course that introduces the fundamentals of black-and-white photography: acquisition of photographic technique, development of personal vision and artistic expression, and discussion of photographic history and contemporary practice. Reviews are designed to strengthen the understanding of the creative process, while assignments will stress photographic aesthetics and formal concerns. Conference work entails research into historical movements and individual artist’s working methods. Throughout the semester, students are encouraged to make frequent visits to gallery and museum exhibitions and share their impressions with the class. The relationship of photography to liberal arts also will be emphasized. Students will develop and complete their own bodies of work as culmination of their study. This is not a digital photography course. Students need to have at least a 35mm film camera and be able to purchase film and gelatin silver paper throughout the term.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Drawing From Nature

Open , Seminar—Fall

The world we inhabit and learn to navigate with awe, delight, and wonder is filled with things whose existence we had no hand in making. How do you see your own individuality and importance when facing the vast and incomprehensible backdrop of nature? To escape the turmoil of earthly confinement, nature has come to represent both the desire for freedom and our need for order. Before written language, drawing was a way to understand our connection to the world around us, a way to record a sense of place, to mark where one was, here, in relationship to something else there. This course will focus on themes and concepts of landscape, on seeing and understanding nature through observation, documentation, journeying, mapping, and locating one’s perceived place in a world that is partly real and partly invented.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Drawing into Painting: A Sense of Place

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Spring

To look at a place closely, to spend time with it while drawing or painting it is, in a sense, to own it. In this course, students explore their own sense of place in the different locations around Sarah Lawrence College. Students will travel to various destinations to collect source materials, such as drawings, photographs, written notes, and painting sketches; they will work on larger and more complex drawings and paintings in the studio. Through quick studies and finished paintings, students will observe and create an intimate relationship with their chosen landscape motifs. Throughout the semester, students will work both large and small, both quickly and slowly. Some paintings will take a few minutes, and some will take several days. The course emphasizes fundamentals of drawing and painting, as well as the formal, cultural, and political connotations that a landscape genre can contain. The course is supplemented with keynote presentations, class critiques, and field trips.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First-Year Studies: The Way Things Go

Open , FYS—Year

The title of this course is borrowed from the 1987 art film by Peter Fichli and David Weiss, which follows a sequence of causal interactions in a Rube Goldberg-like way. Each object and action affects the next, as the piece evolves over space and time and with great sensory range. In this interdisciplinary studio FYS course, students will be asked to consider their own art-making practice as an interconnected group of acts that evolve over time. Ideas in any creative endeavor rarely arrive fully formed, but creativity, understanding, and clarity come through committed engagement with the act of making. All of our senses contribute to the way we understand the world around us and, consequently, inform how and why we make art. When we see something we’re excited by, we simultaneously hear, smell, or feel something else—which, in turn, affects our initial point of view. This sensory interconnectedness will serve as our course’s foundation, and students will delve deeply into ways of translating the raw data of experience into art. To do so, you will be asked to develop a rigorous studio practice and to work across a full range of mediums—drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, performance, video, photography, sound. Each work will inform the next as your ideas are translated across mediums. As we progress through the year, your artworks will evolve in unexpected ways, challenging you to recognize their potential to affect your subsequent actions. This class will alternate biweekly conferences with biweekly small-group activities, including project and conference work critiques, attendance at the Visual and Studio Arts Lecture Series, museum/gallery tours, and visits to artist studios in the New York City area.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Introduction to Digital Imaging

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course covers contemporary digital practice, with an emphasis on Photoshop skills and imaging techniques from scanning to printing. Proper digital workflow is the focus while working through the basics of image manipulation tools, color correction, and retouching. The skills covered will build a solid basis for further exploration of photography, fine-art printing, and more radical digital experiments. The broader classroom discussion emphasizes computer-generated and -manipulated imagery as a new paradigm in contemporary art, photography, and culture in general. Students are encouraged to explore the potential of digital tools in the context of their personal work—visual arts-related or otherwise—stressing open-ended visual possibilities, as well as technical and conceptual rigor.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Look at You: The Portrait

Open , Seminar—Spring

The portrait has served a myriad of functions over time. The likeness or impression of a single face can inform or define identity, build ties to past history, perpetuate concepts and ideals of beauty and gender, ensure immortality, and/or establish social status, to mention only a few. For the artist, portraiture creates a bridge between the psychological and the scientific by revealing the operation of the mind of both the viewed and the viewer. The focus of this course will be on the structure beneath bone and muscle, both formally and symbolically; the creative potential of the portrait—and portraiture in general—explored through observation; and memory. Daily exercises using a variety of methods, means, and materials, both inside and outside the studio, to build and reinforce disciplined, sustained work habits will be key in growing the technical and observational skills necessary to represent what, for each individual, a portrait might be.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Lost and Found: Collage and the Recycled Image

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course will consider the use, reuse, and, therefore, possible reinterpretation of existing images and discarded materials in the production of new works of art. The creative potential of viewing the familiar in a new context will be the focus of our exploration. Issues such as recognition, replication, prime objects, invention within variation, appropriation, history, and memory (both personal and cultural) will be examined. Each student will be expected to nurture and sustain a unique and individual point of view. The course will revolve around daily exercises, clearly-defined problems, and assignments both inside and outside the studio that are designed to sharpen awareness and reinforce the kind of disciplined work habits necessary to every creative endeavor.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Media Burn: Moving Image Installation in Practice

Open , Seminar—Year

This yearlong production seminar investigates histories, strategies, and concepts related to the production and exhibition of moving-image installation. Over the year, students will investigate the histories of moving-image installation and create their own works of time-based art. We will look at artworks that use moving images, space, sound, loops, performance, site-specificity, chance operations, multiple channels, and games as tools for communicating ideas. In the fall semester, our work will be inspired by close readings of specific seminal artworks in installation from the late 1960s to the present, including pieces that utilize feedback loops, multiple projections, home movies, and new technologies. Students will learn craft and concept simultaneously through collaborative and individual production. Spring semester, we will engage with our own concepts and ideas of how time-based installation can be activated. Site-specificity, social practice, and interdisciplinary projects are introduced, and students are encouraged to connect their conference in this class to collaborations in theatre, dance, sculpture, painting, and academics. Conference works involve research, craft, and rigorous conceptual and technical practice and are presented in exhibitions at the end of each semester. A component of the class will take place outside the classroom at museums, galleries, nonprofits, performance spaces, and historic sites in and around New York City. (The title of this class, Media Burn, comes from the 1975 performance by the San Francisco-based art collective Ant Farm, https://www.eai.org/titles/media-burn)

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Problems in Photography

Open , Seminar—Year

This class will deal with the ways that contemporary artists working in photography discover and develop the problems central to their work. Looking at the work of a single artist—or even a single work by an artist—will provide an opportunity to unearth and understand the influences and histories on which that work depends. We will use these encounters to help focus and understand our own picture making. This is an art class and will be centered on student work and critique; however, students should expect reading and looking assignments, as well. Previously, this class was taught as a survey; this time, it will deal more singularly with questions in photography. The first semester will oscillate between explorations of specific projects from art history and contemporary practice, followed by related assignments and critique. The second semester will open up some, and students will be encouraged to develop independent projects in photography. An interest in art history and basic knowledge of DSLR cameras, inkjet printing, and Adobe Photoshop is encouraged.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Body, Inside Out: Drawing and Painting Studio

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Course preference will be given to those who have painting and/or drawing experience.

This will be a rigorous art course that explores the theme of the body in transformative ways and across the mediums of drawing and painting. The figure will be our main subject, and in-class work will be designed to provoke students to investigate the body physically, psychologically, emotionally, scientifically, and socially. We will paint and draw from live models, from ourselves, and across other diverse media sources. For context, we will look at depictions of the figure from prehistory through contemporary art, as issues of the body in space and the dynamic between the artist and model are extremely relevant in today’s art world. Through direct, immersive observation and imaginitive interpretation, the works you make will be stylistically varied, experimental, and exploratory. You’ll be asked to challenge the conventional dynamic between drawing and painting and, in doing so, push yourselves to make works that defy easy categorization and question the norms of traditional figurative art. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, and image lectures for context. Trips to see exhibitions and artist studios will be an integral component of the class, and attendance at the Visiting Artist Lecture Series is mandatory.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Ideas of Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course is a hybrid. Each week, for the first 10 weeks of the semester, a different photographic idea or genre will be traced from its earliest iterations to its present form by means of slide lectures and readings. And each week, students will respond with their own photographic work inspired by the visual presentations and readings. Topics may include personal dressup/narrative, the directorial mode in photography, contemporary art-influenced fashion photography, new strategies in documentary practice, abstraction, the typology, the photograph in color, and narrative photography. In the final weeks of the semester, the emphasis will shift as students work on a subject and in a form that coincides with the ideas they most urgently wish to express. No previous experience in photography is necessary nor is any specialized equipment. A desire to explore and to create a personally meaningful body of work are the only prerequisites.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The New Narrative Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

A photograph alone, without caption, is like a simple utterance. “Ooh!” or “aah!” or “huh?” are responses to it. But when pictures are presented in groups with an accompanying text—and perhaps in conjunction with political or poetic conceptual strategies—any statement at all becomes possible. Then, photographs begin to function as a sentence, a paragraph, or an even larger discourse. Whether working in fiction or nonfiction, artists such as Alan Sekula, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, Taryn Simon, Jim Goldberg, Roni Horn, and others have transformed the reach of the photograph. Without formal agreement to do so, they have created a new medium, which might be entitled: The New Narrative Photography. In this course, students will study the work of these artists and others and will create their own bodies of work. If you have a story to tell or a statement to make, this course is open to you. No previous photographic experience is necessary nor is any special equipment. The opportunity to work in a new medium is rare. This course aims to create the forum and the conditions necessary for all to do so in a critical and supportive workshop environment.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Experiments With Truth: Nonfiction Writing From the Edges

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Nonfiction writing is defined not by what it is but by what it is not. It is not fiction. But what it is not comprehends a vast territory. We will spend the semester looking at the more unusual, experimental, and lyrical inhabitants of this territory: personal essays masquerading as anthropological studies or paleontological meditations or political screeds, blog posts from medieval Japan and Renaissance France, diaries, poems in the form of diary entries, essays masquerading as poems, micro nonfictions, feuilletons, prose poems passing themselves off as travelogues, koans, sermons, speeches, and prayers. We will read a variety of writers from the past (among—but not limited to—Sei Shonagon, Montaigne, Sir Thomas Browne, Wilde, Pessoa, Gandhi, Mandelstam, Elizabeth Bishop, V. S. Naipaul, the unknown genius who wrote the Book of Job), and from the present (John D’Agata, Bhanu Kapil, Anne Carson, Jonathan Franzen). After the first few weeks, we will alternate, week-by-week, sessions discussing reading with sessions discussing student work. Conference work will comprise discussion of reading tailored to individual students and the equivalent of two large pieces of writing in whatever form student and instructor agree upon.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Our World, Other Worlds

Open , Seminar—Year

This is a writing course that explores the use of episodes in a world made of words. We read short stories, parts of novels, poems, newspaper articles, and essays from many times and worlds and occasionally watch episodes and films. We also do exercises designed to help practice character drawing, dialogue, pacing, composition, editing, and world building. Still, much of the work of the class involves writing episodes of a long work that becomes our conference work and can be completed in one or two semesters. These works are discussed in small groups, whose members become experts on each others’ creations. Many of the works take place in an imaginary world, some are memoirs, others go back and forth between worlds. The course is open but involves a willingness to enter sympathetically into someone else's work over time and to be an informed reader for that person. It also involves the ability to work on a piece of writing for at least a semester.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Poetry: What Holds the Unsayable

Open , Seminar—Spring

Poems are not merely feelings, the poet Ranier Maria Rilke has written, but experiences. What is the difference between a feeling and an experience? How can a poem become an experience? How can a poem, originating from the personal, transcend the personal? How can writing the poem transform the writer? Every poem holds the unsayable. How does a poem do that? How can we attempt to do that—using words? If you are interested in these questions, take this course. It is open to experienced writers, as well as to absolute beginners. If you are interested in these questions, you are welcome. This is a reading/writing course. We will spend time every week reading poems that have already been published (by dead poets and living poets) to see how they were made: music, syntax, line, sound, and image. We might spend time generating new work in class through exercises and experiments. And we will spend time looking closely at one another’s work, encouraging each other to take risks and move even closer to the mystery of the poem. Each writer in the class will meet with another class member once a week on a “poetry date.” Each writer will be responsible for reading the assigned work and for bringing to class one written offering each week. We will work hard, learn a great deal about poetry and about our own poems, and have a wonderful time.

Faculty
Related Disciplines