Liberal Arts Courses
The Ancient and Medieval Worlds
This course covers the prehistoric to the Gothic period. It is a survey of painting, sculpture, and architecture from prehistory, the ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the early Middle Ages, and the Romanesque and Gothic periods. Slide lectures are supplemented by works viewed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The Renaissance to the Present
This course covers the late Gothic period to the early 20th century. It is a survey of European art from the end of the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, mannerism, the baroque, rococo, neoclassicism, romanticism, realism, impressionism, postimpressionism, and early abstraction; also American art from the colonial period to the early 20th century. Slide lectures are supplemented by works viewed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Art History Topics
The various sections of Art History Topics focus on different and more narrowly defined themes, rather than a broad historical survey. Topics may include the Art of Egypt, the meeting of Eastern and Western Art, 20th-Century American and European Art, and others. Periodically, a visiting scholar may teach a section on the art, architecture, and archeology of cultures such as those of pre-Columbian Central and South America; the indigenous peoples of North America; and the various societies of Africa, Asia, or the Middle East. The focus of these special sections would include the material artifacts and the interpretations, debates, and methodological approaches to these objects within the literature of the field. All sections of this course present individual topics. Individual course descriptions are available to registering students at http://www.berklee.edu/liberal-arts/courses/liberal-arts-topics-courses.
Global Perspectives in Postmodern Art
In this course, students explore contemporary art as it evolved (and continues to evolve) in Europe, America, and globally. Students explore how contemporary art varies depending on culture, and how global issues affect postmodern art. Students also define and redefine the concepts of modernism and postmodernism. Students explore how the latter developed historically, stylistically, and culturally. Students also explore the consequences of new thinking about gender and identity and the phenomenon of cultural globalization as applied to the contemporary practice of art.
Scandals and Vandals: Forgery, Theft, and Destruction in the History of Art
This course exposes students to the dynamic world of theft, forgery, destruction, and the restoration of works of art. Through readings and museum visits, students engage questions of authenticity, ownership, commercialism, and the cultural role of works of art in the world today and throughout history. Students learn how works of art are forged; they also learn the history and theories of museum collection building. In addition, they explore concepts of artistic expression and authenticity. When is a work of art real? What does it mean for art to be forged? Does restoration of art works affect authenticity? Students also explore concepts of and the complex history of art ownership.
Approaches to Visual Culture
This course explores the critical and theoretical approaches to understanding the meanings we make of images, icons, and visual representations. Visual culture refers to what has traditionally been thought of as the fine arts as well as more popular forms of visible media such as comics, advertising, television, film, decorative arts, video, installations, performance art, and digital and new media art. Assignments will be both analytical and creative, incorporating writing, drawing, and collage. Readings and classroom discussions will be supplemented by viewings of Boston art collections. Note: LAHS-231 or LAHS-232 are also recommended as prerequisites but are not required.
Indian Art, Music, and Culture
This course is designed to introduce the students to a comprehensive study of the principal thoughts, concepts of beauty, music, and aesthetics in the art of India. The articulation of Indian Art will reveal the relevance of the philosophies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The course will provide a socio-historical approach to the understanding of Indian art, dance, and music. The course will also include brief histories of Eastern civilizations as frameworks for the understanding of their aesthetic and philosophical concepts as presented in works of art. The history and aesthetics of Indian classical and contemporary traditions of music and dance will be introduced to the students and some comparisons to the Western tradition will be used to help students relate, contrast, and compare them to their own creative practice that will compliment their art and study and in turn grasp a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
Japanese Art and Culture
This course is designed to introduce students to a comprehensive study of the principal thoughts, concepts of beauty, and aesthetics in the art of Japan. The articulation of Japanese art reveals the relevance of the philosophies of Buddhism, Zen tradition, and Daoism. Students explore a sociohistorical approach to the understanding of Japanese art and culture. Students also examine brief histories of Eastern civilizations as frameworks for the understanding of their aesthetic and philosophical concepts as presented in works of art. Students will also compare Japanese works with the Western tradition. In addition, students will relate Japanese art to their own creative practice.
Race and the Visual Arts
In this course, students explore the representation of race in visual culture and the ways in which culture marks subjects, objects, and bodies with racial identity. Wherever we look we are confronted by images that are explicitly or implicitly racialized—in artistic production, marketing and advertising, film and television, magazines and newspapers, and science and technology. In American society our history confronts us with the painful reminders of the oppression and marginalization of bodies whose color deviates from whiteness. Students explore the ways that visual artists have problematized the representation of racial identity. Students also explore how one talks back to images about racialized bodies. How do marketing and advertising exploit and/or privilege certain types of racialized bodies in the visual field? How have representations of racial identity evolved over the course of the history of film and television? When is racial identity foregrounded? When it is veiled and why? How do medicine and technology reconfigure how we see racialized bodies? How do other categories of differences such as gender, sexuality, and class complicate the representation of racialized bodies? In this course, students read texts from history, literature, sociology, Africana studies, visual studies, art history, and cultural studies; they view images of painting, photography, sculpture, performance art, film, television, advertising, and medical research. If you want to think critically about racialized images—from Uncle Tom to Aunt Jemima and beyond—then this is the class for you!
Artist, Society, and the Avant-Garde
This course explores the changing and multiple roles of art and the artist in society as these have evolved from classical antiquity to the contemporary period. We begin by exploring how the Greek and Medieval ideas of the artist as imitator and craftsman were questioned and altered during the Renaissance and later periods, when the Modern idea of the artist as individual creator, and avant-garde figure, began to take hold in Western artistic, philosophical, and political culture. The course places special emphasis on the role of the artist today, by locating a key moment of change in the late eighteenth century, when the French and American revolutions altered the political landscape of the West in fundamental ways by questioning the authority of the church and the monarchical state, and by establishing democratic institutions that, in theory at least, stressed the equality of all individuals. It is out of this crux of political and social change that the avant-garde—and our modern notion of the artist as a kind of free agent, pursuing his/her own creative, social, and political impulses—was born. The texts we will read, and the examples of visual art and music we will explore, span the period from Greek antiquity to contemporary times, and include works by Plato, Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Gustave Courbet, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Cindy Sherman, and others.
Creative Conversations between Music and the Visual Arts
In this course, students will explore and expand their understanding of musical composition, improvisation, and performance by responding musically to works of painting, photography, sculpture, and hybrid works of art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Thoroughly interdisciplinary in approach, this course is conducted as a series of guided conversations centered on existing works of visual art the MFA, in conjunction with in-class discussions of relevant examples drawn from the history of music. These conversations will form a springboard for student musical explorations, to be conducted in a workshop setting in class, and based on works of art at the MFA. Over the course of the semester, each student will have the opportunity to workshop two pieces, based on specifically chosen works from the MFA's collections. Specific composers and artists to be discussed and studied include Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Modest Mussorgsky, Guillaume Dufay, Arnold Schoenberg, John Cage, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, and others.
This course is a study of Modern Standard Chinese language, as well as Chinese music in the context of history and culture. With a language learning focus on listening, speaking, reading, and writing, this class teaches all the fundamentals beginning students need for basic communication in Chinese. The course helps students understand both the grammar used in formal language and everyday informal language. Equally important, students will better understand and appreciate Chinese music through the study of Chinese language, history and culture. By studying and analyzing Chinese music, students will learn to combine elements of Chinese music into their own creative work. In addition to the in-class studies, students will have the chance to experience Chinese culture first hand by visiting Boston Chinese communities, as well as having exchange performance opportunities. Note: This course is not available for credit to students for whom Chinese is a first language.