Class Discussions

Two students per week are to initiate discussion of the assigned readings. Presentations may briefly introduce the author(s), and should sketch out the central arguments of each piece with a few leading questions. In developing these informal weekly presentations, students should work together to avoid duplication and craft a unified presentation; it is also helpful to bring in images or objects on which given methods of analysis can be practiced.

Summary of Assignments and Due Dates

Syllabus Critique Due 5 days after Session 1
Formal Analysis Due Session 4
Reader's Report Due Session 5
Proposed Outline / Bibliography Due Session 7
Exhibition Review Due Session 8
Media Analysis Due Session 11
Abstract of Research Paper Due Session 12
Final Research Paper Due 2 weeks after Session 12

Syllabus Critique

Following the loose categories of the present syllabus, provide replacement readings for at least 5 weeks where you feel some of the same issues (or more important ones) could be captured from a different disciplinary perspective, listing which works you would omit and why. Think critically about what you don't know and would like to—and figure out which week this proposed reading would enhance. Finally, as part of the changes you have proposed, identify the one reading that opened your field to you, and be prepared to present it to the class on the specified date.

Formal Analysis (3–5 pages)

Choose a work or works (maximum 2) on view in the area, and conduct a rigorous formal analysis. (Architecture is okay for architectural historians, art for art historians, but this is also an opportunity to stretch yourself.) Address questions of scale, size, medium, palette (color choice), facture (how the work is made), process (plan, section, sketch, maquette), presentation, representational conventions, and effect. Attempt to avoid "interpretation" in these first paragraphs. Then proceed to analyze the work's "style," "Kunstwollen," or "Struktur" as if from a Wölfflinian, Riegl-like, or Viennese perspective, and position the work within a larger historical trajectory if you can. Provide an image or reproduction of the artwork, and bring a second clean copy of your paper to class for trading with a classmate.

Sample Student Work

"Laura Letinsky, Untitled, #49, 2002 (PDF)" MIT, List Visual Arts Center. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Saari Browne. Used with permission.)

Reader's Report (1 page)

Based on the classmate's paper you read for the Formal Analysis assignment, address the following questions: What is the paper's premise? What is taken as evidence, and for what? What is its argument, if any? What are its conclusions, if any? How might you characterize the author's "voice"? Can you make editorial suggestions to strengthen that voice? General questions: What is the picture of art (or architectural) history conveyed by formal analysis? Are certain artworks favored over others? What are the pros, and cons, of this approach?

Proposed Outline and Preliminary Bibliography (1 page each)

MIT students met with the professor to discuss their paper topics and ideas for research prior to preparing their outlines and preliminary bibliographies.

Exhibition Review (2–5 pages)

Drawing on our readings about institutions and exhibitions, write a brief review of a permanent collection or temporary exhibition currently on view, or the building / installation in which it is housed. Good candidates might be the fall exhibition at the MIT List Gallery (I.M.Pei Building), or whatever is on view at the The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (Design Talk: Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio), the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the This resource may not render correctly in a screen reader.Gardner Museum (Piano / Rogers addition) (PDF - 1.5MB), the reopened Harvard Art Museums (Piano again)—the list goes on. Think also about ethnographic collections such as Harvard's Peabody Museum or the Peabody Essex Museum (Moshe Safdie Building). If possible, position the "art objects" within their original historical context and analyze their changed Socio-cultural positioning within the museum or gallery; or examine how the architecture creates that condition. Questions to think about: What is the exhibition's stated theme? Why is the exhibition being done now? How does the architecture of the installation express these meanings? What public(s) does it serve? Is there any relation, explicit or implicit, between the sponsor(s) and the goal of the exhibition?

Sample Student Work

"Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer (PDF)" Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (Courtesy of an MIT student. Used with permission.)

Media Analysis (1–2 pages)

Analyze a television or print advertisement, a single scene or sequence in a film, or a work of art in terms of its construction of the viewing subject. Engage specifically with what you find to be the most productive of the previous 4 weeks' theories, but do not hesitate to reveal gaps, fissures, and inadequacies in the application of the theories, or areas of the work in question that stubbornly resist analysis.

Abstract of Research Paper (1 page)

Be prepared to present your abstract, no more than one single-spaced page, together with one slide (if desired) that captures the argument—in the session after the final class.

Final Research Paper (15–20 pages)

Guidelines (PDF)

There are benchmarks in Mid-term when you will be expected to provide a preliminary outline and bibliography. Prior to submitting the outline and bibliography, MIT students attended at least one visit to the professor's office hours to propose various topics and discuss them with the professor. There are no proscribed topics for the final research paper, and ideally the subject will serve to further your own research into the history and method of your chosen specialization.