AHIS 401 - Advanced Topics Seminar in Art History

This topics based seminar course develops students’ critical and theoretical acuity in the field of art history. The course allows for the focused study of specific topics and themes, frameworks of analysis, periods, movements, artists, and case studies in art history while supporting the development of students’ research, writing and presentation skills. Possible themes and subjects may include historiographical and methodological approaches; the idea of periodization; global art histories; institutions and art economies; systems of critique and validation; Indigenous knowledge; and display.

Fall 2019:

AHIS 401 A and B | Things and their Dreams: Methods in Material Culture

Material Culture is a way to read an object that examines its appearance and properties and then weaves these formal interpretations into an understanding of its broad social, political, and economic realities. The course examines how material culture methods are applied across a wide range of studies, such as Art History, English Literature, and Sociology, but will focus on its growing use in the fields of Craft and Design.

Winter 2020:

AHIS 401 A | Queer Methodologies

This art history seminar will study a spectrum of methodologies that intersect with queer theory, and LGBTQ2S+ identities and politics. Building on the writing of Sara Ahmed, the term "queer" will be addressed here not only as a marker of personal and community identity, but also as a verb, a research orientation, and a strategic tool. "To queer" will be studied as a means by which to distort, divert, and twist an object of study toward unexpected and transgressive purposes. In other words, participants need not identify as queer in order to benefit from and find their footing in this material. Methodologies addressed in the class will include approaches drawn from HIV/AIDS studies, queer phenomenology, trans studies, decolonial and critical race approaches to gender and sexuality, and other strands of feminist and queer thought - among other topics. These methodologies will provide leverage points to analyze and contextualize works of art, craft, and design from a range of period locations. Special attention will be given to contemporary examples. 

AHIS 401 B | Contemporary Inquiry in Visual Culture

In this seminar, students will be introduced to creative and experimental forms of writing in relation to an exploration of methodologies from visual culture, art history, philosophy, and autobiographical & literary studies. These readings will familiarize students with theories of the paratextual, ekphrasis, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, affect theory, and new materialism. Alongside these theoretical readings, students will engage with critical and creative writing on art and “things”, such as essays, autobiography, and poetry. Students will be asked to identify and define key concepts presented in the theoretical readings and explore their significance in an analysis of contemporary forms of research & criticism. Students will participate in small group seminars, undertake writing exercises and pursue self-directed inquiry on a topic relevant to their own research interests and studio/design practice. Course work will culminate in the composition of a creative and critical piece of writing or a traditional essay on a work(s) of art and/or “thing” of their choosing in consultation with the instructor.

Course Credits:


Course Prerequisites

Any 300-level SCCS course


A20003Alford, Sarah
2:00pm - 4:50pm room: 536


A30036Clintberg, Mark
9:00am - 11:50am room: 536