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ARTH 200
Language of the Visual Arts

Spring, 2014

ARTH 200.01
Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30-9:45, FA 166.

Web page:

Dr. Allen Farber, Associate Professor
303 Fine Arts Center (436- 2558); E-Mail:

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 10:00-11:00 and Wednesday, 1:00-3:00, or by appointment. Notes can be left in my mailbox in 222 FAC, or messages can be left through Voice-Mail at 436-2558. I would also encourage you to communicate with me over E-Mail.

General Education Outcome for AA2: Students will demonstrate: Understanding of at least one principal form of artistic expression and thecreative process inherent therein.

Catalog Description:

ARTH 200 The Language of the Visual Arts 3 s.h.
An introductory course designed to familiarize the viewer of art with the means to understand it. Examines philosophy, concepts, vocabulary, and processes of art though lectures, readings, slides, and exhibitions.
(LA, AA2)
Prerequisite: SoS [is advisable.]

Purposes of the Course:
The visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, etc.) represent one of the principal vehicles of human communication. Just like the verbal language we use in ordinary speech, the visual language of art is used to articulate experiences of the world. Through the study of works of art we become aware of the variety of ways humans have conceived of themselves and their relationship to the surrounding world. We learn how individual works of art are formed by and form the values and attitudes that define a particular culture. As a consequence of this study, we become aware of how our own conceptions of the world are not absolutes but are articulated and constructed by our own cultural experience. It can be argued that art represents one of the ways the world is created.

This course is not a survey of art history. We will not be bound to a chronological sequence of works. This will allow us to compare and contrast examples from a wide variety of periods. Each semester I focus the course around a major theme or group of themes. This semester I have decided to focus the course around the idea of the artist and the social production of the work of art.

Caveat Emptor: Be aware that the points of view that I will be expressing in this course will be informed by Post-Modern critical theory, especially Feminist theory. I find these theories to be extremely useful for critically examining our social, cultural, political, artistic assumptions. By exploring how gender is represented in art, for example, we see how our attitudes (and our selves) are constructed within (and construct) our social context. I ask you to be willing to be open minded and to critically examine your basic assumptions. If you are not willing to do this, we will not be able to communicate across our differences, and I would encourage you to drop this course.

I hope that you will leave this course not only as a more informed and thoughtful observer of art, but also as a more critically informed human who can make intelligent decisions.

I understand my objective in this course to be very different from the other courses that I teach. When I teach my introductory or advanced surveys, I consider that it is my responsibility to present a given body of material. In this course, I consider it my purpose is to get you to become critically engaged in the study of art and your world..

Format of the Course:
This is not a lecture course. I plan to conduct this course as much as possible as a discussion group. Since a primary objective of the course is to help you to become a critical observer of art, it is important that you are actively engaged in the formulating of points of view throughout the course. The success of this course will depend largely on the quality and vitality of class discussion.

The World Wide Web presents us with a phenomenal resource in the studying of art. I intend to exploit this resource. Many of your reading assignments will be over the Web. I hope to have electronic versions of the course materials available. This will provide you texts and images that you should review in preparation for classes. I will maintain a page entitled "ARTH 200 Assignments" that will list and link to electronic versions of course materials. If you should miss a class, check this page to keep you up to date. The URL for "ARTH 200 Assignments" is:

There will be no formal textbook for this class, but you will find that there are extensive reading assignments on the Web. Be aware that many of these texts were written for a scholarly audience and not for introductory students. I expect you to be challenged by these readings, but if you put in the effort, you should get a lot out of them.

You will be evaluated on the quality of your class participation and on your performance on a series of written assignments. As part of your class participation, you will be expected to keep a journal of your work in this class. I expect you to keep in your journal notes on the reading assignments. As a way of initiating class discussion, I will frequently ask you a question, or seek your opinion about some issue, or ask for your responses to a text or work of art. Your responses should be recorded in your journal, and you should be willing to share your responses with other members of the class. Printouts of the material from the web are not journal entries. For each webpage that is linked to from the Assignments page I expect some critical response. I want to be able to use these questions as the jumping off points for class discussions. Remember that knowledge does not begin with answering questions but with asking questions. Learning to ask thoughtful questions is critical to academic success.

I prefer that you keep your journal in a one-subject, 8 1/2 X 11" spiral notebook. This journal will provide the foundation for your papers because this is where your ideas will begin to form and develop. Since the journal is intended to help you prepare to participate in class discussions, it is important that write your responses in your journals before the class in which the specific web page material is discussed.

Periodically the entry on the "ARTH 200 Assignments" will ask you to e-mail me your reponses to Journal assignments. These responses will be used as a basis for class discussion. You will be expected to e-mail your entries to me no later than 9:00 PM the night before the class. This will give me the time to review responses before class. I will keep a record of who has responded to these assignments, and this will be a factor in your final grade.

I strongly believe that good thinking and good writing go hand in hand. Therefore, you will be assigned three or four written assignments over the course of the semester. The papers will be of a variety of lengths. Note that I only accept paper copies of your papers. Please make sure that your papers are paper clipped or stapled when you submit them.

You are responsible for compiling a portfolio of your written work in the course. You will submit this portfolio to me at the end of the semester along with your journal.

Class participation and journal - 50%
Paper Portfolio- 50%

I have very intentionally not included in this syllabus a schedule of classes. This is because I would like the dialogue between us to determine the sequence of topics and texts we explore.


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