Spring 2020 Graduate Courses

Last updated: Wednesday, November 6, 2019. Red text denotes a new or changed course since the previous update.

Bridge Lectures

Bridge lectures are advanced lectures open to all undergraduate and graduate students. They do not require an application.

AHIS GU4023 Medieval Art II: From Pope Gregory to the Eve of the Reformation
G. Bryda
M/W 1:10-2:25, 612 Schermerhorn Hall
This advanced lecture course is intended for students with little or no background in medieval art of Latin (“Western”) Europe. It provides a comprehensive introduction to a period spanning roughly one millennium, from Pope Gregory the Great’s defense of art ca. 600 to rising antagonism against it on the eve of the Protestant Reformation. Themes under consideration include Christianity and colonialism, pilgrimage and the cult of saints, archaism versus Gothic modernism, the drama of the liturgy, somatic and affective piety, political ideology against “others,” the development of the winged altarpiece, and pre-Reformation iconophobia. We will survey many aspects of artistic production, from illuminated manuscripts, portable and monumental sculpture, stained glass, sumptuous metalworks, drawings, and reliquaries to the earliest examples of oil paintings and prints. While this course is conceived as a pendant to Medieval Art I: From Late Antiquity to the End of the Byzantine Empire (AHIS GU4021), each can be taken independently of one another. In addition to section meetings, museum visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters, and The Morgan Library are a required component to the course. Discussion section required for undergraduates.

AHIS GU4110 Modern Japanese Architecture
J. Reynolds
M/W 10:10-11:25, location tbc
This course will examine Japanese architecture and urban planning from the mid-19th century to the present. We will address topics such as the establishment of an architectural profession along western lines in the late 19th century, the emergence of a modernist movement in the 1920's, the use of biological metaphors and the romanticization of technology in the theories and designs of the Metabolist Group, and the shifting significance of pre-modern Japanese architectural practices for modern architects. There will be an emphasis on the complex relationship between architectural practice and broader political and social change in Japan.

Bridge Seminars

Bridge seminars are advanced seminars open to graduate and undergraduate students. Students must submit an application in order to be considered for enrollment. Admission is at the instructor’s discretion.

Each bridge seminar description on this page includes a link to an online application form for that seminar. Interested students must fill out and submit their spring 2020 bridge seminar application by 5pm on Monday, January 6th, 2020.

AHIS GU4520 Gothic Nature
G. Bryda
W 4:10-6, 930 Schermerhorn Hall
In this seminar, we will ask how medieval literary and visual culture shaped and reflected people’s conception of God’s Creation—animals, plants, rocks, planets—and their place in and with respect to it. At once a hostile environment, a place of temporary exile after humankind’s banishment from Paradise, nature also functioned as a machine, bearing the blueprint of its divine designer, to be decoded and instrumentalized for nourishment, medicine, and amusement. It was also valued for its limitless metaphorical potential, both elevating and foreboding; nature often signified something apart from itself. To elaborate on these themes, we will turn to recent approaches in ecocritical and ecomaterialist studies, and will explore historical texts and images relating to Neo-Platonic cosmology, the wood of the cross, the host mill and wine press (and other agricultural allegories), tree cults, stones and sedimentation, star-gazing, architectural vegetation, herbal medicine, natural theology, among other topics. A leitmotif threading throughout the semester’s discussions will be the extent to which ideas and ideals growing out of the Middle Ages continue to inform the way in which we interact with the natural world. Museum visits to the New York Botanical Library Rare Books/Manuscripts Library and The Cloisters’ gardens are mandatory.

Apply for ‘Gothic Nature’ using this online form.

AHIS GU4585 The Early Mosque: Shaping Sacred Space
A. Shalem
T 4:10-6, 930 Schermerhorn Hall
This seminar deconstructs the early sacred public space in Islam, namely the mosque. It dissects it into its major zones and focuses on major items defining these zones. The varied spaces, like the niche of prayer (mihrab), pulpit for the imam (minbar), prayer area (musalla), the ablution fountain, inner court (rahba), outer court (ziyada), minaret, entrance façade, and even specific major objects like the Quran stand (kursi), mihrab lamp (misbah), and the Quran, will be discussed separately in each meeting. Despite this deconstruction process of studying the mosque, an approach that clearly aims at dissection and segmentation, holistic methods of understanding mosques will be taken too. The seminar aims at understanding how these spaces interact and create visual and sensuous experiences in time and space. Special discussions will focus on ‘iconic’ mosques of the early world of Islam (like the mosque of the Prophet in Medina, the Friday mosques of Damascus and Cordoba, or the sacred space of the Ka’aba, the Black Stone, of Mecca), on the integration of other public institutional spaces into this building complex, like the mausoleum (maqbara), quran school (madrasa) and hospital (maristan), and on the specificity of the so-called international and diaspora mosques today.

Apply for ‘The Early Mosque: Shaping Sacred Space’ using this online form.

AHIS GU4947 Architectures of Information
Z. Çelik
M 2:10-4, 930 Schermerhorn Hall
Information is useless without an architecture—whether that architecture is cabinets and drawers that file away forms, buildings that house bureaucracies, tables that make data visible, or satellites in orbit that push it out of sight. Information’s arrangement in physical space—what technologists call its “address”—has, in fact, been a key but underestimated aspect of its power. Building upon recent humanities scholarship that has offered histories of such epistemic units as fact and data, this course asks: What role might these architectures have played historically in creating physical environments for the classification, storage, and retrieval of information? What role do they play in the present? Starting in the early modern period, the course interrogates the ways in which the design of equipment, buildings, and cities has helped create modern epistemic orders.

Apply for ‘Architectures of Information’ using this online form.

Core Graduate Courses

Required courses for first-year students.

AHIS GR5001 Curatorial Colloquium
J. Kraynak
R 2:10-4, 806 Schermerhorn Hall
The Curatorial Colloquium is a required course for first year MODA students. The course introduces students to the history, theory and practice of exhibitions and institutions; histories of curating and recent models of the “curatorial.” Readings for seminar sessions cover key topics and recent debates, including the emergence of the national museum; ideological critiques of the museum; exhibitions and politics; the shifting nature and roles of exhibitions, and the latter’s relationship to new trends in and mediums of artistic practice. As a colloquium, seminar sessions are supplemented by presentations by guest speakers from the curatorial and museum fields, curatorial walk-throughs and other off-site visits to exhibitions and various programs. Please note: some visits require either extended class time to accommodate travel, or attendance out of regular class hours. The Curatorial Colloquium does not permit enrollment from students who are not in the MODA program.

AHIS GR5003 Practices of Art History
F. Baumgartner
R 12:10-2, 930 Schermerhorn Hall
Required course for all first-year MA students. This course examines the range of practices associated with art history, including connoisseurship, provenance, curatorship, and conservation. Drawing on the participation of leading art professionals invited to share their expertise with the students, the course culminates in the conception and mounting of an exhibition based on Columbia’s art collection.

AHIS GR5006 MODA Thesis Prep
J. Kraynak
T 4:10-6, 934 Schermerhorn Hall
The MODA Thesis Prep is a required course for MODA students who plan to commence their thesis in the Fall of 2020. The course will introduce students to the fundamentals of an MA thesis, the research and writing process, and how to devise an appropriate topic for a written/scholarly, or an exhibition-based thesis. The class will also review key methodologies in modern and contemporary art history. At the end of the semester, students will have comprised a detailed topic, a preliminary proposal, and identified a faculty adviser.

Graduate Lectures

Graduate lectures are open to graduate students and do not require an application. Interested undergraduates should contact the instructor for permission to enroll.

AHIS GR6408 Origins of Modern Visual Culture
J. Crary
W 4:10-6, 612 Schermerhorn Hall
Major developments in the emergence of modern visual culture in Europe and North America 1750-1900. Topics include the panorama, diorama, museums, photography, world expositions, and early cinema; issues in technology, urbanization, and consumer society. Attention to texts by Debord, Agamben, Bakhtin, Elias, Lefebvre, Caillois, Kluge, Gunning, Foucault, and others. This is a no laptop, no e-device course.

AHIS GR6611 Painting in Sixteenth-Century Japan
M. McKelway
T 4:10-6, 806 Schermerhorn Hall
Japan’s brief Momoyama period (1573-1615) is often characterized as an “age of gold,” an era in which politically powerful warlords commissioned lavish works of art. During the 150 years between the Ōnin War and establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in the early 17th century, a series of military rulers unified the warring Japanese states, and for the first time in Japan’s history engaged briefly with the world beyond China through contact with European missionaries and merchants. The same warlords participated in every sphere of cultural life, sponsoring the construction of lavish fortresses and temples, contributing to the development of the arts of Tea and Noh drama, and encouraging the importation of printed books from China and Korea. This course will explore the art of painting in the Japan’s “era of unification.” We will concentrate on the gilded screens and panel paintings that temples, castles, and palaces, but will also study fan paintings, portraiture, and genre painting in order to comprehend the profound impact that this pivotal era would have on all succeeding periods of Japanese art. Students interested in taking this course for lecture credit should enroll in AHIS GR6611. Students interested in taking this course for seminar credit should enroll in AHIS GR8643.

Graduate Seminars

Students must submit an application in order to be considered for enrollment. Admission is at the instructor’s discretion.

Each course description includes a link to an application form for that seminar. Interested students must fill out and submit their online applications for spring 2020 graduate seminars by 5pm on Monday, January 6th, 2020.

AHIS GR8105 Assyrian Art
Z. Bahrani
R 4:10-6, 934 Schermerhorn Hall
This seminar will investigate Assyrian art and architectural forms and practices.

Apply for ‘Assyrian Art’ using this online form.

AHIS GR8147 Pausanias' Greece: Travelling through the Past in the Imperial Period
F. de Angelis
T 6:10-8, 930 Schermerhorn Hall
Pausanias’ Periegesis of Greece is the most systematic and detailed description of the sites and monuments of the Greek mainland that is extant from classical antiquity. As such, it has been used as a guide by travelers and archaeologists alike. Together with Strabo’s Geography, it has shaped and deeply affected the modern perception of the historical topography of Greece: in particular, it has contributed to the establishment of a canonical image of Greece as a country that is both ancient and timeless. Despite this timelessness, however, Pausanias’ description is the result of very specific choices, whose purpose and scope can only be properly understood within the historical and cultural context in which the Periegesis was written. The seminar intends to contextualize the Periegesis in two main ways. On the one hand, we will compare Pausanias’ account with travel-centered texts belonging to more or less cognate genres—from Heraclides Criticus’ On the Cities of Greece to Plutarch’s On the Oracles of the Pythia—in order to determine what balance Pausanias strikes between conventionality and innovativeness, and how he places himself vis-à-vis both previous traditions and contemporary cultural trends. On the other hand, we will check Pausanias’ descriptions of the monumental landscape of the region against the “reality” of Greek cities and sanctuaries in the Roman imperial period as we can reconstruct it from different kinds of evidence—archaeological, epigraphic, etc.

Apply for ‘Pausanias' Greece: Travelling through the Past in the Imperial Period’ using this online form.

SPAN GR6440 Spanish Italy and the Iberian Americas (formerly AHIS GR8308 Spanish Italy)
M. Cole; A. Russo
W 2:10-4, location tbc
Through long stretches of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, Spain and Portugal controlled not only much of the Americas, but also a significant part of Europe and a string of territories that stretched across Africa and into Asia. Iberian rulers and religious figures had an impact on regional artistic cultures, both destructively and creatively; artists, native-born and immigrant, negotiated local traditions and imported practices. In Mexico, Palermo, Cagliari, Milan, or Lima, cities saw the erection of comparable new structures (the square, the viceregal palace), churches went up that were dedicated to the same saints, and a traffic in prints insured that very distant places often shared visual languages and artistic concerns. Despite this, Early Modern art history clusters the arts of Spanish Italy as a set of regional languages outside the most famous Renaissance centers; and the arts of the Iberian Americas under the problematic label of “colonial”, emphasizing relations between the indigenous and non-indigenous. This graduate course aims to introduce students to a new field of inquiry—studying simultaneously Spanish Italy and the Iberian Americas.


Apply for ‘Spanish Italy and the Iberian Americas’ using this online form.

AHIS GR8310 Painting and Society in the Fifteenth-Century Netherlands
D. Freedberg
R 4:10-6, 832 Schermerhorn Hall
This course, often taught under the rubrics of "Early Netherlandish Painting" or even "Northern Renaissance Painting" might also be described as "Art in the Age of Van Eyck" or "Painting from Van Eyck to Bosch." It will begin with manuscripts, and deal with the contribution of great sculptors like Sluter as well. The claim implicit in the title is that the techniques pioneered and perfected by the Van Eycks affected all the other arts too - even though the most original and compelling achievements of the century are probably those of painting, which will form the chief focus of this class. Attention will also be paid to the social and historical contexts of the main works discussed. Several museum visits will be included.

Apply for ‘Painting and Society in the Fifteenth-Century Netherlands’ using this online form.

AHIS GR8308 Public Monuments and Urban Space
D. Bodart
R 2:10-4, 934 Schermerhorn Hall
In the early modern period, royal monuments were among the most impressive expressions of power: made of lasting material and permanently displayed to public view, they worked as a seal on the urban space, reminding viewers every day of the authority of the sovereign on his territory. But in order to stand up to external threats, monuments needed the allegiance of the subjects in order to confirm their legitimacy. Without the “love of the people”, according to seventeenth century authors (Lemée, Di Rinaldo), royal monuments could not resist “Age”, “Tempest” and “Force”, their three worst enemies. Contributing to the shaping of collective identities and historical memories, monuments are in fact particularly exposed to political and cultural changes in societies. They are once again attracting attention today as we witness a new susceptibility towards monumentalized visions of a common past. Minority memories denounce and highlight the voids and errors of those official representations and question the privileges of public statuary. This seminar investigates the interaction between monument and public space from Renaissance equestrian statues until recent sites of collective remembrance, in a diachronic dialogue between early modern studies and cultural memory studies. In collaboration with the joint research project “The Monument and Its Contested Temporalities: Presence, Duration, Disruption” (Prof. Diane Bodart, Columbia University/Dr. Godehard Janzing, Philipps-University Marburg).

Apply for ‘Public Monuments and Urban Space’ using this online form.

AHIS GR8432 Art and Theory in a Global Context
J. Rajchman
W 2:10-4, 832 Schermerhorn Hall
What is Globalization? How does it affect the ways we think about art? What new role can theory play in it? And in what new ways does it involve aesthetics as well as politics? For some time, there has been an on-going debate on all of these matters; this seminar is an exploration and critical examination of them. We will take 1989—or the dawn of the twenty-first century—as a turning point for the emergence of a new set of models and institutions, which, transforming or re-evaluating older ones, provides the context for new kinds of art and theory. We will focus on China and Brazil as case studies and engage with several current exhibitions or discussions in New York. The seminar is organized around a series of issues through which the larger debate has unfolded or been refracted. They include: modernity, modernism and contemporaneity; image, media and participation; exhibition histories, museums and biennials, and much more. In this way, it opens onto the larger question: what is contemporary art and thinking today? The seminar is open to qualified students from all areas or disciplines concerned with the problem of the arts in what has come to be known as 'globalization'.

Apply for ‘Art and Theory in a Global Context’ using this online form.

AHIS GR8606 Japanese Architecture: Tokyo
J. Reynolds
T 10:10-12, 930 Schermerhorn Hall
This seminar will take an interdisciplinary approach to the history of the complex and dynamic city of Tokyo from the mid-19th century to the present. The class will discuss the impact that industrialization and sustained migration have had on the city's housing and infrastructure and will examine the often equivocal and incomplete urban planning projects that have attempted to address these changes from the Ginza Brick Town of the 1870s, to the reconstruction efforts after the Great Kanto Earthquake and the devastating air raids of the Asia-Pacific War, to the so-called "new town" suburban developments since the 1960s. We will compare bucolic prints of the 1910s through the 1930s that obscured the crowding, pollution and political violence with the more politically engaged prints and journalistic photographs of the era. We will also consider the apocalyptic imagery that is so pervasive in the treatment of Tokyo in post-war film and anime.

Apply for ‘Japanese Architecture: Tokyo’ using this online form.

AHIS GR8643 Painting in Sixteenth-Century Japan
M. McKelway
T 4:10-6, 806 Schermerhorn Hall
Japan’s brief Momoyama period (1573-1615) is often characterized as an “age of gold,” an era in which politically powerful warlords commissioned lavish works of art. During the 150 years between the Ōnin War and establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in the early 17th century, a series of military rulers unified the warring Japanese states, and for the first time in Japan’s history engaged briefly with the world beyond China through contact with European missionaries and merchants. The same warlords participated in every sphere of cultural life, sponsoring the construction of lavish fortresses and temples, contributing to the development of the arts of Tea and Noh drama, and encouraging the importation of printed books from China and Korea. This course will explore the art of painting in the Japan’s “era of unification.” We will concentrate on the gilded screens and panel paintings that temples, castles, and palaces, but will also study fan paintings, portraiture, and genre painting in order to comprehend the profound impact that this pivotal era would have on all succeeding periods of Japanese art. Students interested in taking this course for lecture credit should enroll in AHIS GR6611. Students interested in taking this course for seminar credit should enroll in AHIS GR8643.

Apply for ‘Painting in Sixteenth-Century Japan’ using this online form.

AHIS GR8649 Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Connoisseurship: Dong Qichang
A. Murck
W 12:10-2, 806 Schermerhorn Hall
Dong Qichang (1555-1636)—painter, calligrapher, collector, connoisseur, historian, and government official—is the prism through which all later scholars view Chinese art. His theory of Northern and Southern schools of painting and his authoritative pronouncements influence our perceptions of Chinese painting and calligraphy whether we agree with him or not. In this course we will examine Dong’s biography, his essays and comments in correspondence and inscriptions, as well as his own works of art. We will try to understand Dong’s view of painting history. What was the lineage tradition in which he was working? What he was reacting against? To study original works of art, we will visit the Metropolitan Museum, Princeton University Art Museum, and an over-night trip to Cleveland Museum of Art. The class will be conducted in English, but Chinese language is useful.

Apply for ‘Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Connoisseurship: Dong Qichang’ using this online form.

AHIS GR8706 Directions in Contemporary Art: Between Sameness and Difference
A. Alberro
T 2:10-4, 934 Schermerhorn Hall
The “official” or hegemonic institution of contemporary art has taken on a dramatically different form since the end of the Cold War. A number of factors have converged in the past thirty or so years to significantly expand and reconfigure its infrastructure. In addition to the tens of thousands of art galleries and museums that have opened in cities around the world, a rapidly growing number of regularly recurring large exhibitions and art fairs, a proliferation of publication platforms, art schools, and art residency programs, as well as a swelling commercial market, have generated a complex transregional interchange among artists, curators, critics, and collectors, and increased the infrastructure of contemporary art’s breadth and scope. The effects of this enlarged and recalibrated global infrastructure for art remain unclear, however, as do the underlying reasons for this shift in scale. This seminar will explore the interplay between the expanded circulation of art across regions and borders and recent social, historical, and economic developments by probing the internal logics, codes and standards of the new cultural relations that have developed into a consistent framework over the past three decades.

Apply for ‘Directions in Contemporary Art: Between Sameness and Difference’ using this online form.

AHIS GR8800 In Front of the Object
A. Shalem
M 10:10-12, Metropolitan Museum of Art
This graduate level seminar explores our interaction with art objects in the museum. It does so by studying the object as the subject of our inquiring gaze while paying attention to its material, production technique, shape and formation as related to time and style, and its specific decoration and, in some cases, its inscription as the strategies, through which messages and meanings are transmitted. Each of the meetings will take place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the new gallery for the arts of Islam, and will be devoted to one single object. Different materials will be discussed, such as glass, ceramic, bronze, ivory and wood as well as illuminated manuscripts' pages. The museum context will be also critically discussed as an interactive space, in which the art object is deliberately reinvented to answer particular cultural demands and to narrate stories and histories. The museum's making of the art object a masterpiece, marvel, and iconic and authentic item will be also addressed.

Apply for ‘In Front of the Object’ using this online form.