Social Norms in Art
Instructor: Jennifer Hallam
During the Renaissance, the Madonna, the mother of Christ, was represented in art as a paragon of virtue. In the late twentieth century, pop sensation Madonna inverted the image of her namesake. The self-proclaimed "Material Girl" made videos, which tackled controversial issues, encouraged sexual experimentation, and urged fans to "express themselves" freely. The virgin Madonna of biblical tradition transcended social norms; the not so virginal Madonna of MTV super-stardom transgressed them.
Examining a wide range of media, including print, paint, and film, we will explore the ways in which art has been used to promote certain social norms and to challenge others, to warn against deviant action and inspire ideal behavior. We will think about the strategies employed by artists, such as Durer, Bosch, Goya, Degas and Warhol, to convey messages about social behavior, and we will consider the audiences for whom those messages were intended. Looking at images of saints and sinners, housewives and witches, kings and "queens", we will ask: Who conforms to social norms? Who does not? Who has set the standards for behavior in Western society? How have those standards changed over time? And how has art both engendered and accommodated those changes?
As a student in this course, you will hone your writing skills through informal in-class writing, draft revisions, and peer review. You will be expected to demonstrate your mastery of those skills in formal assignments, including analyses of individual works of art, critical reviews of texts, and a final research project.
While learning the conventions of effective writing, you will be encouraged to discover a personal voice that allows you to "express yourself".