Writing About Looking
Instructor: James Hargrove
Painting, sculpture and architecture shape much of the visual context of our lives; yet when it comes to articulating in words what we see around us, we are often at a loss to express ourselves. Learning how to describe, discuss and analyze the material world constitutes the foundation of art historical writing. This course will focus on writing the visual with an exploration of works of art from the past three centuries, taking advantage of the rich art collections available in the city of Philadelphia. Using works of painting, sculpture and architecture, students will develop ideas and practice-writing techniques based on visual evidence. Since the minute pen is put to paper a writer brings a perspective to their work, one of the aims of this course will be to examine the different kinds of perspectives that are brought to bear on writing about art history. To that end, we will be reading a variety of art historical essays and articles emphasizing different perspectives and different personal and communal voices. Students will be expected to write short response papers to these articles in order to develop a range of reading and writing skills based on textual argument. The course will begin with a formal analysis paper on a specific work of art, to be followed in mid-semester with a critical essay on a work of art. Finally, students will undertake a longer writing and research assignment on a work of art of their own choice. Part of the writing process will involve giving a casual presentation of one's research a couple of weeks before handing in the written paper.