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Department of Art History

This is an archived copy of the 2012-13 catalog. To access the most recent version of the catalog, please visit


  • Joel M. Snyder


  • Charles Cohen
  • Tom Gunning
  • Elizabeth Helsinger
  • William J. T. Mitchell
  • Richard Neer
  • Joel M. Snyder
  • Yuri Tsivian
  • Wu Hung
  • Rebecca Zorach

Associate Professors

  • Persis Berlekamp
  • Darby English
  • Matthew Jesse Jackson
  • Christine Mehring
  • Katherine Taylor
  • Martha Ward

Assistant Professors

  • Niall Atkinson
  • Claudia Brittenham
  • Ping Foong
  • Chelsea Foxwell
  • Cécile Fromont
  • Aden Kumler

Harper Schmidt Collegiate Assistant Professor

  • Heather Badamo
  • Lisa Lee

Terra Foundation Postdoctoral Scholar in American Art

  • Sarah Miller

Associate Director of Visual Resources

  • Amanda Rybin

Emeritus Faculty

  • Neil Harris
  • Reinhold Heller
  • Robert S. Nelson
  • Linda Seidel
  • Barbara Stafford

Visiting Professor

  • Jas' Elsner,  Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford

The department offers a program for the study of the history and theory of art, leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. We provide a forum for exploring the visual arts of European, Near Eastern, Asian, African, and American civilizations. The department seeks to cultivate knowledge of salient works of art, of the structures within which they are produced and used, and of the ways in which the visual environment in the broadest sense generates, acquires, and transmits meaning. We encourage the exploration of diverse approaches. Ways of addressing and analyzing the range of materials that constitute visual culture are emphasized in lectures, seminars, and workshops through the oral and written presentation of research and inquiry into specific objects, periods, and issues.


A student wishing to enter the graduate program should have a sound undergraduate education in the humanities and liberal arts, preferably but not necessarily with a major in the history of art. It is highly recommended that students have usable skills in French, German, or other major languages relevant to the student’s area of focus. More specific information about appropriate languages can be found on the department’s website. Applicants are normally required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) aptitude scores. Both applicants with a B.A. and applicants who bring an M.A. in Art History from another institution are welcome to apply for admission to the Ph.D. program. The department grants M.A. degrees but does not have an independent M.A. program.

The combined application process for admission and financial aid for all graduate programs in the Division of the Humanities is administered through the divisional office of the Dean of Students. The application and instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at:|the-application

Questions about admissions and aid should be directed to or (773) 702-1552.

The Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

The department sets specific requirements for language skills, course distribution, and procedures leading to the completion of a dissertation. These are worked out individually, in accordance with a student’s interests, in consultation with the student’s major faculty advisor and the director of graduate studies. Ordinarily they include proficiency in two foreign languages and eighteen courses, at least twelve of which are in art history, distributed between major and minor fields. These courses are taken during a two-year period and include seminars in methodology and historiography. Independent research work in the student’s area of interest completes the program and guides the development of a dissertation proposal.

After completing course work, including a qualifying paper written over two quarters, the student prepares for a written examination testing knowledge in his or her major field of study and probable area of dissertation research. Successful completion of these preliminary examinations and departmental approval of the dissertation proposal qualifies the student for admission to candidacy. This identifies the final, most challenging and gratifying stage of doctoral study, the research and writing of the dissertation, an original contribution of scholarly or critical significance. Because the requirements for the programs in art history are regularly reviewed and revised, applicants should consult the departmental handbook for up-to-date statements: .

The Degree of Master of Arts

The objective of the program is the Ph.D. degree.  Doctoral students in the program are  eligible for the M.A. degree after completing the following requirements: one foreign language required for the student’s field; nine one-quarter courses at the University of Chicago, which include Methodology and meet the first-year distribution requirements; and approval of the qualifying paper from both readers. 


For more information on recently taught courses, please see the course description page of the departmental website at: .

Art History Courses

ARTH 30100. The Art of Ancestral Worship. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 20100,EALC 24900,EALC 34900,RLST 27600

ARTH 30603. Image and Text in Mexican Codices. 100 Units.

,In most Mesoamerican languages, a single word describes the activities that we would call “writing” and “painting.”  This seminar will investigate the interrelationships between image and text in Central Mexico both before and immediately after the introduction of alphabetic writing in the 16th century. We will also review art historical and archaeological evidence for the social conditions of textual and artistic production in Mexico, and how these traditions were transformed under Spanish colonial rule. We will consider the materiality of text and image by working with facsimiles of Mesoamerican books in the Special Collections of the Regenstein Library. At the end of the course, students will have acquired a basic literacy in Aztec and Mixtec writing systems, and will have refined their ability to look productively and write elegantly about art. 

Instructor(s): C. Brittenham     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 20603,LACS 20603,LACS 30603

ARTH 31400. Advanced Theories of Sex/Gender: Ideology, Culture, and Sexuality. 100 Units.

Beginning with the extension of the democratic revolution in the breakup of the New Left, this seminar will expore the key debates (foundations, psychoanalysis, sexual difference, universalism, multiculturalism) around which gender and sexuality came to be articulated as politically significant categories in the late 1980s and the 1990s. (A)

Instructor(s): L. Zerilli     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Completion of GNSE 10100-10200 and GNSE 28505 or 28605 or permission of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 21410,ARTH 21400,ENGL 21401,ENGL 30201,GNSE 31400,MAPH 36500,PLSC 31410

ARTH 32004. Medieval Chinese Visual Cult. 100 Units.

Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 22204,CHIN 23206,CHIN 33206,EALC 23206

ARTH 32409. Late Antique Treasures. 100 Units.

,Taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by the Art Institute’s special exhibition of hallmarks of Late Roman and Early Byzantine art (ca. 300-600 C.E.) from the British Museum, this class will consider what treasured objects from Late Antiquity meant in their original contexts, and what they mean today in the context of the world’s encyclopedic museums. We will first examine in detail works of art produced in luxurious media, primarily ivory and silver, as we discuss the various contexts in which they were seen and used—both in wealthy households and/or at important ecclesiastic sites. In so doing, we will focus on several general themes, including the continued popularity of classical imagery among the well-educated, aristocratic classes; the theater and spectacle of dining; and the ultimate emergence of a new, “Byzantine” aesthetic. Finally, we will conclude by looking at the ancient practice of burying treasure hoards, and the impact of their discovery on modern archaeology and museum practices.

Instructor(s): C. Nielsen     Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): This course will be held at the Art Institute.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 22409

ARTH 33400. Art, Architecture, and Identity in the Ottoman Empire. 100 Units.

Though they did not compose a “multi-cultural society” in the modern sense, the ruling elite and subjects of the vast Ottoman Empire came from a wide variety of regional, ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. The dynamics of the Empire’s internal cultural diversity, as well as of its external relations with contemporary courts in Iran, Italy, and elsewhere, were continuously negotiated and renegotiated in its art and architecture. This course examines classical Ottoman architecture, arts of the book, ceramics, and textiles. Particular attention is paid to the urban transformation of Byzantine Constantinople into Ottoman Istanbul after 1453, and to the political, technical, and economic factors leading to the formation of a distinctively Ottoman visual idiom disseminated through multiple media in the sixteenth century.

Instructor(s): P. Berlekamp     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 23400,NEAA 20801,NEAA 30801

ARTH 33900. Text and Image in Renaissance France. 100 Units.

This course studies manuscripts, printed books, and printed images produced in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century France that combine text and image, particularly those that do so in unusual, innovative, or provocative ways. We will consider problems of interpretation, "illustration," friction and gaps between text and image, and the uses of print vs. manuscript. Types of objects studied include emblem books, books of hours, scientific books, mythological and romance literature, captioned prints and print albums, and ceremonial books made to document events. We will visit several local collections (n.b. because of this, several class meetings will run past 4:30). Basic reading knowledge of French required.

Instructor(s): R. Zorach     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): Some reading knowledge of French required.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 23900

ARTH 34030. Sexuality Studies in American Art. 100 Units.

Taking the recent, controversial exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference & Desire in American Portraiture as our springboard, this course examines the plural strategies by which sexuality studies (in modes ranging from feminist history to psychoanalysis to queer theory) have been brought to bear on the canon of modern American art over the past thirty years, and the ways they have refigured our investigative methods, our objects of study, and the canon itself. Treating sexuality as a multivalent force in the creation of modern art and culture (rather than merely as subject), our topics will range from the 1870s to the 1960s—the years before artistic engagements with sexuality and gender were radically transformed by postmodernism and contemporary identity politics. Case studies will include the work of, and recent scholarship about, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, the Stieglitz circle (Charles Demuth, Georgia O'Keeffe), the trans-Atlantic "New Women" of the 1920s (Berenice Abbott, Romaine Brooks), the downtown bohemian and uptown Harlem Renaissance scenes of 1920s-30s New York, Joseph Cornell, Jasper Johns & Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Eva Hesse. Readings are drawn from recent art historical and key theoretical texts, with an emphasis on methodological analysis.

Instructor(s): S. Miller     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Any course in modern or American art history or ARTH 10100 or a course in gender studies.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 24030,GNSE 26102

ARTH 34710. Japan and the World in 19th Century Art. 100 Units.

This seminar will explore artistic interaction between Japan and the West in the late 19th century. Topics include: changing European and American views of Japan and its art, the use of Japanese pictorial “sources” by artists such as Monet and Van Gogh, Japan's invocation by decorative arts reformers, Japanese submissions to the world’s fairs, and new forms of Japanese art made for audiences within Japan. Class sessions and a research project are designed to offer different geographical and theoretical perspectives and to provide evidence of how Japonisme appeared from late 19th-century Japanese points of view.

Instructor(s): C. Foxwell     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 24710,EALC 24710,EALC 34710

ARTH 34812. Museums and Art. 100 Units.

This course considers how the rise of the art museum in the 19th and 20th centuries affected the making of modern art and the viewing of past art. It is not designed to be a survey course, but rather a historical investigation of certain issues and developments. We will concentrate on the following:  what has been said to happen to objects when they are uprooted and moved into the museum; how and why museums have changed display practices so as to get viewers to look at art in new ways; what artists have understood museums to represent and how they have responded to that understanding in their work and their display preferences. Though reference will be made to the contemporary art world, the focus will be on materials and case studies drawn from the French Revolution through the 1960s. French, German, English and American museums will be featured.

Instructor(s): M.Ward     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): This course does not meet the general education requirement in the dramatic, musical, and visual arts.

ARTH 35011. Africa, America. 100 Units.

This seminar explores the dynamic exchanges in the expressive cultures of Africa and the Americas. It examines a range of visual and material traditions that emerged and grew from the sustained contact between the two continents from the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade to the present. Class discussion, readings, assignments, and museum visits address topics such as carnival performances, santería and candomblé traditions, Vodou ritual forms, Luso-African architecture on both continents, and contemporary art.

Instructor(s): C. Fromont     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 25011,LACS 25011,LACS 35011

ARTH 35900. Theories of Media. 100 Units.

For course description contact English.

Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 12800,AMER 30800,ARTH 25900,ARTV 25400,CMST 27800,CMST 37800,ENGL 32800

ARTH 36609. Abstraction. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 26609

ARTH 36803. Enlightenment and 19th Century Architectural Theory and Practice. 100 Units.

This course examines influential new ideas about architectural design from the Enlightenment and nineteenth century in terms of writings and related buildings in Europe and the U.S.  This experimental period generated theoretical writing that continues to matter to architects today; we will study it in terms of its initial contexts and application.  Major themes are: (1) the relationship of a building’s structure to its decoration (or body to clothing, as it was sometimes put); (2) the rise of historical interest in older buildings from divergent stylistic traditions (e.g., classical and Gothic) and its impact on new design; (3) the development of aesthetic theory suited to mass as well as elite audiences (e.g., the sublime and the picturesque); and (4) the idea that architect and building could and should be ethical or socially reformative. 

Instructor(s): K. Taylor     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Prior course in art history or permission of the instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 26803

ARTH 36910. Visual Culture of Rome and Its Empire. 100 Units.

This general survey of Roman material culture will use the archaeological evidence complementary to literary sources in order to delineate the development of Roman society from the Early Republic down to the first sacking of Rome in 410 CE. Urban planning, public monuments, political imagery, and the visual world of Roman cities, houses, and tombs will be discussed in relationship to the political and social processes that shaped their formal development.

Instructor(s): E. Mayer     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): CLCV 27909,CLAS 37909,ARTH 26910

ARTH 37400. Feminism & The Visual Arts. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 27400,GNSE 27600,GNSE 37400

ARTH 37503. Modern/Postmodern. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 27503

ARTH 37610. Drawing After 1953. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 27610,ARTV 27910,ARTV 37910

ARTH 38500. History of International Cinema I: Silent Era. 100 Units.

This course introduces what was singular about the art and craft of silent film. Its general outline is chronological. We also discuss main national schools and international trends of filmmaking.

Instructor(s): J. Lastra     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Prior or concurrent enrollment in CMST 10100. Required of students majoring in Cinema and Media Studies.
Note(s): This is the first part of a two-quarter course.
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 28500,ARTH 28500,ARTV 26500,ARTV 36500,CMLT 22400,CMLT 32400,CMST 48500,ENGL 29300,ENGL 48700,MAPH 36000

ARTH 38600. History of International Cinema II: Sound Era to 1960. 100 Units.

The center of this course is film style, from the classical scene breakdown to the introduction of deep focus, stylistic experimentation, and technical innovation (sound, wide screen, location shooting). The development of a film culture is also discussed. Texts include Thompson and Bordwell's Film History: An Introduction; and works by Bazin, Belton, Sitney, and Godard. Screenings include films by Hitchcock, Welles, Rossellini, Bresson, Ozu, Antonioni, and Renoir.

Instructor(s): Y. Tsivian     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Prior or concurrent registration in CMST 10100 required. Required of students majoring in Cinema and Media Studies.
Note(s): CMST 28500/48500 strongly recommended
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 28600,ARTH 28600,ARTV 26600,CMLT 22500,CMLT 32500,CMST 48600,ENGL 29600,ENGL 48900,MAPH 33700

ARTH 40610. Democratic Athens. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

Equivalent Course(s): ANCM 40609,CLAS 40609

ARTH 41399. The Visual Culture of Opera in Late China. 100 Units.

,The passion for opera throughout China during the late imperial period was not restricted to the stage but permeated the visual and material landscape of everyday life, from the court on down. Operatic characters and stories were favored as pictorial and decorative motifs across the full spectrum of visual mediums from tomb carvings and scroll paintings to popular prints, illustrated books, and painted fans, to carved utensils, ceramics, textiles, dioramas, and photographs.  In preparation for an exhibition to be held at the Smart in 2014, students will research the representation of Chinese opera and its significance in a variety of visual, textual, and material forms. ,

Instructor(s): Judith Zeitlin     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Reading knowledge of Chinese
Note(s): Open to qualified advanced undergradutes with permission of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): EALC 41399

ARTH 42010. Art and Neoplatonism, East and West. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

ARTH 42610. Imperial Collections of Chinese Painting & Calligraphy. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

Equivalent Course(s): EALC 42610

ARTH 43002. The Face on Film. 100 Units.

The seminar will discuss on the workings of the face –as imprint of identity, as figure of subjectivity, as privileged object of representation, as mode and ethic of address – through film theory and practice. How has cinema responded to the mythic and iconic charge of the face, to the portrait’s exploration of model and likeness, identity and identification, the revelatory and masking play of expression, the symbolic and social registers informing the human countenance. At this intersection of archaic desires and contemporary anxieties, the face will serve as our medium by which to reconsider, in the cinematic arena, some of the oldest questions on the image. Among the filmmakers and writers who will inform our discussion are Balázs, Epstein, Kuleshov, Dreyer, Pasolini, Hitchcock, Warhol, Bresson, Bazin, Barthes, Doane, Aumont, Nancy, Didi-Huberman, and others.

Instructor(s): Noa Steimatsky     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): CMLT 43002,CMST 63002

ARTH 43500. Italian Ren Drawing. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

ARTH 43701. Neo-Avant-Wave: Post-War Film Experiment in France. 100 Units.

The New Wave. The Neo-Avant Garde. Rarely have these film and art movements been placed into an explicit historical or theoretical dialog or dialectic. It will be the task of this seminar to do just that. We will begin our study with a brief look into the pre-WWII situation of radical art and film movements, and classic theories of the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde. Turning our attention to the rise of Lettrism within the context of post-war film and art culture, we will subsequently evaluate the conditions that surrounded the emergence of New Wave filmmaking and criticism, and that include the Situationist International and Nouveau Réalisme. As we move toward and beyond the events of May 1968, we will bring our study of social documentary, politically militant forms, collective film and art practices, and historiography to bear on purportedly stable understandings of the New Wave, its art historical forebearers, and its heirs. Reading knowledge of French is required. While some of our texts will appear in English translation, many will not. The seminar will be conducted in English, but the last thirty minutes of each session will be conducted in French. This component is intended to improve students’ oral proficiency, but it will not be used in student evaluation. Screenings are mandatory. With some possible exceptions, films will be subtitled. Students enrolled in FREN 43713 will be required to complete all reading and writing in French.

Instructor(s): Jennifer Wild     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): FREN 43713,CMST 63701

ARTH 44502. The Aesthetics of Socialist Realism. 100 Units.

Socialist Realism was declared the official mode of Soviet aesthetic culture in 1934. Though it has been dismissed within the totalitarian model as propaganda or kitsch, this seminar will approach it from the perspective of its aesthetics. By this we mean not only its visual or literary styles, but also its sensory or haptic address to its audiences. Our premise is that the aesthetic system of Socialist Realism was not simply derivative or regressive, but developed novel techniques of transmission and communication; marked by a constant theoretical reflection on artistic practice, Socialist Realism redefined the relationship between artistic and other forms of knowledge, such as science. Operating in an economy of art production and consumption diametrically opposed to the Western art market, Socialist Realism challenged the basic assumptions of Western artistic discourse, including the concept of the avant-garde. It might even be said to offer an alternate model of revolutionary cultural practice, involving the chronicling and producing of a non-capitalist form of modernity. The seminar will focus on Soviet visual art, cinema and fiction during the crucial period of the 1930s under Stalin (with readings available in translation), but we welcome students with relevant research interests that extend beyond these parameters. Conducted jointly by professors Robert Bird (Slavic and Cinemaand Media Studies, University of Chicago) and Christina Kiaer, Art History, Northwestern University, course meetings will be divided evenly between the campuses of Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

Instructor(s): Robert Bird and Christina Kiaer     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012
Equivalent Course(s): RUSS 34502

ARTH 44909. Seminar: Japanese Handscroll Paintings. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

Equivalent Course(s): EALC 42609

ARTH 45202. The Uncanny in Cinema. 100 Units.

The uncanny is an experience or quality that by definition remains difficult to grasp: something that is mysterious and enigmatic, yet also seems oddly familiar. To explore this term this seminar will draw largely on a tradition of commentary on the German word Das Unheimliche, usually translated as uncanny, that can be trace among Ernst Jentsch, Sigmund Freud and Martin Heidegger and it relevance to film and media studies. Freud and his disciple Otto Rank before 1920 related the uncanny to the cinema, and cinema’s ability to evoke the uncanny has been frequently observed. On the one hand, the cinema’s ability to portray uncanny events (as in Rank and Freud’s invocation of the 1913 film The Student of Prague) appears generically in films of fantasy or horror. In addition, some theorists have felt that film as a medium could be best approached via the uncanny. In this seminar we will read a series of the keys texts and try to survey the terrain of the concept of the uncanny. We will screen films that evoke the experience through their narrative and stylistics, and we will discuss the usefulness of the term for theorizing both film and electronic media, both new and old.

Instructor(s): Tom Gunning     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 65202

ARTH 46210. Arabesque Narrative: A Hybrid Form of the Imaginary. 100 Units.

For course description contact CDIN Center for Disciplinary Innovation.

Equivalent Course(s): CDIN 51400,GRMN 51400,SCTH 51400

ARTH 46309. Secularization & Resacralization of the Work of Art. 100 Units.

For course description contact Art History.

Equivalent Course(s): SCTH 40106

ARTH 49309. Race, Media and Visual Culture. 100 Units.

For course description contact CDIN Center for Disciplinary Innovation.

Equivalent Course(s): CDIN 51300,ARTV 55500,CMLT 51500,CMST 51300,ENGL 51300