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COURSE NAME: "World Art IV: Visual Culture of the Modern and Contemporary World"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Catherine Parsonage
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 1:30-2:50 PM

This survey course focuses on the art of Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania from the 1700s to the present. The course investigates all media, including photography, and considers the impact of globalization and new technologies on contemporary art and evidence of cross-cultural influences. Special attention will be given to the new aesthetic languages, traditional cultural sources, and philosophical background of contemporary art, as well as to the broader cultural-historical contexts of their creation. The course will also assist students in cultivating basic art-historical skills, in particular description, stylistic analysis, and iconographic and iconological analysis.

This survey course focuses on the art of Europe and the Americas from the 1700s to the present; through lectures, class discussions on readings and student presentations we will build a strong foundation in the skills of visual analysis to identify and interpret artworks.  The course will prepare students to think critically about how art connects to its social and political context and communicate these thoughts clearly in a structured research paper.

Organized chronologically we will trace the impact of societal upheaval - revolution, war and protest on the production of art and the role of the artist. Students will develop the knowledge and tools to recognize key works from significant movements and analyze how they intersect with certain philosophical or political beliefs of the time.  In our current moment of uncertainty and change we will look back through art history to understand how art has previously responded to deep social shifts, through this lens we will ask: what is the role of art and the artist in these contexts? How does art reflect or even impact the sensibility of its time?  We will consider the influence of literature, technology, travel and importantly non-western cultures on the development and understanding of modern and contemporary art.


- Identify key works and issues in modern and contemporary art.

-Develop an understanding of the chronology and development of art since the 18th-century.

-Recognize and interpret the impact of social and historical context on art historical movements and specific works.

- Develop skills of visual analysis: build a technical vocabulary and an understanding of how to connect singular works of art to the political, social, technological and literary developments of the time.

-Through class discussions exercise critical thinking and thoughtful communication with peers about modern and contemporary art.

-Learn how to effectively annotate and analyse texts in order to evaluate them for class presentations and conversations.

-Understand how to develop and structure an argument for a research paper and clearly present information.  

There is no assigned text book for this course. 


Readings for each class are available to download digitally via Moodle.


ParticipationCompletion and annotation of weekly reading assignments. Participation and engagement with all aspects of the course, including moodle forums and discussions. A willingness to ask questions, share opinions and contribute. Attendance and punctuality is mandatory regardless of whether learning is remote or in class.10
PresentationA 5-mn presentation on a visual analysis for class discussion. Further guidelines will be provided.10
Midterm ExaminationThe Midterm Examination will consist of a series of slide comparisons. (Images will be pre-identified and previously discussed in class) The exam will assess skills of visual analysis and knowledge of relevant contextual information. A midterm review will familiarize students with the format and expectations of the exam. 25
Research PaperA 2000 word paper (c. 5 pages) exclusive of bibliography. The paper will be centered on independent research and a visual analysis of an artwork (pre 1970) in connection to the social and political context of the time as well as technological and literary influences. The paper should conform to a system of academic citation and formatting guidelines (MLA/Chicago) 25
Final ExaminationThe Final Exam will have the same format as the Midterm Examination: a series of slide comparisons. (Images will be pre-identified and previously discussed in class) The exam will assess student’s knowledge and critical analysis of all movements and material covered during the semester. 30

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


Attendance and punctuality is mandatory.  Absences and late arrival will be noted and will affect your participation grade. *For detailed requirements for online participation see our Moodle class page.

If absence is unavoidable, email the Professor at the first possible opportunity.

The Dean’s Office may grant exemptions from specific attendance policies in the case of a chronic medical condition or other serious problem or in the case of exceptional students pursuing high-level activities in such areas as competitive sports, chess or artistic performance. Students seeking such an exemption must ask a Dean as soon as they are aware of a situation impeding their required attendance. Students who cannot meet the attendance requirements for a particular class may be advised to withdraw from it.


Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday must notify their instructors by the end of the Add/Drop period (during the first week of classes). Students missing a class for this reason also must make prior arrangements with their instructor to make up any work missed.


You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


*Schedule can be subject to unforeseen changes.

A detailed list of readings is outlined on our class Moodle page.



Mon 21st Sept

 1.1   Course introduction: scope, issues, requirements


Wed 23rd Sept

1.2: Visual Analysis.




Mon 28th Sept

2.1 The sweet cherubs of Rococo and the rationality of The Enlightenment


Wed 30th Sept

2.2: An Example of Virtue, the Grand Tour and rapture over ruins


Fri 2nd Oct (make up day)

2.3 Neo Classicism (1): Jacques-Louis David and the rumblings of Revolution





Mon 5th Oct

3.1 Neoclassicism (2): Napoleonic Propaganda and “Licked Surfaces”


Wed 7th Oct

3.2 Romanticism: The Exotic, The Erotic, The Fantasy.




Mon 12th Oct

4.1 Realism: I have never seen an angel. Show me an angel, and I’ll paint one.

      (Gustave Courbet)


Wed 14th Oct

4.2 Edouard Manet: Scandalous Modernity




Mon 19th Oct

5.1 Impressionism: Instinct, Sensation and Light.


Wed 21st Oct

5.2 Post-Impressionism: a movement which ‘changed human character forever’




Mon 26th Oct

6.1 Midterm Review


Wed 28th Oct

6.2 Midterm examination




Mon 2nd Nov

7.1 Fauvism and Expressionism: The Wild Beasts


Wed 5th Nov

7.2 Cubism: Braque and Picasso


Fri 6th Nov (make up day)

7.3 Research Paper Workshop




Mon 9th Nov

8.1: Futurism: Courage, Audacity and Revolt!!!


Wed 11th Nov

8.2 Constructivism and Suprematism: The Zero of Form




Mon 16th Nov

9.1 Bauhaus and De Stijl: Utopian Post War Ideals


Wed 18th Nov

9.2 Dada and Anti-Art: Disgust, Chance and Nonsense.




Mon 23rd Nov

10.1 Surrealism: beyond reality


Wed 25th Nov

10.2 Abstract Expressionism: just PAINT




Mon 30th Nov

11.1: Pop Art: Witty, Gimmicky, Glamorous


Wed 2nd Dec

11.2 Minimalism and Land Art




Mon 7th Dec

12.1: Happenings, Protest and Performance art (socially orientated performance and relational aesthetics)


Wed 9th Dec

12.2: Review and Revision Class. Final Paper Due.



WEEK 13 – Exam Week

DATE TBC: Final Exam