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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Susan P Casteras
ART H 479
Seattle Campus

Representations of the Other in 19th Century Art

Explores how cultural identities were formed and reinforced in nineteenth-century European, British, and American Art. Includes investigations of physical and racial stereotyping, historical notions of the "primitive," fantasies of race, gender, imperialism, nationalism, and ethnicity.

Class description

This seminar will survey a wide range of representations and geographical areas, examining basic issues concerning how cultural identities and viewer/viewed relationships are formed and reinforced in 19th-century American, British, and European art. Physiognomic constructs will be explored, and also the Pre-Raphaelite expression of Otherness, notably their cult of the "ugly" and their new injections of meaning into the femme fatale. Moving beyond these tenets, historical notions of the "primitive", fantasies of race, gender, nationalism, imperialism, and ethnic stereotyping will also be investigated, along with some parallels in literature and popular culture. Subjects will include images of the Irish, immigrants, and the racial grotesque; constructions of the Native American in Western art; and images of African-Americans and women of color in American culture. Other classes will analyze Australian perspectives on aborigine peoples, as well as selected imagery of "Oriental" peoples in harem scenes, Victorian visions of India, and other realms. In addition to the topics indicated, the supernatural Other--e.g., fairies as well as monsters, ghosts, aliens, witches, and various manifestations of the occult (possibly also vampires, robotic creatures, avatars, and werewolves)--will be examined, along with representations of death, dying, and corpses. Outsider art is another dimension to be considered. Besides specific reading assignments, students will be given particular issues, themes, images, or books to prepare for group and individual presentations. Research will be both in the 19th century and in 20th/early-21st century imagery or stereotypes, and students are given wide latitude in their choice of a final paper topic. Furthermore, every student is expected to participate in weekly discussions; written work will also include two short assignments and a final paper of about 10 pages (the latter in lieu of a final exam).

Student learning goals

understand various stereotypes of race, gender, ethnicity

gain familiarity with key objects, artists, issues

develop analytical skills and interpretive abilities

achieve greater awareness of the interrelationships between art and literature, history, culture, and other forces

increase ability to write about objects, ideas, and diverse authors' evaluations of these elements

General method of instruction

lectures by the professor and active classroom discussion, with weekly assignments and at least 3 short papers plus a final paper, all of which allow students to reveal their increasing mastery of the material

Recommended preparation

AH 203 or some exposure to 19th- and/or early 20th-century art is advisable

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Susan P Casteras
Date: 02/23/2011