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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Marek K. Wieczorek
HUM 596
Seattle Campus

Humanities Research Seminar

Explorations of current research in the humanities, most frequently with interdisciplinary emphasis. Offered by selected UW faculty and scholars-in-residence.

Class description

Abstraction: Modernism in Literature, Music, and the Visual Arts

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar explores modernist abstraction across different artistic disciplines. In search of commonalities and differences between various forms of abstract expression, we will look at literature, music, theater, film, painting and sculpture. The first decades of the previous century saw many groundbreaking developments within these diverse art forms and a rich cross-fertilization between them, yet the roots of abstraction can be traced back past Romanticism, and its legacy is still with us today. In general surveys, abstraction is often invoked as a cross-disciplinary adventure, yet rarely in terms that go beyond vague analogies, whereas more advanced courses generally remain limited to individual art forms. In this course, we will explore the ways we can understand modernist abstraction across disciplines and mediums and from various formal and philosophical points of view.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

We will call on the expertise of guest speakers from the UW, who will each coordinate and present their own session. Marshall Brown (Comparative Literature) will trace the romantic roots of abstraction in literature and music. Douglas Collins (Romance Languages) will discuss what he sees as a French fear surrounding the figure. Brian Reed (Comparative Literature) will explore intersections between music and abstraction from Schönberg through minimalism. Jennifer Bean (Comparative Literature) will examine the emergence of cinema along with chronophotography and notions of the readymade. Herbert Blau (English) will discuss his involvement in experimental theater. Marek Wieczorek (Art History) will be the coordinator and anchor, covering the visual arts within late 19th- and early 20th-century avant-garde culture.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Students from different departments are encouraged to participate and share ideas central to their respective disciplines so as to create a friendly atmosphere for comparison. The requirements for the course are short, weekly reading summaries, incorporating commentary and questions to be used in class discussions (2 pages), a 15- to 20-page paper, and a brief in-class presentation based on the paper. The seminar is sponsored by the Walter H. Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities.


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 Marek K. Wieczorek
Date: 02/05/2002