Legacies of Slavery & the Civil War in American Art
This seminar examines the impact of slavery and the U.S. Civil War on the development of American art from the 19th century through the present. Through a series of case studies, we will examine questions such as: How did anti-slavery and pro-slavery groups utilize images to further their political and social causes? In what ways did the experience of warfare during the U.S. Civil War challenge existing artistic hierarchies and encourage the development of new modes of picturing? How did artists give visual form to abstract concepts like emancipation? What was the impact of the Civil War on the memorial landscape in the United States, and how do those legacies continue to affect us today (as in the case of ongoing debates about public Confederate monuments)? How have contemporary artists responded to these historical themes and subjects in their work? We will examine a variety of visual media including painting, prints, sculpture, photography, film, and installation/performance, and we will also study original works of art in UW's Special Collections and the Henry Art Gallery.
Class meetings will be structured around discussion of the assigned readings (rather than a lecture format). Students are expected to complete the readings in advance of class and to come to class prepared to discuss them in detail. Regular attendance and active participation is expected. Each student will write a 9-12-page research paper (12-15-pages for graduate students) and give in-class presentations related to their research project and the assigned readings. For more information on course policies, requirements, and a detailed reading schedule, please review the expanded syllabus.
It is highly recommended that enrolled students have taken prior coursework in Art History or a cognate field, as this course will be exceptionally challenging for students with no prior exposure to art history or advanced humanities coursework.
The majority of required readings will be PDFs posted to Canvas, but students should also buy a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (Norton Critical Editions, 3rd ed.), which is available for purchase from the UW University Book Store and online retailers such as Amazon.