Spring 2024

Art, Things, Spaces, and Places

Listed in: Architectural Studies, as ARCH-258  |  Art and the History of Art, as ARHA-258  |  European Studies, as EUST-258


Nicola Courtright (Section 01)


(Offered as ARHA 258, ARCH 258 and EUST 258) The purpose of this course is to introduce students to research on lived environments from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, the architecture that shaped them, and the art and objects that they contained. The goal of each class, through reading and discussion, is to investigate what a researchable question is in the fields of history, art history, architecture, and material culture in Europe, England, and the Americas. Using multi-disciplinary research strategies, we will examine the power of precious and ordinary objects (including furniture, tapestries, devotional paintings, family portraits, and sculpture), the contemporary connotations of their materiality, and consider what objects in a home might signify about a family’s status, political allegiance, spirituality, and place in the world. Further, we will ask how art, objects and décor shape the beholder’s experience of spaces inside and outside a residence, in private and in public. What does the display of objects in collections, including those from far-away cultures other than the patron’s, signify to the owner and the viewer? Visiting lecturers will present their ideas on various topics such as the anthropology of art, the significance of precious materials, and collecting. We will take field trips to museums and meet curators in order to identify a research topic.

This course will give students tools to conduct their own research into past lived environments and their contents, and identify how we in the 21st century might come to understand them. As the culmination of the course students will collaboratively develop a prospectus for a research project with one or two other classmates. Assignments to meet that goal include adding new content to Wikipedia as a record of students’ findings and a contribution to knowledge for a wider public.

Open to sophomores but also motivated first-years interested in research in a variety of fields. Limited to 18 students. Spring 2024. Professor Courtright.

How to handle overenrollment: Priority to sophomores, first-years, and potential ARHA/ARCH majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: EXPECTATIONS: Intellectual skills and modes of learning: student gains the skill of close looking to gain visual understanding; develops this skill with a field trip with the class to a major museum; considers how art and its culture are intertwined; learns how to discern what a researchable question is and to figure out where ideas come from; develops critical reading skills to analyze points of view from a historical period other than their own; learns collaboratively with classmates; develops ideas of their own in the collaborative research prospectus. ASSESSMENT BASED ON: ungraded, 1-paragraph abstracts of all readings; discussion; a final team-based research prospectus.

ARCH 258 - LEC

Section 01
M 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM FAYE 217
W 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM FAYE 217


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2022, Spring 2024