Understand the visual world from a variety of viewpoints

Art History and Visual Culture courses investigate the production of art, architecture, and film through the technical, social, economic, cultural, psychological, and epistemological forces at work when they were produced and viewed.  The major places a particular emphasis on how images form beliefs and values, taking into account issues of ethnicity, gender, and class.


Addressing questions of chronology, theory, and methodology, the curriculum proceeds from a disciplinary to an interdisciplinary approach, guiding students in the development of analytical and synthetic thinking about visual culture.  Students are encouraged to take classes in Communication and Media Studies and Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies and to apply the methods from these disciplines to the study of art history and visual culture.

Students who have completed the major will be prepared to enter graduate and specialized studies in art history and visual culture.  They may also choose a career in a gallery, museum, auction house, in the art-publishing sector, or some specialized corporate environments. 

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Art History and Visual Culture

The art history and visual culture major endeavors to provide a fundamental understanding of the visual world from a variety of viewpoints. Courses investigate the production of art, architecture, and film through the technical, social, economic, cultural, psychological, and epistemological forces at work when they were produced and viewed. The major places a particular emphasis on how images form beliefs and values, taking into account issues of ethnicity, gender, and class. Addressing questions of chronology, theory, and methodology, the curriculum proceeds from a disciplinary to an interdisciplinary approach, guiding students in the development of analytical and synthetic thinking about visual culture. Students are encouraged to take classes in Communication and Media Studies and Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies and to apply the methods from these disciplines to the study of art history and visual culture.

Students who have completed the major will be prepared to enter graduate and specialized studies in art history and visual culture. They may also choose a career in a gallery, museum, auction house, in the art-publishing sector, or some specialized corporate environments.

Major Requirements (42 Credits)

Required Courses (12 credits)
AHT 102 Introduction to Art History and Visual Culture I: Antiquity to Early Renaissance

The course offers an introduction to the history of art and visual culture from antiquity to the Renaissance. It studies painting, sculpture, architecture, and prints within their historical, social, and cultural contexts, as well as their representation in modern media (film, documentary, etc).

AHT 103 Introduction to Art History and Visual Culture II: High Renaissance to Contemporary Art

The course is the sequel to AHT 102 and offers an introduction to the history of art and visual culture from the High Renaissance to the present day. It studies early modern painting, sculpture, architecture, and prints within their historical, social, and cultural contexts, as well as photography and new media in the modern and contemporary world.

AHT 270 Theories and Methods in Art History and Visual Culture

The course introduces students to the theories and methods of art history and visual culture. It addresses both traditional and innovative models from art history and how to apply methodologies from other disciplines to the study of the visual world. Students will conduct original research projects using a variety of critical approaches to put their theoretical knowledge in practice.

AHT 320 Anthropologies of Art

The course is taught in collaboration with the Museo delle Culture Extraeuropee of Lugano (www.mcl.lugano.ch) and takes place in the classroom and in the galleries of the museum at Villa Heleneum. It is not so much about the history of art but about the relations between artifacts and people in history. Treating topics such as the power of and in images, art and religion, art and social life, and art and communication, we will discuss how the deep structure of the human mind creates, relates to, and is reflected in artifacts of the Western world. At Villa Heleneum we will have the chance to study masks and other cult objects and their relations to the peoples from Oceania, Africa, and Asia together with museum curators. Classes will take place in front of exhibits and are structured around specific topics, including the meaning and value of the ethnical work of art, and photography and film in anthropology.

Major Electives (18 credits)

Six of the following (with at least two at the 300 level):

AHT 211 Collecting Art and the Law

This course addresses the history of collecting from the Renaissance to today. It looks at early modern princely and scholarly collections, such as the Wunderkammer, the birth of the public art museum, and the notion of collecting for civic pride. What drives private and corporate collectors and what kind of decision making processes do museums follow to acquire new exhibits? What constitutes an original work of art and what is a fake? What kinds of scientific methods can be applied to determine the authenticity of a work or art? These questions are tied to legal matters, a further important topic the course discusses. What laws are in place for copyright and restitution issues, and what are its limits? Looking at case studies of international disputes, the course examines the effectiveness of art laws and what other factors drive the outcome of these disputes. 

AHT 213 Art and Ideas: Exploring Vision

The course departs from the question of whether vision is simply what the external world imprints on our retina or if it is a cultural construct? Is it purely physiological or can we speak of a history or histories of the eye? How do culture, science, and ethnicity influence what we see and how se see it? Keeping these questions in mind the course studies aspects of vision (perception, reception, revelation, blindness) - both from an empirical and from an historical point of view. Besides practical exercises related to the seeing eye, the course examines the discovery of perspective in the Renaissance, the invention of the Baroque theater, gender and gaze in modernity, and optical instruments of the Enlightenment as precursors for modern photography and film.

AHT 215T Art and Industry in England: 1800-2000

This course explores the relation between the visual arts and British industrial development in the course of the 19th and 20th century. It will consider the representation of a changing landscape in painting and prints, the encounter of aesthetics with the scientific innovation and spirit of the industrial age, the creation of Victorian museums, galleries and art collections within the rapidly developing industrial city. It will also discuss resistance to these changes, as exemplified by the art of the Pre-Raphaelites and the writings of John Ruskin. Secondly, the course investigates the emergence of post-industrial cultural economies in the second half of the 20th century, placing emphasis on visual and aesthetic responses. It addresses the impact of late 20th century regeneration strategies on the cultural field, putting a particular emphasis on the development of contemporary art from the 1980s onward. Thus the course aims to further the students' knowledge of artistic developments in England and Britain during the period, while stressing these developments’ interactive relation with socio-political and economic history.

AHT 216 Introduction to the History of Photography

This course offers an introduction to the history of photography from its inception in the early 19th century to the present day. It considers the specific historical development of the photographic medium through the evolution of both its technical possibilities during the period and the range of its applications. The course will question past and present readings of photographs, while reflecting on the peculiar modes of representation implied by the use of the daguerreotype, the calotype and the negative-positive photographic process, the commercialization of photographic equipment in the early 20th century, the introduction of the Kodacolour film in 1942, and the changes in the late 20th century with the introduction of the digital camera. It will consider a set of different objects favored by the medium, such as the landscape, the city, the portrait, the body, taking into account the historical socio-political contexts in which these various photographic practices developed. It will consider the history of genres within photography: documentary photography, photography as fine art, photography in advertising and media, fashion photography, as well as its archival and historical documentation. Finally, the course will emphasize the question of the impact and influence of photography on other artistic mediums, such as painting and literature, as well as on the modern and contemporary experience of the world.

AHT 218T Harbor Cities: Architecture, Vision, and Experience

Oceans, seas and rivers have long provided resources favorable to the growth of urban settlements. Cities built on water shores use natural fluxes as passageways for bodies, goods and ideas from a privileged position. Their harbors became gateways to both wealth and the unknown. This course will focus on the modes of representations of the harbor city in the 20th century, placing particular emphasis on the role of imagination in its past, present and future construction. In the 19th and 20th centuries, radical and rapid changes in maritime technology and the geographies of the world economy prompted dramatic transformations in the functionalities and the identities of harbor cities across the globe. The proud jewels of the ‘economie-monde’ in the Mediterranean as well as many of the industrial bastions of the 19th century empires fell into decline, while emerging economies prompted fast-paced development of their sea-linked cities to accommodate emerging trade. Throughout this process, the relation of harbor cities to their self-perceived identity significantly evolved. A sole focus on a city’s desires and assets has become unviable. For the once remote outside world has found multiple paths of its own making to gain access to the city’s shores. The course will consider the array of visions drawn by artists, poets, architects, urban planners, politicians, entrepreneurs, and everyday inhabitants in informing the modeling of harbor cities in the context of rapid and drastic physical and mental changes.

AHT 230T Art, Politics, Landscape: Ireland

This course focuses on the relation between the visual arts, politics and landscape in Ireland. It emphasizes the role played by culture and aesthetics in the shaping of territorial identities on the island. It also looks at the historical evolution of conflicting socio-political configurations, whose modeling of physical and imaginary landscapes will be scrutinized. Singular and interacting identities within the spatial political nexus of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, are explored from the mediating perspective of aesthetic production and consumption. The course looks at early Celtic sculpture, craftsmanship and illuminated manuscripts, the circulation of artistic ideas and artists during the medieval and early modern period, before turning to nascent modernities in art and architecture. Artistic production during the Troubles in the second half of the Twentieth century is finally discussed in relation to the complex negotiation of past and present identities and heritage in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The vibrancy of contemporary Irish art finally provides a platform from which to reflect on current aesthetic syncretisms. The travel component includes in-situ visits in Dublin and Galway.

AHT 231 Renaissance Art and Architecture in Italy

This course follows the evolution of early Renaissance architecture, sculpture and painting in Florence as exemplified in the works of Brunelleschi, Alberti, Donatello, and Masaccio, before taking up the principles of High Renaissance art and its major exponents: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. The course is designed to define the objectives of individual artists and to discuss to what extent these objectives are indicative of Renaissance thought. Note: This course may carry an additional fee for weekend field trips.

AHT 234 Painting in France in the 19th Century: Reality, Impressions, Simultaneity

This course sets out to chart and discuss the development of painting in France from the emergence of Romanticism in the early 19th Century to the critical recognition of post-impressionist practices at the turn of the 20th Century. It looks at the changing relations to reality that were developed by the impressionist group, leading to the emergence of a new visual understanding of the world in cubists practices that resolutely abandoned the aesthetics space inherited from the Renaissance. The course considers both the continuous evolution of a classical tradition sustained by state institutions and its progressive superseding by an avant-garde relying on the growth of the private commercial sector. Throughout this course, the relationship between the visual arts and other forms of cultural expression will be highlighted.

AHT 257T Introduction to the History of Architecture

This Academic Travel course investigates the history of the built environment as technical, social, and cultural expression from antiquity to the contemporary. It studies building techniques, styles, and expressions in terms of their chronology and context. Themes, theories, and ideas in architecture and urban design are also explored. Among other focus topics, students are encouraged to consider architecture as a cultural expression, study its semiotic potential, ascertain its role within political aesthetics, and investigate its relationship to best practices in sustainable building.

AHT 280 Contemporary Art: From the New York School to the Present

This course focuses on the history of contemporary art from 1945 to the present, paying particular attention to developments in European and North American art within an increasingly global culture. Topics include: reactions to modernism and its discourses, the dematerialization of art and the rise of conceptualism, activist art and institutional critique, site-specific and time-based art, postmodernist discourses and aesthetics as well as historical mindedness in contemporary art practices. The course will place a particular focus on the relation between the art object and the artist's intention/idea. The role of institutions within the art world will be analyzed in relation to the development of process based practices. Particular emphasis will be put on the theoretical writings of artists and critics. Visits to Contemporary Art museums will be included.

AHT 285T Technology in Art, Visual Communication, and Fashion

From early optical instruments to Renaissance printing presses, from camera obscuras floating on boats to portable paint tubes, from modern film cameras to laser sculptures, from computer robotics to 3D printing, technology continues to play a major role in art, visual communication, and fashion. It shapes both creative processes and production techniques in the making of visual culture and it affects and defines the status of the beholder of its manifold expressions. The course will investigate some of the milestones in the history of instruments and will take up contemporary technology to investigate the intertwined connection between man and machine in the creative world.

AHT 334 Artists' Biopics

This course looks at the representation of artists’ lives and artistic practices in film. Biopics explore a character’s personal journey, depicting a biographical tableau of a lifetime’s tribulation and achievements. The figure of the artist has long held a fascination for society. Misunderstood, decadent, melancholic, single-minded against the odds, and above all prophetic and visionary, the romantic potential of artists offered dramatic material to film directors and the film industries alike. At the same time, the cinematic medium provides a remarkable platform from which to enter the artist’ personal studio, and to gain an insight into the complex mechanisms of artistic creation. This course will explore both facets of artists’ biopics, engaging with the representation in film of the lives of artists such as Caravaggio, Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the works of directors such as Maurice Pialat, Dereck Jarman and Peter Greenaway.

AHT 338 The City and Its Representation in the 20th Century

This course looks at the representation of the modern and postmodern city in the 20th century through a range of mediums, including the visual arts, poetry, literature, cinema and architecture. It aims to consider how artistic production has reflected the changing nature of urban environments, as well as contributed to shaping contemporary perceptions and experiences of the city over the course of the century. It examines both the historical construction of socio-political and economic urban textures, and the manner though which these have found themselves incorporated and translated into aesthetic propositions.

AHT 350 Museums and Art Galleries: Theory, History and Practice

This course looks at museum theory and practices at the beginning of the 21st Century, placing particular emphasis on art museums and galleries. Students will be encouraged to familiarize themselves with theoretical issues rooted in the historical development of national collections in the 19th century, as well as to consider a number of practical applications required of museum personnel in the present day. On the one hand, the course discusses a number of issues operative in the field of heritage and museum studies, such as authenticity, public(s) and reception, interpretation, historical discourse, memory, dark heritage. It will aim to present an archaeology of the museum realm informed and constructed by historical practice and discourses. Secondly, the course will aim to discuss a number of technical practical functions in the art museum and art gallery context, such as curating, conservation, law, marketing and design, public relations and research. Informed by theoretical and historical reflections, it will aim to explore the current technical operations active in the body-museum and the challenges that might lie ahead. A number of visits and workshops in museums in the Ticino region will be scheduled.

AHT 357 Art Market Studies: From Renaissance Commissions to Online Auctions

This course studies the art market from early modernity to the contemporary age. It departs from Renaissance commissions where artists need to closely respond to patrons' needs in the creation of their works. The situation changes with the birth of the free art market in 17th century Holland where works are sold publicly and at auction, and traded across continents. The importance of the gallerist’s vision shaped the public taste in 18th century Paris, which subsequently takes on new dimensions in the 19th century in the personal relationships between artist and dealer that supersede the Salon model. In the study of the contemporary art market emphasis is placed on how artists, dealers, galleries, and auction houses determine pricing strategies and what impact pricing narratives have on aesthetic values. In online sales, AI-generated works of art, NFTs, and the shift to crypto currencies in transactions, the art world and their global markets are undergoing significant transformations. What lasting impact do particular types of market situations have on artistic production and society at large? What are the implications on questions of authenticity and authorship? How is the value of culture shaped in the digital world? These questions will be asked throughout the course to ascertain the dynamics between symbolic goods and their economic value.

AHT 361 The Visual Culture of Disaster

The destruction of Pompeii after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the plague, the Sack of Rome, Hiroshima, and 9/11 are some examples with which The Visual Culture of Disaster will examine the impact of natural and man-made catastrophes on the visual world. How have painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, and filmmakers come to terms with these disasters? Did the devastation have a tabula rasa effect, meaning in what manner did it destroy an existing and produce a new visual culture? In addition to the historical perspective, the course will place a focus on the contemporary world. It will investigate how real-time media, such as television, has influenced the visual culture of disaster; and it will probe how art can contribute to the prevention of disaster by looking at the iconographies and aesthetics of sustainable energies - sun, wind, and water - and to what extent they have been incorporated in contemporary architecture, art, and film.

AHT 362 Visual Semiotics: Signs and Symbols in Art, Architecture, Film, and Fashion

The course will investigate the different types of sign languages that we find in the visual arts. It will study and discuss theories of semiotics and then investigate how each medium sets up its own method of visual communication through signs and symbols. What kinds of patterns of messages do we find in paintings? Do buildings have their own code of communication other than being functional containers? What kinds of messages does a film convey beyond its action? Do the clothes we wear make a statement? In addition to the theoretical aspect, the course will also contain an empirical and a studio component where students will conduct research on a particular topic, which they will then present in a visual medium of their choice.

AHT 371 Topics in Art History

Topics in Art History vary from year to year. They are advanced courses on specific topics not normally offered, and they may require additional pre-requisites or permission of instructor.

AHT 375 Nature City Post-1960

The turn of the 1960s-70s, characterized by the rapid acceleration of time-space compression associated with 20th century global processes, prompted a radical transformation in the perception of urban and natural environments. The geographer Henry Lefebvre significantly heralded the advent of an ‘urban revolution’ (1970), which has now spiraled into the prospect of a ‘total urbanization’ of the planet. This paradigmatic shift has been accompanied by increased environmental awareness and activism, as well as a growing recognition of the complex interplay between natural and urban entities. This course looks at a range of aesthetic practices which have been engaging with ecology and ecosystems, energy, world conceptions and the formation of hybrid landscapes and environments since the 1960s. While the processes of urban and territorial transformations take place in the physical world, their design, assessment, alteration and pursuits occur at the level of ‘representation’. With a particular focus on aesthetics and architecture, the course explores the changing urban imaginaries of land, water and skies in the second half of the 20th century, and the rise of a planetary scale supplanting previous cosmological representations on earth.

Interdisciplinary Electives (6 credits)

Two of the following:

CLCS 100 The Stories We Live By

Stories are everywhere. We use them, consciously or unconsciously, to make sense of identities, experiences, and desires. And, at the same time, we are shaped by the stories that we absorb and interpret. This course explores how storytelling both reflects and shapes our lives. It introduces students to keywords and terms for reading and reflecting upon stories, both in the pages of books and in everyday life. The course considers a variety of narrative forms, including short stories, novels, fairy tales, self-help manuals, comics, films, podcasts, and political discourse. The course introduces students to fundamental questions about the nature of storytelling, while developing the vocabulary and critical skills for analysing and discussing stories. This is a writing intensive course in which students read as they learn to write. Students practice applying a critical vocabulary to textual forms as well as becoming familiar with the skills of drafting and editing. The course also introduces students to some of the professional pathways open to writers and storytellers.(This writing-intensive course counts towards the Academic Writing requirements).

CLCS 110 Reading Cultures: Approaches to Cultural Studies

This course has two primary goals: to introduce students to the history and theoretical writings of various strands of cultural studies, and to acquaint them with some of the intersecting axes - race, class and gender - that energize the field. Close attention will be paid to issues such as the shaping of identity, forms of representation, the production, consumption and distribution of cultural goods, and the construction of knowledge and power in a host of cultural practices and cultural institutions.

CLCS 150 Reading Film

This course introduces students to the language of cinema through close studies of and foundational readings on film theory, narrative/documentary structure, camera technique, lighting, sound, casting, and location. Students will be expected to demonstrate their understanding of film language through scholarly analysis of both canonical and contemporary cinema texts and two practical applications of film. Students will move beyond the passive reception of an image-based world by working towards increased intellectual adaptablity in terms of engaged film reading skills that will call into question philosophical and culture-specific notions and norms. The learning outcomes will be developed through a number of concentrated modules lasting approximately three weeks each, including analysis, contemporary criticism, audience reception, and practical applications.

CLCS 200 Gender and Sexuality in a Global Context

This course presents an interdisciplinary introduction to key concepts in gender studies. Focusing on the way in which gender operates in different cultural domains, this class investigates the manner in which race, culture, ethnicity, and class intersect with gender. (This writing-intensive course counts towards the Academic Writing requirements).

CLCS 220 Inventing the Past: The Uses of Memory in a Changing World

The construction of memory is one of the fundamental processes by which the workings of culture can be studied. Every country, every culture and every community has a specific memory culture that finds expression in a congruence of texts: of literature and film, of law and politics, of memorial rituals, and historiography. The aim of this course is to enable students to recognize different forms of the construction, representation and archiving of memory; to analyze processes of individual and collective identity formation through memory; and to understand the power differentials operant in the negotiations and performance of a national memory.

CLCS 225 Music and Popular Culture from the 1950s to the 1990s

This course covers popular music genres, generally defined as music produced for commercial purposes and transmitted through mass media to a wide audience, and their relationship with popular culture. Drawing on sociology, media studies and cultural studies, it will examine the cultural significance of popular music genres such as rock’n’roll, punk, heavy metal, hip hop, rap, techno, industrial etc., with reference to issues such as space, ethnicity, class and gender. It will further explore how and to what end the creation, circulation and consumption of popular music tend to be shaped by record companies and corporate business styles. Finally, reflecting upon how popular music is, in many ways, a direct reflection of its times, it will show how it is mediated by historical, geographical, political, economical and technological factors.

CLCS 241 Forbidden Acts: Queer Studies and Performance

In this course, queer solo performance and theater are playfully considered ''forbidden acts'' because they commonly enact a special kind of transgression. These acts give voice to and, at once, subvert a wide range of political identities conventionally defined by race, ethnicity, HIV status, class, gender, and sexual practice. Often autobiographical at their point of departure, queer performance and theater seem intent on troubling the comfort of community even as they invest in it. This rich, albeit problematic, ambivalence stems from the fact that the term queer, itself, connotes primarily a locus of refusal, an unbinding and destabilizing term of defiance, of provocation via polysemy. As such, queer performance and theater seek to open up new vistas of multiple, shifting, polymorphous identities. What political implications might these queer texts dramatize? What may be the ramifications of instilling the notion of personal identity with collective utopian aspirations? How would the students enrolled in this class spin the term queer to encompass their own sense of individual difference and empower their own vision of creative defiance? In attempting to respond to these questions, students taking this course will be invited to share their own forbidden acts: to approach theoretical refection through performative exercises, to merge the analytical realm with the autobiographical monologue, to test the limits (if there are any) between theatrical play and ideological engagement.

CLCS 242 Representations of Poverty in Literature

This course looks at poverty as it is portrayed in contemporary literature, film, television, painting, music and street magazines. Students will explore how these representations compare to economic and social indices such as income, Living Standards Measurement surveys, welfare statistics, poverty indexes and poverty determinants. For these latter determinants the class will take Switzerland, a country in which the extremes of poverty and riches are quite subtle, as our case study. The overall goals of this course are 1) to compare different forms of representation and to recognize and be able to distinguish among the many faces and facets of poverty in a wealthy nation and 2) to critically explore the ideologies underlying mainstream representations of ''the poor'' or ''the marginalized'' and to ask how effective such representations are in triggering social change.

CLCS 245 Critical Approaches to the Graphic Novel: Justice in the Gutter

This interdisciplinary course will explore the theme of justice through the medium of the graphic novel. Although the battle between 'good' and 'evil' has been a mainstay of comic books for many generations, the emergence of the graphic novel as a recognized and serious artistic and literary medium has also problematized the theme of justice and its many variants, whether environmental, social, sexual, gendered, or racial. This course takes a serious look at how the graphic novel tells stories about justice. It explores the rhetorical, visual and semiotic strategies authors are using to tell those stories, considers critical approaches to the graphic novel as a medium, and studies the reception of graphic novels about justice in comparison with other media.

CLCS 250 Ecocritical Approaches to Film

This course approaches film from an ecocritical perspective to explore how the medium of film articulates relations between the environment and human rights. In recent decades, scholars have increasingly examined how film represents ecological issues and humans' involvement with those issues, particularly with regards to environmental disaster and climate change. The course aims to make students familiar with those debates by examining a variety of film genres -- blockbuster, documentary, animation, among others -- to offer a survey in reading film ecocritically, from a human rights’ perspective. Students will gain experience in analyzing films as texts and in applying ecocritical theory to those films and the ethical issues surrounding them, from production to narrative, and distribution to reception. Screenings, theoretical readings, class discussion, video-making and writing assignments will help students develop a critical awareness of how film tells the story of our complex relation with the environment against the backdrop of contemporary human rights regimes.

CLCS 300 Masculinities in Literature and Film

This course offers an overview of different masculinities as they have been represented in literature and film for the past couple decades. Students will first explore the recent developments in masculinity studies, particularly focusing on masculinity along intersectional lines. They will reflect upon the intricate ways of defining, theorizing and conceptualizing masculinity in an age that Zygmunt Bauman has defined as liquid. They will read novels such as Tomboy by French writer Nina Bouraoui, Salvation Army by Moroccan writer Abdellah Taïa and watch films such as Death Proof by American film director Quentin Tarentino, Facing Mirrors by Iranian film director Negar Azarbayjani, Boys Don't Cry by American film director Kimberly Peirce.

CLCS 310T The Culture of Cities: From Roman Garrisons to Industrial Chic

Ever since its formation in the nineteenth century the metropolis has functioned as a multivalent metaphor for the experiences of ''modern'' life. Portrayed at once as a space of disruption and of stability, of danger and of creativity, the city has as found a place in the modernist and postmodernist imagination that reflects how a people's surroundings influence thought pattern and social practices. At the same time of course the needs of ever-evolving groups of inhabitants form the shape cities take. Taking Zurich as the case study, students will ask how overlapping and interacting slices of urban culture, ranging from the material (buildings, squares, streets and bridges), to the symbolic (narratives, myths and legends), and the performative (music, theater and film) shape our urban experience.

CLCS 340 Fashion and Visual Culture

The focus of postmodernity on surface phenomena and diversity, its concern with the personal, the subjective and with identity have worked to make fashion a field of studies that has gained importance in the last 15 years. Aiming at getting past the age-old belief in the essential frivolity of fashion, this course examines how fashion draws upon recurrent instabilities of men and women (masculinity vs femininity, youth vs elderliness, domesticity vs worldliness, inclusion vs exclusion etc...) to thrive and express its creativity, how its ever constant shifting nature results in the notions of gender, ethnicity and class status to be ever more fluid, how it has been redefining the body and its image, in particular with the advent of the supermodel in the eighties, and last but not least, how it relates to and signifies within so many aspects of our daily life and environment, whether it be space (work vs domesticity, urban vs non-urban), photography (static vs dynamic), music (alternative vs pop) and sexuality.

CLCS 350 Culture and Human Rights

''Human Rights'' has become a key selling point for organizations, political parties and social movements. And yet what is actually meant by the term often remains vague, and it is difficult to take the critical stance necessary to judge its significance. In this class we interrogate the term with a series of questions: what counts as ''human'' in the discourses surrounding Human Rights? What sorts of rights do individuals in fact have simply by virtue of being human? Do all humans have the same rights? Who gets to decide this? How has the definition changed over the last 200 years? To what extent is the term gendered, determined by class and racialized? And finally: how do different national settings change how we think about and act on ideas of Human Rights? This course will examine these questions by tracing ideas surrounding Human Rights in treatises, literary texts, films, debates and case studies from the Enlightenment to the present. Against the backdrop of foundational texts such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Vindication of the Rights of Woman, declarations by the European Court of Human Rights, the African Court on Human and People's Rights, the Geneva convention and the United Nations Human Rights Commission students will consider literary and filmic works that grapple critically with the terms they lay out. Students will also consider how NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch translate the political rhetoric to apply their own interpretations of Human Rights to their field work.

CLCS 371 Law and Culture

This course aims to investigate law's place in culture and culture's place in law. This focus proceeds from the realization that law does not function in a vacuum but exerts a powerful influence on all manner of cultural practice and production, even as its own operation is influenced in turn by various forms of culture. Given this increasing porosity and interpermeability of Law and different forms of culture, the focus of this course is on the mutual influence between law and other discursive practices, such as literature, TV sit-coms and film. In studying a number of prominent legal cases such as Brown v the Board of Education, we will explore the following questions: What are the mechanisms by which popular representations and cultural practices find their way into legal processes and decisions? How does law in turn bleed into and influence cultural processes? Does law act as a buffer against societal assumptions about, and constructions of, gender, age, ability, sexuality and ethnicity, or does it re-enforce and re-inscribe existing social norms?

CLCS 372 Tales of Catastrophe

The cultural debris that results from political and natural catastrophes is made up of narratives that contain both implosion and creation, wreckage and renewal. In that sense disasters mark pivotal turning points in the way we conceptualize and understand human phenomena and cultural processes in a number of disciplinary perspectives from psychoanalysis to literature, from environmental science to religion and from ethics to aesthetics. Students will read the narrative fallout in fiction, science, and film that emanate from distinct disaster zones ranging from the petrified texture of Pompeii to the generative force field of ground zero.

COM 105 Introduction to Communication and Media Studies

This course introduces students to the fundamental concepts and theories of communication and media studies as they apply to the ever-increasing intercultural interactions of a contemporary world. In particular, students will learn the basics of intercultural/international communication processes, gaining a foundation for developing intercultural communication competence.

COM 201 Fundamentals of Media Studies and Criticism

Media pervades our social and private lives. We make it and in turn it makes us. This course offers an introduction to media studies, a field which seeks to understand and use media in complex and intentional ways. The course explores media as content, as an industry and as a social force. In this way, media is understood as both as an artifact (constituted by many parts) and as a set of complex processes (including production, distribution, regulation and consumption). Students will learn key vocabularies and concepts in and approaches to media studies that will help them to define, describe, and critique media artifacts and processes in a variety of written and spoken formats. In addition to equipping students with the skills to understand and critique media, this course encourages and provides students with the building blocks to produce media content. Students who successfully complete this course will be prepared to take advanced courses in media studies.

COM 202 Fundamentals of Interpersonal Communication

This course introduces students to theories, concepts, and research in the study of interpersonal communication. From a scholarly perspective, students will gain a fundamental knowledge of how interpersonal communication processes work. In addition, students will develop skill in analyzing the interpersonal communication that surrounds them in their everyday life. (COM 105 recommended)

COM 301 Globalization and Media

This course examines media in the context of globalization. Most broadly, students will explore what constitutes globalization, how globalization has been facilitated and articulated by media, how media have been shaped by the processes of globalization, and perhaps most significantly, the social implications of these complex and varied processes on politics, international relations, advocacy and cultural flows. In order to map this terrain, students will survey the major theories that constitute this dynamic area of study.

COM 302 Intercultural Communication: Theory, Research, and Practice

This course examines intercultural communication theories and research in order to gain a deeper understanding of critical issues we encounter in intercultural interactions. It seeks not only to develop a sophisticated level of intercultural communication competence but also to cultivate the skills of putting the knowledge into practice (e.g., conducting intercultural communication workshops, publishing articles that raise cultural awareness of a target audience, and so on).

COM 327 Producing Digital Media: Communication and Media in Practice

This course explores the impacts and capacities of new media technologies in producing social worlds and advocating social issues. Following an exploration of the key concepts in new media theory, students in this course will spend the bulk of the semester producing a digital short story about an issue of social interest. As a course in applied media and communication, students will have a hand in the entire process of producing, marketing, and showing the film.

FRE 374 Introduction to French Cinema

The course examines French films from Jean Vigo's Zero de conduite (1933) to Robert Bresson's Un condamne a mort s'est echappe (1956). It explores the art of cinematography while considering the aesthetics, historical, political, sociological, and psychoanalytical frames within which each movie was realized. It furthermore provides students with analytical tools to enable them to develop their own personal approach when viewing, discussing, and writing about a film.

FRE 376 French Cinema: The New Wave

The French New Wave was a major turning-point in the history of French Cinema. It gave birth to a new way of approaching cinematography as a whole. This course centers on New Wave film directors Chabrol, Truffaut, Resnais, Godard and Varda, and examine closely their cinematographic creed, theoretical preoccupations, similarities and differences. Movies will be partially watched outside of class.

GER 373 German Film as Medium of Culture

This course examines important issues in the cultural life of Germany through the medium of film, to which the German contribution has been foundational and continuously innovative. Texts are included to provide background, context or a look at parallel literary expression.

HIS 243 Worlds of Islam

This course is an introduction to the multifaceted civilization of Islam as both a religion and a historical phenomenon. After a survey of the background and context of the emergence of Muhammad as a spiritual leader in the Arabian peninsula, the course analyzes the rapid spread of Islam to Spain in the west and India to the east in less than a hundred years. It follows the divergent paths of the emerging different Islamic cultures in the Arabian and Mediterranean regions, in Persia, India, Turkey and Africa, and it follows also the Muslim diaspora in the Christian West. The guiding question is the relation between ''normalcy'' and variety as manifest in the tensions between the importance of the holy text of the Qur'an and the impact of interpretation and tradition. The course concludes with a consideration of contemporary Islam, focusing attention on both fundamentalist approaches and open-minded ones that seek a role for Muslims in peaceful relations with the West today.

HIS 357 Weimar Germany: Crisis or Crucible of Modernity?

The period in Germany history between 1918 and 1933, commonly referred to as ''Weimar Germany'', can be seen in many contradictory ways: as an era sandwiched between two authoritarian regimes as well as as the country’s first strong republic; this democracy kept struggling constantly with severe and sometimes violent attacks from the political extremes (and sometimes even its neighbors), and yet displayed remarkable endurance. As such, the Weimar Republic is a powerful example for the possibilities and limits of modern democracy, and for the interplay between politics and culture in the modern world. Starting with a discussion of different concepts of modernities, this interdisciplinary seminar will provide a detailed examination of the political, cultural, social and economical developments of the 1920s and early 1930s, and analyze their representation in the arts, in the contemporary media, and in architecture.

ITA 373 Italian Film and Society

Aspects of political, social and cultural history of twentieth century Italy are studied through documentaries and some of the major accomplishments of Italian cinema. Some novels adapted into film are also examined. Most of the films are in Italian (some with English subtitles).

ITA 374 Italian Cinema

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the major accomplishments of Italian cinema from ''neorealism'' through the ''commedia all'italiana'' to the present. Emphasis is placed on film as an artistic, aesthetic and theoretical medium for an exploration and interpretation of issues related to contemporary life. Some of Italy's major film directors will be considered, such as Rossellini, De Sica, Visconti, Antonioni, the Taviani brothers, Scola. Particular attention is dedicated to the films of Fellini.

ITA 375 Italian Film Adaptation: From the Page to the Screen

The course introduces the student to the development of Italian cinema through close study of the relationship between Italian literature and film adaptation. The selected books and films will offer a unique opportunity to analyze and discuss crucial issues related to the historical, political, and cultural evolution of Italy from its Unification to the present. Among the adaptations we will be looking at will be: Antonio Fogazzaro's Malombra as interpreted by Carmine Gallone (1917) and Mario Soldati (1942), Luchino Visconti's 1963 rendering of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard, Vittorio De Sica's 1970 adaptation of Giorgio Bassani's The Garden of the Finzi-Contini, Alberto Moravia's The Conformist, as adapted by Bernardo Bertolucci (1970), Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron, adapted by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1971).

MUS 206 Music History From Mozart to Mahler; Classicism, Romanticism, Modernism

This introductory course presents three significant historical periods, based upon the works of their most important composers – from Haydn and Mozart to Mahler and Stravinsky. It explains the various genres from chamber music and symphonic music to opera. Combining guided listening, live performances and technology, the course explores the multitude of styles of the different epochs. It also presents at each stage the cultural and political contexts in which music evolved.

MUS 213 Classical Music in Film

The purpose of the course is to explore and understand the use of classical music in art movies. From Bach to Mahler and from D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation to Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey, classical music has been used as leitmotiv and supporting narrative in film. Based on the chronology of music history and the use of classical music in period movies, the course analyzes the way in which specific pieces of music have contributed to some of the greatest films of the past. Musical and film extracts will be viewed and discussed.

MUS 216 A History of Opera: From Orpheus to West Side Story

The evolution of the music drama from the Renaissance to the twentieth century is the object of this course.Its objective is to familiarize students with opera as a unique art form. It contributes to enlarge the cultural horizon through a historic perspective from its origins to present day, overcoming the largely diffused pre-concept that opera is only for connoisseurs. Based on extensive listenings and discussions, the course emphasizes the musical and theatrical aspects of opera history, as well as its literary, architectural and political context. Students will learn the essential elements needed to attend a performance, the variety of singing voices and the complexity of preparation and staging of an opera. It encourages students to comparative listening of different versions.

MUS 217 Masterpieces of Western Classical Music

Based on classical music milestones, from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, the course provides the students with the basic elements needed in order to learn active listening and to develop critical and comparative skills. It explains the various genres from symphonic music to opera, offering the students the tools to better understand the various idioms in Western music, and the historical and cultural context of their creation. The use of the ''great works'' will also create a cultural portfolio for students and introduce them to the debates related to the character and purposes of music, as well as to its chronological evolution.

MUS 218 Music and Politics: From the French Revolution to Communism

This course explores the direct relationship between significant historical events and their effects on musical creation. The analysis of specific works will offer the opportunity to understand the direct impact politics has on art. Important events throughout the 19th and the 20th century will be presented through the impact they had in music history. A special section is dedicated to censorship and discrimination focusing on music written and performed under totalitarian rule. From the Entartete Musik (degenerate music), discriminated against by the Nazis, to John Adams’ opera Nixon in China, which marked the end of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the course investigates the way in which music was able to follow its own creative path.

Note: Prerequisites may be required for courses outside of the major.

Studio Art Course (3 credits)

Complete one Studio Art (STA) or Visual Culture (VCA) course at any level.

Capstone Requirement (3 credits)

One of the following:

AHT 495 Senior Seminar in Art History and Visual Culture

This seminar is intended as a capstone experience where senior students synthesize their theoretical, methodological, and practical knowledge and apply it to different types of writing genres used in art history and adjacent fields, such as art criticism and journalism, museums and heritage, galleries and market orientated businesses, education and studio art. Students will produce texts in formats used in various professional settings, including conference abstracts and papers, academic articles, art criticism articles, newspaper feature articles, artworks’ cataloging and notices, press releases, catalog entries and essays, and artists’ statements and written presentation skills. In addition, students engage in a semester long research project, which will be presented at the end of the semester to an audience of students and professors. (Prerequisite: Senior status or instructor permission)

AHT 497 Art History Senior Project

Senior or capstone project in Art History to be coordinated with the faculty advisor and the Division Chair.

AHT 498 Art History Internship

Internship experience working for a business or organization related to a student's Art History major to be coordinated with the student's faculty advisor, and the Division Chair.

AHT 499 Art History Thesis

Thesis proposals to be coordinated with the Division Chair and faculty advisor.


Professor, Art History and Visual Communication

Ph.D. (with distinction) Columbia University
M.Phil. Columbia University
M.A. Columbia University
B.A. University of Toronto
Interior Design Diploma, International Academy of Design
Foundations in Design Thinking Certificate, IDEO-U
Advanced Design Thinking Certificate, IDEO-U

Office: Lowerre Academic Center, Office 14
Phone: +41 91 986 36 64
Email: jfassl@fus.edu

Johanna Fassl

Associate Professor, Art History and Visual Communication

Ph.D. Université Paris X
M.A. Université Paris X
B.A. Université Paris X

Office: Lowerre Academic Center, Office 15
Phone: +41 91 986 36 51
Email: ggee@fus.edu

Gabriel Gee

Chair of the Academic Division of Arts and Cultures

Ph.D. Princeton University
M.A. Princeton University
B.A. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Office: Lowerre Academic Center, Office 6
Phone: +41 91 986 36 53
Email: cwiedmer@fus.edu

Caroline Wiedmer

Instructor, Art History and Studio Art

Ph.D. The University of Chicago, USA
M.A. The University of Chicago, USA
B.F.A. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA
Dottore, Istituto Universitario di Lingue Moderne, Feltre (BL), Italy
Diploma Conservatorio di Novara, Italy

Office: Kaletsch Campus, Graduate Studies
Phone: +41 91 985 22 69
Email: czdanski@fus.edu

Clarice Zdanski