Course Descriptions

Seminar on special topics in painting and/or sculpture.

Theories of the Avant-Garde Fall 2020


In this course we will study foundational theories of avant-garde practice that posit an “historical avant-garde” and its late or post-modernist critique in Europe and the U.S.A. We will include in this survey theories that hold to, or reject, the viability of a “neo-avant-garde.” Theoretical, interpretive texts will be read together with manifestos and other writings that express the commitments of particular artists and movements. As a class, we will consider together the extent to which these theoretical models depend on particular methodologies and historical assumptions regarding the centrality of the practices and contexts that underwrite them.

What new questions emerge as our historical/ geo-cultural focus shifts from the late capitalist, neo-liberal contexts of art criticism and production to other, previously marginalized communities and those subject to varieties of authoritarian rule?

How has the emergence of new nation states, new audiences, and the recognition of suppressed practices altered our contemporary view of these histories, whether valorized or presumed to be lost?

It is hoped that students will develop their own critiques and analyses of the paradigms presented. To this end, readings and discussions will be organized thematically:

  • formalisms (histories and legacies); differences within Marxist and social-historical critiques of modernity;
  • modernism and mass culture in capitalist and socialist contexts;
  • commodification of art and institutional critique;
  • the consequences of pluralism and diversity (or its suppression) within particular political-cultural regimes.

The course is designed to be experienced remotely, using synchronous meetings scheduled during seminar time, via Zoom. Readings will be uploaded to Canvas, together with my powerpoints. As students begin to contribute by orally presenting their readings of the literature, they too will upload supporting visual material.

Otherwise, the course will be run as a regular graduate seminar, with original research (in any region of specialization or interest) presented by students at the end of the seminar via Zoom. If we are cleared (vaccinated), by this date, we may move to in person sessions in New Brunswick for the final presentations.


Requirements:

Students will present and participate in analyses of weekly readings in class, create a presentation and write a related paper that either questions issues raised in the historical literature (adding your own perspective, drawing on additional texts) or draws connections between a particular artist’s practice and issues raised in the course.

For those not familiar with the primary texts, often starting points for later writers, please read over the summer the following (read the first chapters at a minimum):
First: Poggioli, Renato. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.
Second: Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984) English translation from the German by Michael Shaw.

 

For those not familiar with the primary texts, often starting points for later writers, please read over the summer the following (read the first chapters at a minimum):
First: Poggioli, Renato. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.
Second: Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984) English translation from the German by Michael Shaw.

 

For those not familiar with the primary texts, often starting points for later writers, please read over the summer the following (read the first chapters at a minimum):
First: Poggioli, Renato. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.
Second: Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984) English translation from the German by Michael Shaw.