Course Title:   01:082:220  Critical Issues in Art History

  Subtitle: Varies

Academic Credits:  3 credits

Mode of Instruction:  Lecture

Course Prerequisites and Corequisites: None

Core Curriculum:  AHo

Course Description:

An introduction to critical issues in the history of art and an exploration of the way that art theory resonates with problems in contemporary society. What makes good art and who decides? What is the relation between art and beauty? How might art history strive to be more ethical and inclusive practice? These questions and others will be addressed in this course, which covers critical issues important to the theory and discourse of art history. Structured in weekly thematic units, it introduces students to theoretical thinking so as to better understand the ways in which art history intersects with the humanities at large and to appreciate how art resonates in contemporary society. The readings, which run the gamut from classical aesthetics to contemporary criticism, offer an overview of Western philosophical traditions that have shaped the discourse on art while also considering ways to move beyond Eurocentrism in art history.  The emphasis is on critical thinking and analysis of theoretical texts rather than on histories of specific art movements. As such, it will not resemble traditional art history lecture courses. Reading for each class is required for successful completion of the course. The course is structured into weekly thematic units addressing issues related to the interpretation, exhibition, and reception of art. Each class session will consist of a lecture, a student presentation, and a group discussion. Expect 50 to 75 pages of reading per week to be completed in advance of class. Close reading is emphasized, and students will be expected to write a series of reaction papers. A field trip to a museum exhibition may be planned.

Learning Goals:

  • Students will be introduced to critical issues that shape the theory and practice of art history, both within academia and in the institutions that make up the contemporary art world.
  • Students will begin to relate abstract philosophical inquiries and critical methodologies from a variety of disciplines to the study of visual images and the institutions that frame them.
  • Students will hone their skills in critical thinking, close reading, and analytic writing, based on the readings on the syllabus and the points discussed in class.

Required and Recommended Course Materials:

You will not be required to purchase a book for this class, but costs may be incurred if there is an outstanding opportunity off-campus to view an exhibition. If we plan a class field trip, you may be responsible for round-trip train fare to New York, Newark, or Philadelphia. Museum admission would be paid for by the university.   Readings will be posted on Canvas.


Students are expected to maintain active class participation, read assigned texts in advance of class, attend every class session and field trip, orally present readings and other assignments, and turn in writing assignments by their deadline. Doing the readings is crucial to success in this course, not only for individual student but for the group dynamic. 


Students are expected to attend all classes, and excessive absences will have a negative effect on your grade because your participation grade will be impacted. It is also highly unlikely you will be able to succeed on assignments without regular attendance. If you have to miss class, please use the University absence reporting website to indicate the date and reason for your absence.  An email is automatically sent to me.



Fall, 2023  Anna Khimasia

Disclaimer:  These course descriptions/synopses pages have been provided as samples and the information should not be considered accurate or current.  For actual course information, refer to the course site hosted by a Rutgers Learning Management System (Sakai, Canvas, etc.) as of first day of class.