History of Art 8521: Medium/ Materiality: Concepts and Case Studies


This seminar will address two interrelated issues, medium and materiality. Although art historians have always been interested in the former, and continue to explore the properties and meanings of the same, a new interest in the materiality of works of art, understood as the agency of particular materials (including the presumed role the medium plays in dialogue with its human manipulator), has more recently emerged within the discipline. This class will be an occasion to consider both approaches and the inevitable grey areas that range between them, not to mention materiality’s detractors. Grounding itself in conceptual work first, it will thereafter offer a sense of the field’s terrain through the reading of case studies, focusing on what might be seen as certain materiality flash points (including medieval, early modern, 19th century, and contemporary art), and a number of primary material substances (especially painting, sculpture, and photography). Ultimately, this seminar will seek to understand how we can conceive of medium and materiality as productive ways of studying artworks of all kinds from all eras. 

Professor Christian Kleinbub
Class #34110
Hybrid: Weds. 2:15-5:00