American Arts Minor

Overview for American Arts Minor

This minor provides students with an opportunity to study the American arts in a variety of disciplines, including painting, architecture, film, photography, music, theatre, and the mass media. Courses present American art within the context of the broader current of American life, including its history, philosophy, social, and cultural traditions.

Notes about this minor:

  • Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
  • Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).

The plan code for American Arts Minor is AMARTS-MN.

Curriculum for 2023-2024 for American Arts Minor

Current Students: See Curriculum Requirements

Choose five courses from the following:*
Visual Culture
American Painting�
A survey of the style and meaning in American paintings from the colonial limners, through the 19th and 20th centuries, to contemporary artists. It centers on what distinguishes painting of the colonies and of the United States from the European counterpart. Lecture 3 (Fall).
Queer Looks
In this course we examine representations of queer sexuality in art, film and popular culture beginning in the repressive 1950s, followed by the Stonewall Riots of 1969. We situate the birth of gay liberation in the U.S. in the context of the civil rights struggles, feminism and the anti-war movement. We turn to the work of Andy Warhol that looms over the post-war period, challenged subsequently by the onset of AIDS and the work of General Idea and Act-Up, on the one hand, and the more graphically provocative work of Robert Mapplethorpe, on the other. We examine the diversification of the queer community as transgendered identity asserts itself and the opening of popular culture to issues of diverse sexual identities. We explore expressions of queer sensibility outside of North America and Europe. We turn finally to the issue of gay marriage, both in the U.S. and abroad. Lecture 3 (Spring).
 Vision, Media, and Technology in Rochester
This course seeks to enrich students’ understanding of the visual by studying its historical, technical, and social construction. Recognizing the biases and issues of access embedded in visual media, we will consider how these media can both limit and liberate one’s experience of the visual world depending on ability, identity, and socioeconomic status. In addition to studying a range of image-making technologies—such as photography, film, photocopying, and virtual reality—we will also analyze the resulting images as expressions of aesthetic, cultural, and social values. We will set our sights on legacy Rochester companies, such as Eastman Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, and Xerox, to explore how the Flower City has contributed to the invention of modern and contemporary ways of seeing. Visits to institutions on and/or beyond campus will offer further insight into how RIT and Rochester remain at the forefront of experiments in visual art and visual science. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Visual Art, Automation, and Artificial Intelligence
The advent of text-to-image generative AI models has upended longstanding assumptions about the human labor and social impact of visual art. Questions about veracity, originality, and intellectual property, however, are not new to visual culture. This course will connect visual practices rooted in ideas of automation and computation to current debates about artificial intelligence and its practical/ethical implications for human creativity. We will focus on contemporary art and design practices from the 1950s to the present, such as conceptual art, new media art (e.g., video, digital, and computer art), generative art, and algorithmic art, as well as the emergence of computer-aided software, rapid prototyping, and other automated approaches to design. Studying how artists and designers have tackled such issues as authorship, collaboration, open sourcing, and appropriation will underpin our efforts to envision informed, ethically sound approaches to AI-generated image making. In addition to class discussions and debates, experimental activities employing text-to-image models will be a central component of the course. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
American Film of the Studio Era
This course examines the history and aesthetics of the motion picture in the United States between the 1890s and the early 1960s; emphasis will be placed on the analysis of both the work of major American filmmakers and the development of major American film genres during the Classical Hollywood Studio period. Among the filmmakers to be studied are Griffith, Chaplin, Hawks, Ford, Capra, Welles, Curtiz, Wilder, Donen, Sirk, Ray, Hitchcock, and Kubrick. Genres to be covered include the melodrama, silent comedy, screwball comedy, western, thriller, film noir, newspaper film, and the gangster film. The films will be studied within the context of contemporary cultural and political events, and will be discussed from several viewpoints, including aesthetic, technical, social, and economic. The ways in which gender and class are constructed through the movies will also be a major focus of study. Lecture 3 (Annual).
American Film Since the Sixties
This course examines the history and aesthetics of the motion picture in the United States since the late 1960s, when the classical studio era ended. Emphasis will be placed on the analysis of both the work of major American filmmakers and the evolution of major American film genres between 1967 and 2001. Among the filmmakers to be studied are Kazan, Cassavetes, Penn, Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, Seidelman, Lee, Burton, Altman, Tarantino, Coen, and Lynch. The course will consider the evolution of such traditional Hollywood genres as the gangster film, the romantic comedy, and the Hollywood movie, study the development of new, blended genres, investigate the rise of the blockbuster, explore the rise of the Independents, and follow the aesthetic changes that occurred since the 1967. The films will be studied within the context of contemporary cultural and political events, and will be discussed from several viewpoints, including aesthetic, technical, social, and economic. The ways in which gender, race, and class are constructed through the movies will also be a major focus of study. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Traumatic Images
This course investigates visual culture and its imagistic response to life's crises. Problems of identity and identification will be explored and confronted through works of photography, painting, mixed media, new media and film of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Beginning with the late 19th Century vogue for images of hysterical women, crippled black-sheep family members and dead loved ones (as corpses and as ghosts), we then move on to consider the last century's fascination with pain and suffering, disease and violence, struggle and survival and then the 21st century's emphasis on terrorism. Specifically, we will focus on the gendering of images and imaging as disturbing pictures work to defy the formal and theoretical distinction between private and public, personal, and collective experience and manage the often conflicting responsibilities to self, family, religion, race, nation, and society. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Art of Dying
This course explores the experience of dying a profoundly human and universal experience as it is represented by artists who are themselves facing immanent death. The unique and deeply personal process of each dying artist is crucially informed by social, cultural and historical as well as artistic contexts. The course will focus primarily on visual artists and writers living with and dying of disease - such as AIDS, cancer and cystic fibrosis as well as mortality and age. Topics such as aesthetics, artistic media, representation, grief, bereavement, illness, care-giving, aging, and the dying process will be considered within the context of issues of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and community values. Some of the artists covered will be Jo Spence, Hannah Wilke, Elias Canetti, Bob Flanagan, Herve Guibert, Tom Joslin, Laurie Lynd, Audre Lorde, Charlotte Salomon, Keith Haring, Frida Kahlo, Bas Jan Ader, Ted Rosenthal, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Keith Haring, Eric Steel, Derek Jarman, Eric Michaels, and David Wojnarowicz. We will also explore some of the critical theory of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Elaine Scarry, Susan Sontag, and Ross Chambers. Lecture 3 (Spring).
 Imag(in)ing the City
This course examines the ways in which culture, ethnicity, languages, traditions, governance, policies and histories interact in the production of the visual experience. We will approach the city and its various urban spatial forms as image experiences, subject to interpretative strategies and the influence of other discourses. We will wander the well-traveled and the unbeaten paths, participating in and interrogating a wide range of the city’s treasures and embarrassments, secrets and norms. In addition to these field trips, we will be reading from literature and cultural studies, as well as viewing films, assessing advertisements and websites, and attending select events such as theatrical or music performances, sporting events and festivals. Seminar 3 (Annual).
Performing Arts
American Popular & Rock Music
This course examines the history and elements of popular and rock music in the United States from the end of the 19th century to current times. Emphasis will be placed on the music that was written and performed after WWII. Students will be introduced to various styles of this genre as well as an introduction to those musical elements necessary to define a rudimentary analysis of the music. Among the composers and performers to be studied are early Minstrel performers, Louis Armstrong, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, Blues musicians, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, R and B musicians, country and western, Elvis Presley, Motown, Ray Charles, folk, Jimi Hendrix, disco, punk, metal, grunge, and pop. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
American Musical Theater
This course is a survey of the development of the American Musical Theater, highlighting representative works, composers, librettists and performers of both the cultivated and vernacular traditions. It is further designed as an appreciation course, fostering the development of a greater appreciation for all types of stage music and the ability to better evaluate the quality of a work, the performance, and the performers. Lecture 3 (Spring).
 Survey of Jazz
This course will survey the development of American jazz music, highlighting representative composers and performers and significant works. Particular attention will be drawn to the multi-racial influences on the creation of jazz music and its relationship to American culture as a whole. Lecture 3 (Fall).
American Literature
This course presents a study of American literature by engaging in critically informed analysis of texts that emerged from within the geography, history, and cultures that constitute the modern United States. This includes work by colonial writers, Native American writers, African American writers, and writers from the many other ethnic and racial groups who have immigrated to and comprised the fabric of American culture. One of the goals of the class is to analyze and discuss the works in their respective socio-historical contexts, with a special focus on the ways in which individual works belong to a distinctly American literary tradition. Specific literary works studied will vary depending on the instructor. The course can be repeated up to 2 times, for 6 semester credit hours, as long as the topics are different. Lecture 3 (Annual).
Themes in American Literature
The course introduces students to American literature by tracing a particular theme through a historical survey of canonical, non-canonical, and contemporary novels, stories, poetry, and drama, as well as non-fiction forms (speeches, autobiographies, essays, etc.). Students will gain a broad understanding of American literary trends while also gaining a deep understanding of the given themes. These themes will be broadly conceived, but will also lend themselves to social, cultural, and political questions. These themes may include but are not limited to horror, gardens and machines, natives and strangers, borders, etc. While these themes deal with abstract or conceptual ideas, they lead to questions about gender, race, ethnicity, empire, and other historical problems in debates over American exceptionalism, empire, and ideology. (Prerequisites: ENGL-210 or completion of First Year Writing (FYW) requirement or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
African-American Literature
Students will explore the landscape of African-American literature, and learn of its development throughout the 19th and/or 20th Centuries. From Phyllis Wheatley, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ida B. Wells to Toni Morrison, from the Harlem Renaissance, and the Black Arts Movements of the 1960s to Hip-Hop this course will explore African-American writers who inspired a civil rights and cultural revolution. Through writing, reading and research, they will grow to understand how, despite legal limits on freedom and social participation imposed because of their color in American society, blacks created styles of verbal and written expressions unique within the American experience and contributed to the shape, growth and development of the nation's literary character. (Prerequisites: ENGL-150 or completion of First Year Writing (FYW) requirement or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Fall).

* Students must take at least one course in each of the three disciplines (Visual Culture, Performing Arts, and Literature).

† This course is offered on RIT's international campuses.