American Arts Minor

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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 American Arts Minor

Choose five courses from the following:*
Visual Culture
   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).
   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 (Fall).
   African-American Art
This course provides an overview of African-American art, presented in three periods: from slavery through Reconstruction, from the Harlem Renaissance to the end of the 1930's, and modern and postmodern movements following World War II. There will be comparisons with representations of African Americans in film, music, and literature as we move through these periods. We will be sensitive to the development of artists' aesthetic language and the evolution of social and political points of view expressed in artists' work. We will examine the role of institutions in promoting African American art. Lecture (Fall).
   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 (Fall).
   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 (Spring).
   Art in the Age of the New Deal
In this course we examine art in the age of the New Deal; that is, the art of the 1920's and the 1930's, with a particular emphasis on the artwork produced through the programs of the Roosevelt Administration's New Deal. These programs sponsored the visual arts, as well as film, theater, literature, music, and dance. We study the art produced through this sponsorship in the context of the evolution of twentieth century modernism, mostly European, that had begun to influence American art. We will look at the stylistic and ideological affinities of the figurative style, known as the American scene, with the Mexican muralists of the 1920's and examine other government-sponsored social realist art of the 1930's, notably German and Russian. Lecture (Spring).
   Imag(in)ing Rochester
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 campus of RIT and the city of Rochester and their 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 our campus' and 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, advertisements and websites, and possibly attending theatrical and music performances or sporting events. Lecture (Fall).
   Memory, Memorials, Monuments
In this course we examine the public remembering and memorialization of historic events that leads to memorials and monuments in the fields of architecture, sculpture, and film. We begin by examining the nature of memory, and specifically of collective memory, and its relationship to historical events and its subsequent transformation in the process of memorialization. We then look at examples of the sculptural monument, a traditional form of memorial, and the evolution of its vocabulary in the second half of the 20th century. We also examine the memorial work undertaken by those museums whose primary function is to engage in remembering historical events, a recent phenomenon in the field of museum building. We screen films and examine how documentaries and dramatizations engage the spectator by remembering history differently, The course culminates by examining the debates surrounding the remembering of 9/11 and of more recent traumatic events. Lecture (Fall).
   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).
Performing Arts
   Music in the U.S.
This course is a survey of music in the United States from the time of European colonization to the present. Particular emphasis is placed upon the question of what makes music distinctively American. Lecture (Spring).
   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 (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 (Fall).
   Survey of African-American Music
This course is a survey of African American music through an examination of the major forms of music-making and dance developed among African Americans in the United States from the early 17th century to the present. A brief introduction to West African cultural characteristics, especially music and dance, as well as discussions of the African diaspora in the New World, will serve as background for this survey. Lecture (Spring).
   Sounds of Protest
This course is designed to explore the variety of ways music has served as commentary on and/or symbolic representation of social circumstances and events in America and throughout the world, historically and in the present. Students will research, listen to, analyze, and discuss music representing a variety of genres, styles, and cultures, ranging from various forms of European and American folk, popular, and concert music to selected non-western music. Topics will include race, gender, sexuality, economics, class, war, and politics, among others. Lecture (Spring).
   American Popular Song
This course will survey the development of the American popular song and its composers and performers, taking into account the political, social, and historical perspectives reflected in this commercial part of our vernacular music tradition. Lecture (Fall).
   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 (Spring).
   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).