HUMS 185, Writing about Contemporary Figurative Art

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

Course Description:

“Because you couldn’t see doesn’t mean we weren’t there.”

- Titus Kaphar

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

- Albert Einstein

How and why do we look at art?  What are some of the varieties of ways can we talk about the art we see? Why should we be evaluating those writers whose job it is to evaluate art, and identifying what parts of the story they may be overlooking or misapprehending?

This course is for students from all disciplinary backgrounds who love investigating images of the human face and body. We will participate in the discourse of art writing as practiced by journalists, public intellectuals, arts administrators, and artists themselves.  In addition to writing reviews, members of this seminar will produce one very short meditation on an art object, one longer (but not all that long) critical essay about a single artist’s body of work, a blueprint for a mini-exhibition and a pitch to a museum suggesting a piece of work the institution should buy.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course you will be able:

  • to recognize the conventions of writing both in the disciplines of art history and journalism—BUT also to write with a sparkling, audacious subjectivity in a voice that’s yours alone
  • to evaluate provocative claims about contemporary figurative art, and to emulate the authors whose strategies you admire
  • to present arguments that are thrilling, thorny, moving and fun
  • to become fearless about taking a stand, and skilled at bulletproofing your opinion with evidence

Led By:

Margaret Spillane's picture

Margaret Spillane teaches nonfiction writing, including courses that focus on writing about visual art and about the performing arts. Margaret has contributed articles about theater, visual art, politics, indigenous culture and religion to a variety of publications, including The Nation and Before teaching in the Yale English Department, Margaret taught visual art and the French language at other universities.