This course, East Asian Art History, is a thematic introduction to the major artistic and cultural trends of East Asia, with a focus on the history of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese art. We will study major developments and issues in the art of each culture, discussing mutual influences and cross-cultural artistic flows, as well as the many cultural and artistic differences between cultures in the region. Major monuments of East Asian art will serve as our primary evidence.
We will focus on how to look at works of art and architecture in an art historically-informed way, how to articulate what our visual responses might mean, and how to begin answering some of the questions our observations of the objects may raise. Our goal is to enable you to better appreciate, analyze, evaluate, and interpret works of art, both those that seem familiar at first glance and those that do not. In addition to becoming familiar with major works of art in weekly slide lectures, you will be expected to develop, through weekly readings and discussion, an understanding of the various approaches major scholars in the field of art history and East Asian studies have developed to examine them. You will be expected to evaluate and try out some of these methods in your own research, written work and class discussion.
The course will be divided into three discrete sections that focus respectively on China, Korean, and Japan. Although these three regions engaged in extensive cultural interchanges during the period of time covered by this course, each also developed its own artistic styles and forms. Discussions of these cross-cultural interactions will be a constant subtheme, especially as our shared understanding grows over the course. Whether the aims of their creators were philosophical, spiritual, political, social, economic, or purely aesthetic, we will seek to better understand them, as well as the context in which they were acquired and cherished, the uses to which these monuments may have been put, and the grounds for both their original and subsequent appreciation. Thus, the goals of this course include developing visual and historical tools you can use outside the confines of this class to explore art and visual culture.