ARTH772 - TOPICS IN VISUAL CULTURE: Early Mass Visual Culture in the United States
Section 301 - SEM
This seminar will explore early stages in the formation of a mass visual culture in the United States. It will focus on the period between about 1830 and 1870, when various forms of mass production made pictures, formerly rare and remarkable, commonplace elements in daily life and social relations. This change involved numerous contributing factors: artists motivated to experiment with ways of attracting (and shaping) a broad audience; a growing population with an appetite for pictures and some disposable income; new image technologies permitting high-volume reproduction, such as woodengraving, lithography, chromolithography, steel engraving, and, starting in the 1850s, photography; industrialized printing facilities; efficient shipping and distribution networks; apparatuses for publicity and promotion; and new public institutions designed to support these developments, such as Art Unions, Mechanics’ Institutes, popular museums, etc. Much of this history remains to be reconstructed, so opportunities for original research will be ample. Weekly assignments will involve research in primary sources, and some class meetings will be held in Philadelphia museums and libraries with strong collections of mass cultural materials. The work of the seminar will involve identifying influential figures, watershed works, and formative events in the early history of American mass visual culture; developing ways of discussing and discriminating among early mass cultural materials; and testing some of the influential theories of mass culture developed by Walter Benjamin, Theodore Adorno, Clement Greenberg, and others.
MEYERSON HALL B6