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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: The Modern Self and Art (SCIL10094)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryAcross the modern period, we've come increasingly to see ourselves as beings with inner lives and depths, as subjects with interiorities needing valorisation. Artworks have often indexed these, as well as those deeper moral and emotional frameworks that speak to the urgencies of our everyday lives and to which we give meaning and significance as we strive to make our lives cohere. This course draws on art historical formal methods of analysis and historical sociological understandings of modern selfhood to trace an art-historical sociology of modern inwardness.
Course description This course in art-historical sociology explores the making of the modern Western self and its constitution in ordinary life. It draws on art history, sociology of art and comparative historical sociology, as well as material culture, emotions, social theory, and everyday life. We conceive artworks - painting and sculpture from the 16th century to the present - as social documents to combine art history's methods of analysis with historical sociology's theorisations of modern inwardness and selfhood. Across the modern period we came increasingly to see ourselves as beings with inner lives and depths, as subjects with interiorities needing valorisation, so we use artworks focused on ordinary life and its moral and emotional frameworks to glimpse these turns towards interiority. The aim is to understand the affective work that pictorial representation does for understanding Western modern selfhood against its 'alters', the moral values it signals, the emotional landscapes it narrates, and the sociological knowledge it contains.

I Conceptual departures * Painting and theorising the modern self * Meaning, method, materiality - an art-historical sociology * II Painting the self in everyday life * Renaissance 'self' and 'other': correspondence doctrines and vanishing points * 'God loveth adverbs': affirming the ordinary in the Dutch 17th century * The 18th century and the moral self: domesticity, consumption, emotions * Nature and the moral landscapes inside us: Sublime and Realist, Romantic and productive * III The decentered self * Subjectivity and wilderness aesthetics - terrae nullius and Indigenous modernisms, the Anthropocene and me * Impressionism's everyday intimacies: women, workers, urban spaces * (Post)Impressionism's embodiments: colour palettes, colonialism, contexts * IV Modern inwardness * Loneliness and the solitary self: empty rooms and starry nights * Meaninglessness and the anxious self: Expressionism's fractured canvases * Conceptualism, abstraction and refugeedom's subjectivities

The course will be taught across 10 weeks, with 20 hours of combined lecture and seminar discussion and a 2-hour field trip to the National gallery in Edinburgh. There will be two essay assessments.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. analyze the sociological and historical significance artworks in terms of their formal and material properties.
  2. critically interrogate artworks for sociological understandings of subjects and subjectivities.
  3. develop their sociological understanding of the modern self as situated historically and in relation to its 'others' or political alterities.
  4. engage critically with broader contextual, social and historical dimensions of visual material.
Reading List
- Charles Taylor. 1989. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity Harvard University Press.
- Kathleen Stewart. 2007. Ordinary Affects Duke University Press.
- Susan Broomhall and Andrew Lynch. 2020. The Routledge History of Emotions in Europe, 1100-1700 Routledge.
- Griselda Pollock. 2007. "Thinking sociologically: thinking aesthetically. Between convergence and difference with some historical reflections on sociology and art history" History of the Human Sciences 20 (2): 141-175.
- 2020. "Art and Situated Knowledge". Special Issue of The Art Bulletin 102 (2).
- Georg Simmel. 2005 [1916] Rembrandt: An Essay in the Philosophy of Art A. Scott and H. Staubmann eds. Routledge.
- Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby. 2015. "Still thinking about Olympia's maid" The Art Bulletin 97 (4): 430-451.
- Mike Hepworth. 2007. "Ageing and the emotions: framing old age in Victorian painting," in Liz Bondi and Joyce Davidson (eds) Emotional Geographies Routledge.
- Roger Benjamin. 2003. Orientalist Aesthetics. Art, Colonialism, and French North Africa, 1880-1930 UC Berkeley Press.¿
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course students should have strengthened their skills in:

- Critically analyzing visual materials for their sociological significance
- Writing analytically about the sociological, formal and affective dimensions of artworks through formative assessments
- Engaging critically with art-historical and sociological concepts in class discussion/seminar
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Liliana Riga
Tel: (0131 6)51 1853
Course secretaryMr Ewen Miller
Tel: (0131 6)50 3925
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