Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Art History


Art and Art History 298. Experimental Courses

Spring 2015

Contemporary Filmmaking in the Middle East

This course examines narrative and documentary feature films by groundbreaking contemporary filmmakers in the Middle East. Giving particular attention to work by women filmmakers, our objectives will be: (1) to understand the social and political context that shapes filmmaking practices in the region and (2) to investigate how film has been used to craft cinematic representations of everyday life in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Palestine/Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Over the course of the semester, we will engage critically with a selection of films in Arabic (with English subtitles) by filmmakers that convey humanistic storytelling through a strong point of view. We will consider how narrative, cinematography, editing, and sound come together in a range of approaches to critique, contradict, and comment on historical events and political realities. An exploration of themes of humor, romantic love, family history, gendered roles, and political violence will be weaved throughout the course. Required weekly film viewing.


Fall 2014

Impossible Monsters: Goya as Painter and Printmaker

Impossible Monsters: Goya as Painter and Printmaker is an in-depth study of the life and work of this great Spanish artist and is being taught in conjunction with a blockbuster exhibition on Goya (the first in 25 years in North America) called Goya: Order and Disorder, which will open at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in early October and is being curated by a Wheaton Alumna. Goya ranks among the greatest painters and printmakers in the history of art. In a rich series of astonishing prints (four of which Wheaton owns) and paintings, Goya plumbed the depths of human misery in images so real and yet so bizarre that the term “Social Fantastic” was coined for them. In the fourteen ‘Black Paintings ‘of his last suffering years (after going deaf), including Satan Devouring his Children, Goya portrayed a universe of isolation, brutality and anxiety. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes effected an intense influence on the direction of modern art. We will scrutinize his impact on Picasso, for example, and identify how Goya’s work evolved as a painstaking criticism of outdated Spanish institutions as well as his critique of Spain’s invasion by Napoleon. From his technical innovations, which revolutionized the production of etchings and lithography (a “young” art form at the time) to his astounding portraits and historical/allegorical paintings, Goya’s art and insight were phenomenal — eerily modern and relevant even today.

Other highlights of the course will include the organization of a small exhibition by students in Wheaton’s Weil Gallery of our Goya prints (one was donated this December and has not yet been shown) in conjunction with the MFA show. All students will become art collectors through a Buy-A-Print Assignment; each will become acquainted with a professionalizing experience of going to the International Print Fair in NYC in November; all will attend the Goya exhibition in Boston and network with alumnae(i) in all disciplines at a special event. A final highlight is that this class has been designated one of the two Wheaton Institute for Interdisciplinary Humanities (Please visit the WIIH website: http://wheatoncollege.edu/wiih/) courses for next year, which means that all students enrolled will become WIIH fellows and benefit from exposure to professional development events, such as hearing a panel of alums speak about their careers (museum studies, law, conservation, recent PhD’s and college professors, auction house professionals, curators, etc.), participate as facilitators at interdisciplinary events, network with professionals in these areas, to name a few.


Mediating Islam

Mainstream films, television programs, and video games in the United States have been central to the cultural reproduction of images of Islam as the “other” to and enemy of the so-called West. Yet, the increasing visibility of independently produced media has provided alternative ways for Muslims living in the US to offer counter-narratives to hegemonic stereotypes, and instead promote humanistic representations of Islam. This course will examine the spectrum of media created by and about Muslims living in the United States and the Middle East in order to develop a better understanding of how media shapes global perceptions of Islam.

This course begins with a historical approach to already familiar media images that have saturated our field of vision. Class readings will offer critical frameworks to re-view and discuss selected films, television programs and other media as they relate to political justifications for war and the perpetuation of a “Clash of Civilizations” discourse. Next, the course examines media practices and circulations within the Muslim Middle East. From hip-hop performances to graphic novels, and Ramadan serials to political organizing on Facebook, we will engage with the multitude of ways that contemporary media informs, transforms, and represents the everyday lives of Muslims from Cairo to Tehran. The course concludes with an engagement with recent media interventions by Muslims living in the United States. These interventions seek to counter the normalization of the “terrorist” stereotypes that dominates the media. Together, we will assess how successfully these humanistic, humorous, and heroic portraits of Muslim-Americans challenge the dominant narrative.


Architectures of Islam

This course is a survey of histories of the built environment in the Islamic world from 7th century until the present. Our main objective is to gain a foundational understanding of core questions at the heart of this intellectual journey: What is Islam? Why do we describe architecture or cities as “Islamic”? Is all Islamic architecture necessarily religious? What factors have shaped formal and informal built environments in contemporary Islamic countries and communities?

In the first part of the course, we will examine the origins of Islam on the Arabian Peninsula. Next we will trace the spread of Islam and the monumental religious and secular architecture produced during periods of Islamic rule that stretched from Persia to the Iberian Peninsula. Finally, the course will conclude with modern perspectives of the social, economic and cultural factors shaping the built environment in relationship to Islamic identities during periods of nation building and globalization in the Middle East and South Asia.