4.602 | Spring 2012 | Undergraduate

Modern Art and Mass Culture


Week 1–Modernity, Modernism, Modernization
1 Introduction to Theories of Modernism and Modernity  
Week 2–Mass Culture and Revolution
2 Introduction to Theories of Mass Culture  
3 Eugène Delacroix, or How to Imagine Liberty  


Discuss readings and view a selection from the BBC program “Ways Of Seeing”.

View the program “Pictures Beneath the Cobblestones: July 28, 1830, Liberty Leading the People”.

Review the Marxist contribution to theories of mass culture.

Week 3–Field Trip

Field trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to see Monet’s La Japonaise (Camille Monet in Japanese Costume), 1876, and other paintings.

Week 4–Post–Revolutionary France
4 Caricature and the Safehouse of “High Art”  
5 Courbet, Realism, and Popular Images / ASCO preview Paper 1 due


Discuss readings.

Go over writing strategies for first paper on Delacroix.

Field trip to Williams Art Museum
Week 5–Manet’s Realism and the Painting of Modern Life
6 Manet: Flâneurs and Flâneuses in the Modernizing City / ASCO  
7 European Orientalism: Camille’s Kimono and Gauguin’s Skirt  


Midterm reviews.

Discussion of Orientalism.

Gender and the city.

Week 6–Impressionism & Photography
Midterm exam (includes take-home essay, paper 2, due at exam)
8 The Impressionist Eye as Camera  
Week 7–Serialism & Semiosis
9 Serial Impressions (Print and Eye)  
10 Picasso’s Cubism: Politics and/or Semiosis  


Review theories of modernism emerging in Paris in regard to new reproductive technologies (the camera, the lithograph).

Go over the midterm.

Review how to do close readings in preparation for paper 3.

Week 8–New Subjects for Modernity
11 The Soviet Avant-Garde  
12 Futurism’s and Dadaism’s Popular Mechanics Paper 3 due


Discussion of semiotics, gender, sexuality / avant-garde, and kitsch.

Approaching paper 3–how to do close readings.

Week 9–Production and (Commodity) Fetish
13 In and Around Duchamp  
14 Irrational / Rational Production: Surrealism vs. The Bauhaus Idea  


Discussion of fetishism / commodity with respect to art, production, and kitsch.

Peer review and the process of revision.

Week 10–Postwar Primitives
15 Anti-culture? Dubuffet, Pollock, and Premonitions of the Postmodern  


Discussion of the anti-art impulse and the beginnings of postmodernism.

Continuing discussion of editing and revision of re-written paper 4.

Brainstorming session on possible modern / postmodern paper topics.

Discussion of strategies for visual recall and note-taking for the final exam.

Week 11–Marketing Mass Culture
16 Robert Rauschenberg’s Coca-Cola Plan / International Pop Paper 4 (revision) due
17 The “Business Art Business,” Globalism vs. Globalization Outline and proposed bibliography for Paper 5 due


Continuing discussion of modernism and postmodernism.

Review readings and polemics on internationalism, globalization, and globalism.

Week 12–Simulation, Spectacle, & the Postmodern
18 Postmodernism, Spectacle, and Institutional Critique  
19 Postmodernism and Feminism Complete all oral presentations by the end of this week.


View Debord’s “Society of the Spectacle”.

Discuss readings.

Abstract writing.

Week 13–New Media & Biennial Culture
20 New Media / Mass Media / Sensory Reconfigurations  
21 Biennial Culture and the Aesthetics of Experience Abstract of paper 5 due


Discuss readings.

Review progress on final research papers and abstracts.

Week 14–Present Strategies
22 Present-day Strategies Vis-a-vis Art and Mass Culture

Guest lecturers: Star TAs, Rebecca Uchill and Niko Vicario!

23 Last class: concluding discussion of class themes, review for exam, and discussion of student research paper abstracts. Paper 5 due or exam date tba

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2012
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments