Final Paper Assignment

Photography / Impressionism

In a well-developed, thesis-driven argument of your own, address one of the following topics in a 5–7 page, double-spaced paper:

1. The Photograph and the Stereoscope

Critically evaluate Charles Baudelaire and Oliver Wendell Holmes’s statements on the advent of photography and stereoscopy (assigned for lecture 16). What is the promise of these new technologies and what are some of their problems according to these two nineteenth-century commentators? What, in their view, is the relationship between these new media and art, and what is the impact they foresee on art and its audiences of these new technologies? Support your arguments with examples of photographs we have seen in class (including recitation) and draw on the insights of the texts by Jonathan Crary and Richard Kreitner assigned for the same lecture to further substantiate your points.

2. Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity

How did women Impressionist artists negotiate the condition of modernity and its spaces of femininity in their art? To answer these questions, write a critical analysis of Griselda Pollock’s account of modernity and the spaces of femininity (assigned for week 12), and test her arguments by applying them to the works of art listed below. Both paintings are in the MFA, Boston. What are Pollock’s arguments about the relationship between ‘modernity’ (the social themes of modern life as painting’s subject matter), ‘modernism’ (“the emergence of new protocols and criteria for painting” [Pollock, 72]) and the paintings produced by such women artists as Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot? How does Pollock define the spaces of femininity, and how are their varying implications for male and female artists evidenced in the paintings by Cassatt and Renoir listed below?

  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dance at Bougival, 1883
  • Mary Cassatt, The Tea, c. 1880

You may also want to integrate an analysis of this painting, also at the MFA (and discussed by Pollock), into your discussion:

  • Mary Cassatt, In the Loge (At the Français, A Sketch), 1878

Please note: Your paper should focus specifically on the texts assigned for it (Baudelaire, Holmes, Pollock). You are welcome, however, to use other assigned readings and images discussed in lectures or recitations to support your points. Be sure, however, to properly cite any sources you use including wall texts and labels in the museum or texts from its website.

Grading Policy:


  • The paper will count for 15% of your course grade. Please note: Students who choose option 2 and can document their trip to the MFA will be granted an extra 1/3 of a letter grade for the extra travel time required. Please submit your admission ticket to your TA to claim your extra credit.
  • The paper is due by the end of the day on the Thursday of week 14. Late papers may be penalized one third of a letter grade per day.
  • Quality of Your Arguments. Your grade does not depend on whether you are right or wrong but on the quality of your observations and arguments. Make sure to support your arguments with evidence.
  • Errors in Grammar and Spelling. One third of a grade may be deducted for every five typographical or grammatical errors that appear in your paper. In cases where the same error is repeated over and over, each instance may be treated as a separate error. Thus, if your grade would have been a B+ but you have five grammatical or spelling mistakes (even if they are all instances of the same error) you may receive a paper grade of B. If your grade would have been a B+, but you have ten grammatical or spelling mistakes, you may receive a grade of B- and so on. Proofread your paper.
  • Intellectual Honesty. If you are found to have plagiarized any part of your paper, you will receive an automatic grade of F for the course and will be reported to the appropriate Institution committees for disciplinary action. Be sure to properly footnote any direct quotes you use, or any ideas that are not your own, which you paraphrase in your paper. This includes any ideas conveyed in the wall texts and labels at the MFA or on the museum’s website.