Skip to main content

Unit information: American Art: Art and Identity (Lecture Response Unit) in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name American Art: Art and Identity (Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HART30026
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Ms. Tricha Passes
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of History of Art (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines art in the United States up the end of the 1960's. It focuses on the ways that pictorial practices (including painting, photography, and magazine illustration) and film were used to articulate celebrations and critiques of American national identity. A key issue is the changing status of Americanism and the way in which attempts to convey nationalist imperatives through cultural forms shifted in relation to dramatic changes during the period, especially the onset of the Great Depression, and reflected critical examinations along the lines of class, gender, and race. The responses made by American artists to the emergence of the Soviet Union also marked a change in Americanism. In considering these themes, the unit considers a wide range of objects from figurative murals in post offices to experiments in abstraction, and from documentary photographs to dioramas. The unit will also concentrate on the realist depictions of American life as evidenced in the work of Andrew Wyeth and Norman Rockwell.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have(1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the relationship between art and American national identity in the first half of the twentieth century; (2) reflected critically upon the themes of class, gender, politics and race in this context; (3) analysed a range of images and objects from the period; (4) written critically and analytically upon them.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Information

One summative essay of 3000 words (50%) and one examination of two hours (50%). Both elements will assess knowledge and critical understanding of (1) art and American national identity in the first half of the twentieth century and of (2) its themes of class, gender, politics and race by (4) writing critically and analytically upon the (3) images and objects from the period.

Reading and References

• Gilles Mora and Beverly W. Brannan, The American Vision, New York, 2006. • Wanda M. Corn, The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935, Los Angeles, 1999. • Anthony J. Badger, The New Deal: the Depression years, 1933-40, Chicago, 2002. • Helen Langa, Radical Art: Printmaking and the Left in 1930s, Los Angeles, 2004. • Milton Brown, American Painting from the Armory to the Depression, Princeton, 1955. • Alan Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs: Images as History, Matthew Brady to Walker Evans, New York, 1989.