Critical Issues in American Art: A Book of Readings

By Mary Ann Calo | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Preface

The purpose of this anthology is to encourage the formation of a critical perspective on the history of American art through a selection of diverse readings on a wide range of issues, artists, and objects of material culture. It has been created in response to the need for a collection of readings in American art that exemplifies scholarship of the past two decades, during which the discipline of art history in general--and the study of American visual culture in particular--have undergone significant growth. Although directed toward an undergraduate audience, the selection should be of interest to any serious student or devotee of American art and culture.

Like all areas of humanistic study, the history of American art has been greatly enriched (and to a certain extent muddled) by an infusion of theoretical and interpretive approaches to the study of art that have undermined the hegemony of traditional methodologies and modes of inquiry. Recent scholarship suggests that the understanding of art can be grounded in visual analysis; biography and historical documents; intellectual, political, and social history; the circumstances of patronage; theoretical systems such as marxism, semiotics, psychoanalysis, and feminism; or the personal subjectivity of the viewer. What was once a rather tidy narrative of stylistic development and general historical context has become an exciting but intractable array of discursive possibilities.

In assembling this collection, I sought to provide students and teachers with varied examples of recent historical scholarship unified by a common vision of American art as encoded with a complex fusion of individual and cultural values that have sustained and shaped its production. Wanda Corn's seminal essay on the historiography of American art supplies the intellectual frame and rationale for the selections. As a whole, the collection can be understood as an implicit endorsement of the methodological diversification Corn describes, the kind of lively inquiry that has come to characterize a field that has finally "come of age."

Although the articles are arranged chronologically, no effort has been made to present an exhaustive "survey" of American art. The responsibility of the teaching scholar (as I understand it) is to acquaint undergraduate students with the dynamic state of the field while, at the same time, giving them a solid basis of information and grasp of fundamentals. This collection is meant to supplement, complicate, and deepen the kind of general history that emerges in textbooks and in the classroom. Each article raises a specific set of questions about some notable aspect of American art, about the work of a particular artist, or about historiography and criticism. Brief editorial comments on the author's methodology and conclusions precede each selection.

The large number of essays devoted to nineteenth-century art is indicative of the tremendous expansion of scholarship on this era. American visual culture of the nineteenth century is increasingly understood in terms of the subtle merging of aesthetics and ideology, whereby works of art serve the interests of nation building. A number of these articles examine the consequences of economic development and territorial expansion as well as the subsequent interaction of cultures as borders are dissolved and realigned.

-vii-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Critical Issues in American Art: A Book of Readings
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 328

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?