Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Art and Art History 398. Experimental Courses

The Art of Collecting

From the cabinets of curiosities known as Wunderkammern to Renaissance studioli to contemporary museums, the human compulsion to collect has shaped traditions of knowledge and possession for centuries. An inherent aspect of the activity of collecting objects and memories is the relationship formed between the objects, the collector, and his/her chosen or accidental audience. This course explores the history of collecting, its ideologies and theoretical groundings by focusing on case studies that illustrate various moments at which practices of collection and exhibition have coalesced into coherent or chaotic visual displays of our world and the wonders within it.

Critical readings of texts, original research, and engaged participation will be emphasized throughout the course.


Energy and Culture

Oil seeps into our everyday lives, shaping countless dimensions of our modern material and social worlds from imaging technologies to modern transportation to industrial agriculture and beyond. Oil has been called “black gold” by some and labeled “the devil’s excrement” by others as its powerful properties have also brought about the rise and demise of numerous governments, the toxification of environments, and exploitation of native and migrant labor in oil-producing countries. And yet oil itself has been kept largely invisible from our everyday lives, rarely entering the visual field.

For decades, prevalent scholarship has concentrated on a narrow framing of oil as rent, or money, and provided top-down analyses of economic and political corruption in oil-producing states. However, this seminar will engage an emerging body of recent literature that reframes oil in terms of culture and seeks historically-grounded understanding of the social and spatial dimensions of the petroleum industry. Further, this seminar will explore the ways in which architects, painters, sculptures, photographers, filmmakers, and activists in producing countries have rendered oil and its effects on society, geopolitics, and the environment visible through significant spatial and visual interventions.



In this class, students question what constitutes knowledge and in fact study knowledges, as a plural concept. Revolving around themes rather than chronologies, this course examines how new technologies, scientific discoveries, and events shaped the production and the construction of knowledge(s). The visualization of such knowledge(s) stemmed from the humanistic and scientific discourses that shaped them: a Galilean telescope, for instance, changed not only the ways in which artists and scientists represented the surface of the moon, but inflamed theological discussions on the purity of the lunar surface and its association with the Virgin Mary. From the popularization of the printing press, to the dissection of bodies, and to alchemical practice, this course investigates moments when new narratives were created because radical encounters confronted and confounded assumed knowledge.


Middle Eastern Cinemas

This seminar examines narrative and documentary feature films by the most prolific and groundbreaking filmmakers of the Middle East from the past seventy years. Giving particular attention to the work of women filmmakers, our objective will be to understand how film has been used to craft cinematic representations of everyday life in Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Palestine/Israel, Syria and Lebanon. In this course we will consider how narrative, cinematography, 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, and political violence will be weaved throughout the course.