Spring 2022 Course Descriptions

 The GW Bulletin houses official program requirements for the university. You can use it to find out the courses you need to take to complete your degree. However, we want to help you navigate the course selection process, so we have provided more detailed descriptions of what each course entails that you can use as a resource while planning your course schedule. Please contact your program with any specific questions.

For a list of when these courses are being offered in the spring, please refer to our 2022 Course Offerings page. Please note that these are still subject to change and the final schedule of courses can be found through the Office of the Registrar.

Please note that some professors may put their own spin on a course, so the actual syllabus of a course may vary slightly from the below descriptions.

Courses are listed by their course code in alphabetical order under their focus subject area. Sometimes the code prefixes can be confusing - here are some clarifications:

DESIGN: The design program houses graphic design, digital media design, interaction design, and exhibition design. Exhibition design and interaction design have been given their own sections below. The rest of design can be found under the Graphic Design section, including the codes CGD and CDE.

STUDIO ARTS: The Studio Art Program has the most degrees at the Corcoran. If you are looking for studio arts courses, look under the CSA (studio art and fine art photography) or CFN (first year foundations). If you are looking for photojournalism courses, look under CPJ (photojournalism).

CAH 1032.10: Survey of Art & Architecture II

Professor Weber

This course will introduce you to the history of art, from 1400 to the present, through a selected group of paintings, sculptures, prints, and architecture produced in Europe, the United States, Asia, the Americas, and Africa. Each class will delve into a broad topic or theme and explore specific visual examples. From this course of study, you will gain an understanding of how the form and materials of art creates meaning. You will understand how an artist shapes his/her work and learn how specific historical circumstances and ideas based on religion, philosophy, and the individual and/or collective imagination, play a role in both the form and meaning of the work.


CAH 1091.10: Art History II: Historical Perspectives in the Visual Arts

Professor Elliott

This course covers the history of art and architecture produced by cultures around the world from prehistory to the 19th c. We will look at works of architecture, sculpture, and painting considering the process of their creation as well as placing their meaning in a cultural context. Using case studies from different cultures and time periods, the course is subdivided to explore some of the general themes that often provide meaning to artistic expression including cosmology and ritual, the body and face, and the concept of identity. By the end of the course, you should have the skills necessary to analyze works of art and architecture based on an understanding of visual, iconographic and contextual analysis, comparative study, and the interpretation of art historical sources.


CAH 2071.80: Intro to the Art in America
AMST 2071.80: Intro to the Art in America

Professor Markoski

This lecture course surveys American art from the colonial period through present day. Our primary focus will be on painting, but we will also touch upon sculpture, photography, architecture, and printmaking. As we move from the colonial period and revolutionary eighteenth-century all the way to our contemporary moment, we will explore the dynamic interplay between works of art and their specific historical, social, and political contexts as well as those objects’ situation within the broader material and visual culture of the United States. Special attention will be paid to the relationships between art and artmaking and notions of religion, nationalism, crisis, the environment, identity (e.g. race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality), and more.


CAH 2115.10: Love & Body in Islamic Art

Professor Natif

Love and Body in Islamic Art is an introductory-level course that explores the prolific tradition of figural representation related to diverse kinds of love in the pre-Modern Muslim sphere. Through engagement with visual sources, historical materials (poetry and prose), and recent scholarly literature, we will cover such topics as: tension around image-making, art and courtly pursuit, gender and representation, constructing visual desire (homo and hetero), the beloved as an ideal beauty, and depictions of spiritual love. The format of the course is a combination of lectures and class discussions and does not require any prior knowledge of Art History or Islamicate cultures and languages. All reading materials, including original sources, will be in English.


CAH 2192.10: Art of Southeast Asia

Professor Lee

This course considers visual and material culture of mainland and maritime Southeast Asia from early archaeological settlements to the contemporary period. Regions to be studied include present-day Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. We will examine the rich confluence of Indian, Chinese, and indigenous beliefs and artistic practices through close examination of architecture, painting, sculpture, textiles, and performative traditions. Students will acquire a working knowledge of the geographical, political, and social forces in the region, and explore the ways in which art and architecture operate in this diverse cultural terrain. No previous knowledge of Southeast Asian history or art history is required.


CAH 3142.80/3142W.80: European Art of the Late 19th Century

Professor Robinson

This course considers the development of realism, impressionism, and post impressionism in the context of the intellectual, political, and social climate of Europe during a period of revolutionary transformations. The three styles are examined in reference to France. Additionally, the development of realism and its singular English and Russian interpretations are addressed. The material is presented through slide lectures. Major artists and their works are discussed in terms of style, philosophical, literary, political, and social content as well as nineteenth-century criticism and culture.


CAH 3143W.10: Early Twentieth-Century Art

Professor Obler

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed a veritable cavalcade of "isms." Even an incomplete list is formidable: Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Symbolism, Primitivism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Universalism, Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism, Neo-Plasticism, Constructivism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Socialist Realism. What was the fascination of the ism for artists as well as critics, particularly in Europe, and how does the continued attention to these movements affect the way that art history is imagined? This course considers both the limitations and advantages of thinking about modernism in terms of its canonized movements. While a study of isms may tend to exclude artists who do not fit into one, it encourages attention to the importance of relationships between artists. We will examine the collaborations of artists within groups as well as the connections between the groups. We will consider the relation of The Isms of Art, to borrow the title of El Lissitzky and Jean Arp's 1925 book on the subject, to the isms of politics, from Marxism to feminism. We will, finally, investigate why writers on "modern art" have so often limited their discussion to European and American art, with little attention to and even downright dismissal of "non-Western" artists. The course will combine lectures with discussions, and will take advantage of museums in the area (and/or online resources, depending on what access you have) to study works of art closely and with questions in mind that have real-world implications.


CAH 3165W.10: Later 20th Century Art

Professor Dumbadze

This course is a thematic and historical look at contemporary art from 1945-2001.  Our investigation, while rooted in the art of the United States, will also look at specific international case studies in order to better understand the complexities and composition of contemporary art in the second half of the 20th century. This is a Writing In The Discipline Art History course, which means our class has two interrelated objectives: to gain a wider knowledge of later 20th century contemporary art and to learn how to write clear, cogent, art historical prose.


CAH 4119.80/6215.80: Caravans of Culture: Art & Exchange in the Global Middle Ages

Professor Elliott

The groundbreaking exhibition, Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time, is changing the way scholars and the public think of the Middle Ages. Rather than an isolated European culture, the medieval period was a global network of trade routes that promoted the movement of goods between Africa and Eurasia. Mansa Musa (r. 1312-37 CE), the Islamic king of Mali, was the wealthiest man in the medieval world because he controlled a vast empire rich in gold. Travelers came to West Africa from all over the world, as evident from archeological discovery of twelfth-century Qingbai Chinese porcelain in Tadmekka, Mali. At the same time, European merchants like Marco Polo (1254-1324) traveled along the Silk Road into Asia and circulated art and ideas from the Mediterranean to China and Japan. Despite the beneficial cultural interactions along the trade routes, people cast faraway places as “other”, so that some points of exchange resulted in conflict. Inspired by the recent “global turn” in Art History, this course will consider the art of the medieval world through what Monica Juneja has called “pathways of portability”. Themes include pilgrimages to real and imagined sacred sites, portable books and objects, medieval maps, monsters and marginalized cultures, medieval reuse and appropriation of ancient materials, and issues of historic preservation. Students will learn about objects from the Caravans exhibition, which is currently on display at the National Museum of African Art (Jul. 16, 2021-Feb. 27, 2022). Students will engage with global textile fragments from the George Washington Textile Museum.


CAH 4129.80/6225.80: Brueghel, Proverbs, & Memory
HONR 2053.87: Brueghel, Proverbs, & Memory

Professor von Barghahn

The Adagia (Venice: 1508) by the Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam contains several thousand Sententiae—proverbs, adages, maxims, aphorisms—which were taken from popular and ancient Roman literature (Terence, Cicero, Pliny the Elder, Lucretius, Juvenal, Horace, Ovid).  Another sixteenth-century scholar Juan de Mal Lara compiled a collection of a thousand refrains of witty phrases—the Philosophia vulgar (Seville: 1568). He asserted pithy sayings and prevalent “truths” were remnants of divine wisdom imparted to Adam and Eve in Eden. My lectures will focus upon the art of Pieter Brueghel the Elder (Breda 1525-1569), a highly intellectual Northern Renaissance artist who worked in Antwerp during the tumultuous Reformation age of change, political-religious conflict and uncertainty. While “Peasant Brueghel” has achieved celebrity for his genre pictures, often characterized by picturesque landscape components, his spritely depictions of village life are windows unto the social concerns of the populace. Several of Brueghel’s pictorial documents concern proverbs and moral lessons; others define the changing parameters of spiritual beliefs upheld in the sixteenth century. The art of Brueghel not only will be explored stylistically, but also interpreted allegorically as a mirror of transformations in Flemish society. His paintings of peasants, towns, landscapes, death, heaven and hell, as well as his prints of the vices and virtues, resonate with ideas that will be pertinent to the subjects selected for research papers and presentations. Brueghel’s most arresting compositions reveal the undeniable influence of the earlier Dutch master Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). Presentation I research projects will center upon the art of Bosch as well as Albrecht Dürer, Quentin Metsys, Mathias Grünewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Joachim Patiner, Lucas Cranach, Hans Holbein, Pieter Aertsen, and Jan “Velvet” Brueghel. Presentation II research projects additionally will address: the role of “proverbs” in genre painting of Baroque Holland; the impact of classical “adages” during the Enlightenment (Los Proverbios of Francisco de Goya); and the vestiges of popular aphorisms in later works of art that thematically center upon concepts of morality and ethics.


CAH 4150.80: Disability, Access, & the Arts

Professor Obler

By no means comprehensive, this seminar will examine theories and histories of various forms and understandings of disability vis-à-vis the arts and visual culture. We will study “disability aesthetics”; inclusive design in architecture, museums, and urban planning; the importance of the gaze; and key debates in the field. We will delve into case studies on early twentieth-century artists’ engagement with schizophrenia; the complexities of National Socialist policies on degenerate art and eugenics; and contemporary artists’ interventions in discourses on disability. We will read articles and chapters by artists and scholars including Joseph Grigely, Aimi Hamraie, Georgina Kleege, Jasbir K. Puar, Tobin Siebers, Vivian Sobchack, Esmé Weijun Wang—and three leading voices in disability studies who teach at GW: David T. Mitchell, Robert McRuer, and Sharon L. Snyder. Drawing on these broad-ranging discussions for foundations and frameworks, students will have the opportunity to pursue substantial research on a topic of their choosing.


CAH 4165.80/6265.80: The Body in Islamic Art
HONR 2053.88: The Body in Islamic Art

Professor Natif

This seminar explores the various artistic, philosophical, aesthetic, and religious ideas that shaped the ways humans and animals were depicted in Islamic art from the 7th to the 17th centuries. Debates about the legality of images appeared in Islamic theology from the 8th century on and placed artists in a complicated position. These contending notions found their artistic expression in painting and were manifested in Islamic traditions of figurative art. Throughout the course of the semester, we will discuss the perceptions of beauty that influenced the manner in which artists represented the human body; We will examine the different approaches to and techniques of illustrations of living beings, as well as the appearance of new painting methods and ideas, such as atmospheric perspective and portraiture. No previous background is required.


CAH 4169.80/6269.80: New York in the 1980s

Professor Dumbadze

This seminar is a detailed examination into the long 1980s (1977-1993) in the New York art world.  It is one part a history of Postmodernism, another part a cultural examination of America in a pivotal moment in its history, as well as a rumination, through an excursion into the recent past, of where the United States is today—both artistically and culturally. 


CAH 4189.80/6245.80: Courbet & Manet: New Visions

Professor Robinson

This course considers the role, contributions, and significance of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet with respect to the emergence of modernism in the nineteenth century. Through readings, lectures, and class discussions, they and their works are examined in the context of tradition and innovation during a period of profound and multifaceted transformations.

CDAD 6573 – Historic American Interiors, 1800-1900

E. Kuykendall

The history of domestic interiors and furnishings in the United States relies heavily on the adaptation of European and Asian tastes, as transposed, modified or rejected by Europeans, Africans and native cultures. This multidisciplinary seminar engages the work of material culture scholars, museum curators, and art historians, as well as historical archaeologists, architectural historians, folklorists, geographers, and landscape architects. In doing so, the course traces the development of American homes, from seventeenth-century Dutch and English settlements to the lavish late nineteenth-century estates of industrialists in the Gilded Age. Major course themes consider the social, economic and technological changes that propelled design choices made by consumers, producers and retailers. Students will interpret the material evidence of domesticity, as revealed through both elegant and everyday furnishings used within or around the American home, from kitchens and bedchambers to parlors and conservatories. These changes spurred the development of new furnishing forms, ornament, room use, and spatial organization.  As a result of this class, students significantly expand their knowledge of American interiors and the decorative arts; hone their professional presentation skills; conduct primary research; and strengthen their writing abilities. In addition to illustrated lectures and critical discussion, this course includes study tours to period rooms preserved by major museums and historic house museums.


CDAD 6574 – Earth & Fire: Ceramics in the West


E. Kuykendall

From a world wherein native American Indian women coiled clay hand-dug from local veins of red earth, to the Chinese men operating huge kilns in Yaozhou in southern China and producing greenish-tinted celadon wares, to the studios of highly-trained and globally-renowned artists such as Edmund de Waal, the last 500+ years of ceramic production reveals clay as a universal medium from which cultures meld aesthetic and utilitarian values. Ceramics represent the collision of a cultural intention with environmental conditions and present rich possibilities for the reconstruction of lost histories.

This seminar examines the global influences found in Western ceramic traditions, focusing on a range of types from the fourteenth century through the late twentieth century. Course topics explore the three major kiln-fired, clay bodies – earthenware, stoneware and porcelain – as well as glazing techniques and ornamentation practices found on both useful and decorative wares. Readings and discussions will touch upon: European tin-glazed earthenware and its predecessors from the East; northern European and North American stonewares; hand-coiled earthenwares made by native American Indians and enslaved African Americans; the importation and influence of Chinese and Japanese export porcelains to the Western market; the clamor to achieve hard-paste porcelain in Europe and the ascendancy of English earthenwares;. Careful consideration will be given to the formal characteristics of objects, including their materials, makers’ marks, ornamentation and design, as well as the intended and unintended uses granted them by their users, makers, retailers. As a result of this class, students significantly expand their knowledge of the materials, techniques, and ornamentation of ceramics; hone their professional presentation skills; and strengthen their writing abilities. In addition to illustrated lectures and critical discussion, this course includes study tours to museum collections.


CDAD 6575.10 – Oceanic Exchange: Material Culture and Early Modern Trade

N. Arroyo

This new seminar considers the materiality, form and ornamentation of luxury and everyday objects exchanged along newly charted trade routes between Europe, Asia, America and Africa during the early modern period beginning in the late 15th century until about 1800. Raw material, finished goods, and people were sold in trading networks that crisscrossed the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. The course investigates this period through three themes: natural resources, export products, and port cities. Students begin by tracing the circulation of raw materials, from delicacies such as Mesoamerican cacao to cochineal, the vibrant red dye produced from carcasses of a Peruvian insect. Finished goods such as Japanese biombo screens, Mexican ceramics, and Chinese silk vestments for Catholic missionaries reveal a hybrid aesthetic through cultural exchange. Finally, students analyze how European trade and settlement impacted the built environment and communities of urban ports such as Goa, Manila and Macau. This study of non-western and western material culture reveals the power dynamics of consumption and yields fresh interpretations of local artistic and technological developments within the context of global history.

CMST 6102 – Museum Financial Management

Overall financial management of the museum including financial planning and analysis, internal controls, accounting, budgeting and financial reporting, presentation and leadership. Theory applied to practical situations.


CMST 6104 - Managing People and Projects

Dealing with people is an area consistently mentioned as a major challenge for museum managers. Students study organizational behavior theory, the methods of building a motivated and skilled staff, and focus on the team process. Project management systems are taught including developing scope, schedule and budget, team dynamics, resource leveling, and working within a matrix environment. The role of the project manager is emphasized along with tools for managing change and negotiating conflict. Case studies are presented by practitioners working in museums today.


CMST 6107 – Museum Ethics and Values

Ethical questions museums face in practical, political, and institutional contexts, including governance and funding, collecting and preservation, exhibiting culture, and education and public programs. Students will analyze and evaluate current professional standards for museum ethics; research and analyze current and emerging ethical issues in museums; trace major movements in the development of museum ethics and values in the United States; evaluate important museum theorists in the area of ethics; think and write critically about museum ethics; and discuss and analyze theoretical critique that might inform – and improve -- future practice.


CMST 6202 - Collections Management: Practical Applications - prerequisite: CMST 6201. This class focuses on the implementation of collections policies and procedures: establishing and managing collections, management procedures and systems, documentation of collections, records preservation, collections access and storage, handling, packing and shipping, and inventory control. This is the second-semester, applied class for 6201. MSTD 6201 Introduction to Collections Management is required for this class.


CMST 6204 - Preventive Conservation Techniques - builds upon topics introduced in the Preventive Conservation Concepts course with emphasis placed on practical exercises and ethical issues. Students will learn how to evaluate and monitor collections, how to prepare a grant for collections care, and how to develop and implement policies and procedures to facilitate collections care. MSTD 6203(or its cross-listed equivalent in Fine Arts/Anthropology) is required for this class. prerequisite: CMST 6203


CMST 6206 - Digitization & Digital Asset Management

This course is designed for museum professionals who expect to manage digital assets, projects, or programs involving digitization and access. It examines current methods in the creation and dissemination of digital surrogates, associated metadata, and digital descriptive records of museum collections. By exploring the workflows and guidelines necessary to implement a successful digitization project, this course examines the aspects of maintaining and managing digital assets. Aspects of technical creation and guidelines will be addressed; digital asset management, metadata creation and use, as well as long-term preservation and access of those assets will be discussed.


CMST 6304 – Exhibition Development and Scriptwriting - prerequisite: CMST 6301 Class emphasizes exhibition content and includes sessions on evaluation, team work, audience engagement, learning styles, budgeting, exhibition layering, language and best practices. Students follow an idea from conceptualization through organization to scripting---with extensive peer review. Class includes guest speakers.


CMST 6404 - Museums and Social Media

The introduction of Web2.0 or the ‘social web’ in the mid-2000s led to an influx of new participants in the consumption and creation of digital information. Typified by platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs, the social web focused on user participation as critical in the creation of value. By lowering the technical barriers to entry, the social web made it easier for people outside formal institutions such as the press to create and publish their own work, changing the ways that people communicate and interact with one another, and with organizations and institutions. Museums continue to experiment with how best to engage in this environment to serve their missions and their audiences. In this course, students will utilize multiple online platforms to discern the affordances and complexities of social media for museums. Together, we will consider strategies, tactics, and benchmarks for measuring social media, as well as risk, privacy and publicness, and online identities (professional, personal, and institutional). Students should be prepared to be active participants in an online, multi-platform peer discourse throughout the semester.


CMST 6501 - Museum Internship

Supervised practical training in Washington area museums (or elsewhere). Internships are supervised by one or more members of the sponsoring museum staff and focus on a variety of areas including museum management, conservation, collections management, exhibition design and development. Prior approval required.


CMST 6502 - Directed Research

Individual research on special topics in the museum field working with a MSTD professor or outside museum experts. Topics must be approved in advance by MSTD.


CMST 6601 - Special Topics: Museums and Social Justice

In 2020, museum activists and organized publics are challenging museums to confront their colonial and racist pasts, to acknowledge the continuing effects of those origins in their exhibitions and programming, and to engage programmatically in urgent matters of racial, economic, social, and climate justice. These calls have been made before, but now, emboldened by the resurgence of and broad support for the Black Lives Matter movement, they are stronger, perhaps more integrated (or at least visible), and are meeting with more success. In addition, critics and museum employees are pushing for a reckoning with institutional labor practices and biases regarding hiring, compensation, and protections at the institutional level and in the field as a hole. In this course, we will engage critically with museum content -- past and present -- designed to challenge the status quo, support social change, reveal and wrestle with past injustices, and attempt reconciliation and reform beyond the walls of the museum. We will look backward and to the present political moment at exhibitions, programming, engagement efforts, commissioned art installations, and other projects to contextualize the demands for a new kind of museum that eschews the pretext of neutrality to act in creative and conscious ways in the pursuit of equity and inclusion, in terms of staff, audiences, and content. For the last five weeks of the semester, we will apply the theoretical critique and historical knowledge we have gained toward the creation of projects that creatively employ the institutional history of GWU to increase awareness, spur dialogue, and perhaps even enact change.


CMST 6601 – Special Topics: Museum Programming

Have you ever wondered about the purpose of museum programs or participated in a program and wanted to learn more about its design and implementation? This course will focus on museum programming in theory and practice. Using case studies from the Smithsonian Institution, museums across the country, and around the globe, we will study and discuss the role programs play in museums and how programs can connect with a museum's communities and audiences. This class is designed to engage with current and historical trends in museum programming and how programs can serve as vehicles for community engagement, outreach, and relationship-building. This class will also provide opportunities to gain a "behind the scenes" look at the production of museum programming so that students can gain tangible next steps for creating and implementing programs in various museum contexts. Students in this course will engage with the topic through select readings, regular discussion, writing and reflection projects, hands-on experiences, and meeting museum practitioners throughout the field. Students currently enrolled in the Museum Studies tracks of Public Engagement, Visitor Experience, Exhibitions, Museum Management, and Collections Management are encouraged to attend this course.


CMST 6601 – Special Topics: Practices of Place

How do we know where we are, how we got here, and where we are headed? Artists, scholars, and civic participants have long theorized and embodied “practices of place” – ways of knowing, being, and/conjuring location. This course will consider approaches to place-based projects through frameworks of site-specificity, spatial systems, mapping, belonging, and displacement. In particular, we will explore socially-engaged art practices through the frameworks of public memory. We will encounter texts and projects including those by A Long Walk Home, Walter Benjamin, Jorge Luis Borges, Mel Chin, Tom Finkelpearl, Laura Harjo, Rick Lowe, Monument Lab, Toni Morrison, Michelle Angela Ortiz, Lauret Savoy, Clint Smith, Rebecca Solnit, among others. Throughout the semester, students will pursue a class collaborative project and an individual final project about one site of their choosing.


CMST 6601 – Special Topics: Access and Inclusion: Trends in Cultural Spaces

This course will explore fundamental principles of accessibility, the role of cultural administrator, museum curators, designers and educators in creating environments designed to support universal and human-centered inclusive practices. We will dive into the social, legal, design and future trends for creating spaces where people with disabilities of all ages have an equal opportunity to learn, participate in and engage with cultural and museum experiences. From disability rights to human rights to cultural rights, from initial planning to end product we will hear first-hand perspectives from individuals with disabilities and experts in the field, and consider the future of museums that commit to infusing access from beginning to end. The course will include field experience conducting access audits, and guest lecturers who will share their experiences and challenges experiencing and appreciating museums and other cultural spaces, and provide insight into designing for access and inclusion.


CMST 6703 - Museums and Community Engagement

Museums of all types are increasingly turning to their local communities as a primary audience for programming and support. We will study why this shift in thinking is occurring in museums and when it is an appropriate strategy. Then we will use a variety of techniques to identify and describe a local community and develop a range of methods for engagement to fulfill a museum’s mission and goals. By the end of the course, each student will be able to craft a community engagement plan that is suitable for presentation to a board or executive director.


CMST 6704 – Museum and Cultural Property

This seminar will examine the legal and ethical principles involved with ownership and restitution of stolen art and other cultural property wrongfully removed from their owners or countries of origin. Through the use of case studies of claims brought against museums, the course will critically analyze current museum policies and procedures for acquisition, exhibition, retention and restitution of their collections.