Syllabus Suggestions for History of Women in Art Course

Query From Holly Unruh 02 April 1998

I will be teaching an introductory level course on women in art at a local junior college next fall. I was wondering if anyone on the list has a good syllabus for such a class? Since the semester is nearly 18 weeks long, I would like to cover as much of the history of women artists as possible. Most syllabi I have seen seem only to deal with the (very) modern period, from about 1850 to the present. I do plan on beginning the course with several weeks of introduction to recent (since 1970) feminist art practice and interventions in the history of art, to sort of ground the students methodolocially. However, I am still unsure whether to then proceed in the usual chronological manner, or to break the class up into thematic sections, etc. Any suggestions and comments from those who have taught similar courses would be much appreciated! Thanks.


From Janice Liedl 03 April 1998

Hi! I've not taught this subject in particular (I teach a general European women's history survey, instead) but may I speak up to recommend some of the "lesser" arts such as needlework and fibrearts-- if you incorporate discussions of these, you'll broaden your coverage of women in the arts dramatically! Along that line, I'd recommend R. Parker's _The Subversive Stitch_ as a great survey of women in the needle arts. You might also look at work on women in textiles.

From Pamela McVay 03 April 1998

Sorry, I don't have a syllabus for you. But would you mind letting the list know where you find slides, if you use them? Our collection is very weak on images by women from before 1850, and most of the ones we have are pretty faded.

From Nancy Robertson 06 April 1998

One of the pieces by Eunice Lipton about the relation between artists, models, and also art historians is her book, _Alias Olympia_, a combination of history and fiction about the woman who was the model for Manet's "Olympia," but also an artist herself. It is an engaging read that raises a lot of issues about women and art.

You might also want to think about some of the work, written and visual, that Judy Chicago has done on women artists. _Hearts and Hands_ was shown on the "American Experience" and the filmmaker, Pat Ferrero has a book with the same title.

From Carol Williams 06 April 1998

...regarding the women and art course...I've taught similar courses a few times and have it found it consistently more productive to organize the course thematically rather than chronologically. This way you can include contemporary artists who quote themes and issues which are historical within the thematic blocks. Some of the themes I'm considering for my upcoming section of Women and Art include: Representing the Body; Women and New Media; Women and Arts Education; Women and Politics; Women represent the Maternal body,etc..I find if you cling to the chronology it becomes burdensome and the more interesting debates of inclusion, exclusion, censorship, and so on will be side-lined.

I also have integrated a number of letters, diaries, and other writings by women artists alongside a text which does offer a chronology. I would also encourage the debate around hierarchies of craft versus art, art and popular culture, photography and traditional practises. In this sense the course can examine the internal educational, theoretical and ideological structures that exclude some women and admit others. I have alot of suggestions for texts and essays but I'm sure others will also make suggestions. Best wishes with the course.

From Anya Jabour 06 April 1998

I absolutely agree with an earlier posting emphasizing women's artwork in crafts and textiles. I would recommend a good one-hour film on nineteenth-century women's history told through quilting, _Hearts and Hands_. The film not only does a nice job of tying in the histories of women from different classes and parts of the country, but also notes how quilting was a creative outlet for women who were not able to devote their lives to high art. Unfortunately, I don't have any information about the distributor.

From Christine Kleinegger 06 April 1998

I think there's been some feminist scholarship on the topic of women as artists' models, which would make an interesting juxtaposition between women as artists and women as traditional subjects of male artists. I believe Eunice Lipton of the SUNY Binghamton art department (is she still there?) has written on this subject.