Liberal Studies & Art History

The Cornerstone of our
Art & Design Education

To educate and to inspire: these are the two main goals of the Liberal Studies & Art History departments. Through our courses we ensure that our students are fully equipped with the capacity to write, think and communicate clearly about their work, but we also assure that their creativity and imagination find a broad space for expression and expansion.

The interdisciplinary Liberal Studies curriculum provides students with a grounding in general humanities – history, philosophy, languages and literatures – as well as social sciences and sciences. The courses taught within the department help students understand how to place themselves within the world and within the history of their chosen practice, providing the context they need to navigate the complexities of contemporary culture. In the Freshman year, students take “Critical Thinking & Writing”, a foundational “great books” course and a necessary stepping stone to higher level courses. It provides a general education in the humanities that combines literature, poetry, the history of philosophy, and the history of art. Focused on the close reading of influential texts, it is geared at helping freshman students develop as analytical readers and thinkers, and acquire or perfect the writing skills they need.

In addition to a set of core courses in the history of art and design for the specific majors and degrees, a wide selection of Liberal Studies electives enables students to broaden their knowledge and sharpen their capacity for analytical enquiry. Courses cover an extensive range of disciplines, with a changing selection of electives ranging from cognitive psychology or semiotics, to the history of technology or Renaissance politics. French classes are offered over four levels. French III has a high literary component, while French IV is a content-based course whose theme changes each term and may focus on sustainability or the media.

PCA takes special advantage of its campus and location as an ideal environment for observing and exploring the social and cultural variety that is typical of a European and multicultural metropolis in the 21st century. Courses often include visits to a large variety of venues – museums and galleries, cultural events and urban sites. Senior level seminars and guest speakers address timely and provocative issues that help students develop ideas and make the choices that will enhance their own careers.

Course Offerings

Credits

Liberal Studies

Artistic Migrations: Paris

Code
FLIB 1104
Description

This course introduces students to the notion of the city as palimpsest and the center of cultural and social exchanges. It will expose them to a selection of writers and artists who have travelled to and from Paris, and help them understand the role played by this city in relation to cultural and political capitals throughout the world. The city itself will be the subject of a visual and intellectual inquiry via themes that focus on Paris as a historically significant urban social, political and cultural center past and present.

Students will learn about key moments in French history, from the Romans on, via the Middle Ages and the Revolution, they will be introduced to such themes as political migrations and colonialism, and will explore the city from a variety of points of views including literary and artistic exchanges, urban history, architecture, and ecology. Active exploration of the environment is strongly encouraged and students are asked to observe and analyze phenomena of the city through site visits, the examination of texts and images, and first-hand encounters with museums, galleries, and libraries, as well as other art and design-related resources in the city.

Critical Thinking & Writing I

Code
FLIB 1011
Description

This year-long course is designed to improve critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. Students learn to understand the inherent argument and logic of a text, to think more systematically and critically, and to write more effectively by developing skills in the structure, grammar, and mechanics of writing. Students also work toward the more focused goal of situating design and art practices within larger intellectual, historical and philosophical frameworks by exploring the indissoluble connection between ideas and the products of human culture. This is achieved by introducing students to texts representing and describing various methodologies applicable to art and design, which can then be used to critique and analyze visual and material artifacts.

Critical Thinking & Writing II

Code
FLIB 1012
Description

This year-long course is designed to improve critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. Students learn to understand the inherent argument and logic of a text, to think more systematically and critically, and to write more effectively by developing skills in the structure, grammar, and mechanics of writing. Students also work toward the more focused goal of situating design and art practices within larger intellectual, historical and philosophical frameworks by exploring the indissoluble connection between ideas and the products of human culture. This is achieved by introducing students to texts representing and describing various methodologies applicable to art and design, which can then be used to critique and analyze visual and material artifacts.

Introduction to Design Studies

Code
FLIB 1162
Description

As an introduction to design in general, this seminar provides students with a contextual understanding of specific movements in design history. ‘Design’ has come to mean many different things. It has been defined as problem solving, communication of an idea, an aesthetic decision, but it is rarely discussed as a vital business concern, though design communicates to us and makes us desire things in order to sell something. The weekly sessions will incorporate topics ranging from avant-garde movements, technology and media, information theory, business and marketing practices, sociology, and psychology, set within a broad historical narrative.

English For International Students I

Code
FLIB 1005
Description

This course is designed for students with an intermediate level in English, and will support their studio classes and experience as a student in an English-language environment at PCA. The content and material covered in class will focus on language related to their studies, as well as their areas of interest. Class themes will also include visual analysis of art and design, and cover questions related to the collection and display of art and images. Throughout the course, students will develop and practice their English language skills in order to prepare them for the next semester of their studies.

French Conversation 1

Code
FLIB 1001
Description

This course is a beginner-level French conversation course open to students with no previous exposure to instruction in French. Emphasis will be placed on phonetics (Rhythm, intonation, liaisons, silent letters & some specific French sounds), as well as everyday life vocabulary and exchanges. Different themes will be covered over the semester: Life in Paris, French cinema, French and Francophone cuisine, as well as music. Students will be able to engage in short conversations and will practice describing themselves and their environment, their friends and family members, as well as their studies, hobbies, and artistic practice. Visits and meetings with French students will be organized. Students will be evaluated during 5 oral presentations. Conscientious completion of homework and class participation is emphasized; a website has been specially designed to accompany students throughout the semester (Targeted grammatical exercises, podcasts, phonetics etc.) A guided tour in French will beo organized (Musée Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay.) Class will be conducted in French.

French Conversation: Improver Level

Code
FLIB 1002
Description

This course is open to anyone who has some basic knowledge of French and would like to improve their listening & speaking skills. Class will meet once per week. The main objective for the course is for students to be able to communicate orally in French in everyday life situations, as well as in professional settings. Using a variety of materials (Movies, music, dialogues, radio & TV), students will learn how to tell a story, make a thorough description of their work and practice, talk about a personal experience or a project, and give their opinion. Different themes will be covered over the semester: Intermediate everyday life vocabulary, French cinema (‘A Bout de Souffle’ de J.-L. Godard & ‘Cleo de 5 à 7’ de A. Varda), French illustrators (Enki Bilal & Marjane Satrapi) and professional life in Paris. Visits in French will be organized (Musée Pompidou & Gaîté Lyrique.)

English For International Students II

Code
FLIB 1006
Description

The goal of this course is to develop students’ ability to understand and use English in everyday communication, and to provide a foundation fo rcritical thinking skills and writing techniques needed for their future liberal studies courses at Paris College of Art. This course features an innovative approach to ESL learning: We will use role-playing; acting; and recitation as well as literary and script analysis to develop students’ language comprehension and production skills. Students will also learn the vocabulary they can use to discuss their own work in the future – all while learning about dramatic literature.

French III

Code
FLIB 3411
Description

Le cours de « français 3 » a pour objectif d’approfondir les connaissances linguistiques des étudiants. Ceux-ci apprendront ce semestre à exprimer leurs sentiments et à justifier leurs choix, à raconter une expérience, à mener un entretien en s’adaptant à l’interlocuteur et à parler de manièere preécise de leurs études et de leur pratique artistique. Il s’agit également de familiariser les étudiants avec des romans ed des auteurs francophones du XXème et du XXIème siècle. Nous travaillersons pour cela, tout au long du semestre, sur un projet de création de vidéos <<Booktube>>. Les étudiants vont apprendre à analyser, à commenter et à situer les romans qu’ils auront choisis dans leur contexte socio-historique. Une partie du cours sera consacrée à des révisions de grammaire et des exercices de composition. Ces objectifs seront mis en œuvre de manière vivante, grâce à l’utilisation de documents authentiques (Reportages vidéo, articles, musique, films) et à l’organisation de rencontres et de sorties (Musée du Louvre, sortie au théâtre.) Le cours est dispensé en français.

Introduction To Design Studies

Code
FLIB 2212
Description

This course focuses on how design processes, design products, and design discourse are interrelated. It encourages students to reflect and write critically about design and provides them with a foundation in research methods that impact design practice. Readings from leading designers, theorists and historians lead students to situate their own approaches to design within a swiftly changing contemporary context, while visual materials and visits to design-related exhibitions allow them to broaden their base of design references.

Paris Inside/Out

Code
FLIB 0010
Description

Paris Inside/Out is a one-credit course consisting of visits to art & design exhibits, as well as meetings with artists, artisans and designers in Paris. The course will use a wide approach by including a variety of artistic fields, thus allowing students to draw inspiration from any discipline. The course will be held every week in a different location in Paris. Students are free to participate in as many visits as they wish, however a minimum of 5 visits are required to pass the course. For each visit, students will create a personal work within a given set of constraints. At the end of the semester, students will be asked to present to the class a personal work inspired by one of the visits during the semester.

General Biology I

Code
FLIB 2004
Description

A non-technical survey course emphasizing symmetry as a unifying theme. The scientific method, the diversity and unity of all living things will be presented in this context. The areas of investigation include the human body, zoology, botany and microorganisms.

Semiotics

Code
FLIB 3343
Description

Semiotics is the “science of signs”. This course will offer an introduction to the discipline of semiotics. We will read its foundational texts – from Saussure to Peirce and Barthes – and apply them to the worlds of photography, design, and fashion, as well as the media, analysing how artefacts can be interpreted as visual manifestations of social structures. Students will have a chance to bring their own work to bear on their study and vice versa.

Music, Technology, and Digital Culture

Description

Our innumerable conceptions of technology change as quickly as the technologies themselves. How then do we define technology? How does technology define us? Our aims in this class are to develop our vocabulary and theoretical framework for discussing the interactions of music with technological developments in instruments, musical creation/performance, recording, media, and industry. Notably, we will focus on the cultural, social, and aesthetic lives and meanings of technologies, thinking about how musical technologies—and the various ideas about these technologies—impact our experiences of the (musical) world around us. Topics will range from: the Futurists, the phonograph, Musique Concrète, sounds of urban life, turntablism, artificial intelligence, music apps, and so forth, and will open up discussions into the “aura”/“liveness”/mediation, the politics of capturing sound and how that taps into issues of representation, authenticity, gender, and race, the recognition and/or creation of sound ecologies, the constantly evolving relationship between what is music, sound, and noise, the implications of digitization and digital culture, among many other critical inquiries. We will be drawing from a variety of different source materials in this class, for example: video clips, theoretical writings, music lyrics, written accounts, musical examples, images, and many hands-on demonstrations of instruments and other tools. Course evaluation is based on class discussion, write-ups, a mid-term, and a final project.

Art History

Artists On Art

Code
FHCA 0305
Description

This course will examine how artists from the mid-19th to the early 21st Centuries conceive of and talk about their own artistic practice. While artists’ works are frequently viewed through the lens of art history or criticism, students will consider how artists present, engage with and develop further levels of inquiry into their work. Topics covered will include artists’ published writings, their notebooks, the artist’s statement versus the manifesto, and their teachings. The course will also offer the opportunity to explore the relationships between artistic identity and art work, ranging from analysis of self-portraits to their performance on screen. Students will discover the extent to which artists’ practice depends upon a critical awareness of the cultural, theoretical, and historical matrix in which they operate. Assignments will include research projects on artists and the preparation of a statement that defines the students’ own self-conception of their studio practice or area of study.

Classicism and its Discontents

Code
FHCA 0223
Description

There is little doubt that the “classical” and classicism constitutes the principal matrix through which art history prior to the end of the nineteenth century is viewed. The course will examine the birth, meaning, and significance of the classical in ancient Greek and Roman art; study how the retrieval of its motifs made possible the art of the Renaissance; examine its return as “neo-Classicism” in the 18th century (and what this return means sociopolitically); and how it has been “remarked,” often ironically, in postmodernism. Students will acquire a clear sense of what classicism means and how it has, in its many forms, pervaded the history of visual culture and the traditions of the West.

History of Fashion in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Code
FHCA 0227
Description

This course investigates the visual history of fashion, focusing on France from the Ancien Régime via the Revolution to the present day, and with a particular focus on primary sources available in the museums and archives of Paris. Weekly units explore historical European fashion trends – their details, silhouettes, fabrics and embellishments – in their original social, political, economic, aesthetic and spiritual contexts. Influences and parallel developments in other countries are also covered in this class, as are connections between the fashion industry, theatre, film, and the fine arts. Students are introduced to research practices and encouraged to reflect on design and style choices rooted in fashion history.

Introduction to Art & Design

Code
FHCA 0103
Description

This course introduces students to themes and topics relevant to the production and reception of the art and design disciplines taught at PCA. Using art and design objects located in Parisian collections as the basis for visual, contextual and cultural analysis, students will develop ways of seeing, contextualizing and describing art and design, while tackling a common set of issues, including but not limited to: chronology, style, authorship, form, function, composition, originality, narrative, and the decorative. Students will be guided as to how to conduct research in local collections and libraries and will produce a short contextually-oriented research paper on an art or design object or an artist or designer based on first-hand access to the object, artist, designer and archives.

Introduction To Visual Culture

Code
FHCA 0340
Description

This interdisciplinary course explores the rise of visual media, communication and information, within the context of a broad cultural shift away from the verbal and textual toward the visual, which has taken place since the advent of photography and cinema in the late 19th century, through the birth of television, to the present proliferation of digital media worldwide. We will consider the critical practices of looking, historicizing and interpreting that have accompanied this ‘visual turn’. Our readings will primarily address the theoretical foundations of the study of visual culture, which is understood to incorporate a variety of visual media and visual technologies: painting and sculpture, scientific imagery, material culture, the internet. If everything can be visual culture, what remains of traditional notions of medium specificity? What critical tools must be invented to analyze visual events from a visual cultural perspective? The relationship between the visual arts and visual media, especially with respect to the ‘global’ contemporary visual landscape, will be a focus of this course.

Modernity & Modernisms

Code
FHCA 0221
Description

If modernity can be understood as the distinctive set social, political, economic, and technological conditions that both shape and respond to the needs of a new form of human existence and that begin to emerge in the late 18th century, then modernism can be taken as critical literary, artistic, and architectural responses to those conditions and their consequences. The responses are therefore plural, and as such, we must speak of modernisms, some of which celebrate and make use of the advances offered by modernity, while others call them into question. This course will inquire into the distinctive features that characterize modernity and explore the various aesthetic responses to them in tune with technological advances such as photography and film.

Photography Since 1960

Code
FHCA 0303
Description

This course is an introduction to the history of photography from the 1960s up to the recent practices of photographers and artists working with photographic technologies in the context of postmodernity. It will explore a broad range of contemporary photographs from around the world. The primary task of the course will be to familiarize the student with the key figures in the photographic history and the artistic movements of the period. By doing this, we shall observe how the media increased and changed. Over the last three decades photography managed to become a fully recognized art form. It entered galleries, museums, libraries and private collections as a highly valuable object. The medium seems to have entered the realm of fine arts. We shall evaluate the relationship between photography and the visual arts in general. One of the key questions for analysis will concern the increasing permeability of boundaries between media. We will pay particular attention to the impact of digital technologies on the medium.

Photography Before 1960

Code
FHCA 0302
Description

“The history of photography has been less a journey than a growth. Its movement has not been linear and consecutive, but centrifugal. Photography, and our understanding of it, has spread from a center; it has, by infusion, penetrated our consciousness. Like an organism, photography was born whole. It is in our progressive discovery of it that its history lies.” John Szarkoswki, who directed the New York MOMA photography department from 1962 until 1991, concluded in 1966 his introduction to “The Photographers’ Eye” with this paragraph. Confirmed by time in its forward looking accuracy, it also hints at the ambition involved in any survey of photography since 1960. This course will nonetheless take on the challenge, using an approach combining chronology and themes. Extensive focus will be placed on looking at photographs.

Pop & Around

Code
FHCA 0222
Description

The industrial revolution made new forms of technology and mass communication possible, allowing not only for the mechanical reproduction of the image and its circulation on a large scale, but also new materials, new processes, and new media. These developments have had a decisive impact on visual culture, on aesthetic categories, and on the status of the image. The aesthetic revolution began in Montmartre in the 1880s, reached a climax in SoHo in the 1960s, and continues to shape visual culture and aesthetic debates today. What status does the image have? What is the difference between a Brillo box produced by industrial means and one produced by Andy Warhol? Does a distinction between high art and kitsch still matter in the age of Pop? How have the transformations in visual and material culture affected the productive activity of artists, or conversely, how does artists’ activity take up and critically remark upon these transformations? How has the Pop aesthetic translated and transmuted in contemporary global culture? These are the kinds of questions that this course will explore.

Primitivism Revisted

Code
FHCA 0224
Description

While searching for alternative styles and means of expression, modern artists were attracted to the unusual and exotic. Both pre-historic art, early ancient, and “primitive” art (the traditional indigenous products of Africa, Oceania and North America) penetrated the western artistic world and had a determining impact on the aesthetic of the 20th century. The purpose of the course is to contextualize and analyze art and architecture from these cultures, and to describe their afterlife in modernist production. It will also describe the social changes associated with this attraction to “primitive” art forms. Key aesthetic discourses of the period will be articulated, offering crucial insight into the complex and always changing nexus between culture, politics and representation. The course will include field trips to the antiquities collections at the Louvre, to Musée du Quai Branly, and the Centre Pompidou to examine both primitive and ancient objects and images together. Students will be exposed to art historical and post-colonial critiques of the appropriation of past forms and the complex visual and ideological implications of the wholesale designation of cultures as “other”.

Senior Seminar

Code
FHCA 0402
Description

The Senior Seminar alternates between combined collective seminar and individual tutroials with senior theis advisors. Students develop and produce research for the written student thesis on a topic relevant to art history, theory and critisism, which may include a practice component if relevant to their art historical thesis topic and a public presentation of their thesis topic during the end of year show.