European and American Modernism

European and American Modernism

Preliminary oral presentation (informal)

Write a discussion (about 8pp, typed and double-spaced) of one artwork in New York collections from the period 1900-1960. Your paper will consider one large question that your artwork raises for you, be it utopian projects, expressive artwork, the influence of non-Western art, etc. Your paper should be based on close visual analysis, should include at least one other artwork as basis for comparison, present at least 2 primary textual sources related to the issue, and give a summary of at least 2 differing scholarly views of that issue. It should include a bibliography of the primary and secondary materials that you used. Your paper as a whole will present an interpretation of some aspect of the meaning of the work that is grounded in historical evidence.

Your thesis should focus on how the issue you are is shaped by the artwork. Your body paragraphs should include a formal analysis that discusses the artwork as a whole concentrating on that aspect of the artwork you have singled out in your thesis. Here you tailor your description towards proving your argument. This artwork is your most important “primary source” and thus you will be explaining who made it, in what context, and what it is about. You will also include one other artwork that you refer to for contrast, which highlights either the continuity of the theme throughout the period, or else the specificity of your particular artwork.

You will also include discussion of textual primary sources that deepen the reader’s understanding of the context of the issue you are exploring.

You will also present two different interpretations drawn from secondary sources of your topic. More recent sources are generally more reliable than earlier ones. These need not be diametrically opposed views. You will summarize the views and discuss which view you find more convincing and why.

General Remarks

Use illustrations in your text.

Make sure your description (formal analysis) comes from your own observations – don’t cite the descriptions in secondary texts.

Define your terms.

Use lots of footnotes – tell the reader where you get your information. Make secondary points that don’t fit into your argument in the footnotes.

You will have lots of information – make sure to sort it into relevant categories. Don’t be afraid to leave things out – you are not presenting all the information known about this artwork, but instead arguing for one particular interpretation.

In choosing opposing secondary sources, remember that ALL scholarship has a point of view, and it is quite common to find differing takes on an artwork. One scholar might emphasize formal elements, another might argue that historical context is most important.

Research Guidelines

1) Write down the bibliographic information for every source you consult, even if you’re not sure whether you will actually use it. This saves time later on.

2) When taking notes, write down the page number on which you find each quotation or important piece of information. This will enable to you to create complete footnotes for quotations and key references.

3) Exercise caution when using the Internet. Limit your research to scholarly databases, major library and museum websites, and websites sponsored by reputable universities. Personal websites are not reliable enough for an academic project!

4) Use at least 10, but most likely more secondary sources (books or scholarly articles) to help you understand your topic. Encyclopedias do not count for this purpose, but you’re welcome to use them to help you get started. Your final paper must include a bibliography of these secondary sources as well as the primary sources. Again, aim for the most recent sources possible.

Where to find secondary material

The New School Library System including books from Parson’s, NYU, Cooper Union

Grove Art (also called Oxford Art) (Available both in text and electronic form)

JSTOR (searchable database of scholarly articles).

NYPL Humanities and Social Sciences Research Library (Fifth Ave at 42nd St.) (Links to an external site.) (CATNYP catalog)

These materials cannot be checked out; you must use them on-site.

NYPL Branch Libraries (Links to an external site.) (LEO catalog)

Branch library materials can be forwarded to your local branch library.

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