Writing is central to the discipline of art history. While images, objects, and structures have infinitely diverse origins and afterlives, writing about them gives shape and meaning in ways that can be shared, interpreted, debated, and preserved. As in so many pursuits and professions, in art history writing is an essential way of thinking.
All Art History courses at Georgetown include writing.
At the introductory (100-) level, these often include variations on the “formal analysis”: a concentrated, selective account of the prime visual characteristics of an individual work studied in person, not reproduction. This reveals how much writing can be a powerful tool not only of communication, but also of observation itself; one cannot effectively describe and analyze without taking time to see and think.
Courses at the intermediate (200-/300-) level typically include longer papers requiring deeper and broader analysis of art within historical contexts. Matters of production, patronage, functions, interpretation, markets, and much more come variously into play. While working with an array of sources (often combining primary texts and secondary scholarship), students are encouraged to research and write in ways that also recognize works of art themselves as primary sources ripe with information of many kinds.
In addition to papers and other formal writing assignments, most exams in courses at the introductory and intermediate levels include written components (comparisons, essays) that develop synthesis and critical analysis.
Advanced (400-) level courses in art history consist chiefly of seminars, which are dedicated to advanced, collaborative inquiry. Immersion in a topic (historical period, artist, theme, etc.) combines with sustained attention to methodology-the varied means and ends of research and writing within the discipline. With shorter papers cultivating analysis in any number of concentrated directions, most seminars culminate in a term paper developed from several weeks or more of research, discussion, revision, oral presentation, and final writing.
The Integrated Writing Requirement for Art History majors is fulfilled by their completion of three courses at the advanced level.