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New Asian art history course to encourage global awareness

| Monday, November 19, 2018

Notre Dame will be offering its first-ever art history course focused on Asia during the spring semester.

The course, titled “Introduction to Arts of Asia: Materials, Processes, Contexts,” is being offered by the Liu Institute for Asian Studies and through the Keough School of Global Affairs. Thirty seats are assigned to the class, two of which are reserved for Asian Studies majors while the rest are open to students of all majors.

The course will be taught by visiting professorial specialist Fletcher Coleman. Coleman is a joint fellow at the Liu Institute and the Department of Art History who is expecting to receive a doctorate in art history from Harvard University in 2019. Coleman, who takes a strong interest in materials and production processes in art, said the art history course will emphasize these aspects of historical artifacts.

“We’ll be doing an introductory Asian art course, but unlike traditional chronologies that start from the early period and go era-by-era to the modern period, we’re going to be basing the course around modules on specific production processes related to particular historic epochs,” he said.

Each module will take roughly two weeks and consist of two opening lectures, a hands-on or close-looking session and a small group discussion. Coleman said he plans on inviting several speakers — including two specialists from China — and hosting a class trip to Chicago’s Art Institute to meet with the curator of Chinese Art. The curriculum will focus on the art of China and Japan, but will include discussion of the art of Korea and Central Asia, Coleman said.

“Anybody is welcome to join this course,” he said. “It requires no background in Asian studies or art history because part of what we’ll be doing, as we go along, is to more generally understand how the contexts and production of artwork reveal a lot about historical contexts. We’ll be learning together how to do close examination of artwork and develop our skills for writing generally about artwork.”

Coleman encouraged students to consider the course in terms of whether or not it aligns with their major.

“Things like close-looking and analysis and being able to write about more broadly what you see and encounter in the world is extremely important to many disciplines,” Coleman said. “I know, for example, medical schools often now look for students who have backgrounds in the visual arts because it can help them with, for example, diagnoses.”

According to its mission statement, the Liu Institute for Asian Studies was founded in 2011 to provide “a forum for integrated and multi-disciplinary research and teaching on Asia.” Director of the Liu Institute, Michel Hockx, said the new class is part of an effort to increase coverage of Asia in the humanities at Notre Dame.

“In the art history program there’s ten professors [and] only one of them, Professor Coleman, who’s just arrived, teaches about Asia,” Hockx said. “The history department has 43 faculty. Only seven teach about Asia. Thirty-three teach about Europe and America. That made sense maybe 20 or 30 years ago, but those things don’t make sense anymore. Asia’s such an important part of the world as a whole, and also so many of our students have links or roots in Asia, and so many of our students will end up working in Asia. It makes no sense anymore for what we focus on to be predominantly America and Europe. Therefore, it is part of our mission at the Liu Institute to try to encourage departments to start hiring faculty and focus on Asia.”

Asia is a large part of the world right now, Hockx said, so each student should have some awareness of global culture including Asia.

“Art is a wonderful way to study culture, but also to study history and religion,” Hockx said. “ … I think it’s a great opportunity for any Notre Dame student to learn something about the place that houses around 60 percent of the world population.”

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