About the Major
The discipline of art history is object-based cultural history. It is founded on the premise that artifacts embody, reflect, and shape the beliefs and values of the persons who made, commissioned, and used them. Unlike exclusively text-based historical disciplines, art history documents and interprets changes in human society by taking works of art and other objects of material culture as its primary sources. But since these objects can only be fully understood within the social, economic, political, and religious contexts in which they were produced and used, art history further requires the critical analysis and interpretation of other historical sources to illuminate these contexts. These other sources can include written texts, archival documents, archaeology, and oral history, as well as other art forms such as music and dance. art history, therefore, is inherently interdisciplinary.
By the end of the sophomore year, a prospective major should plan to have taken one 100-level introductory course and at least two other courses in art history. For admission to the major, the student must have at least a B average in courses taken in art history and a B average overall.
To complete the major in art history, you must:
- Take one introductory course (numbered 100-199) and 9 courses numbered 200 or above. The nine upper-level courses must include at least two seminars (numbered 300-399). (N.B. Tutorials for honors essays and theses—403, 404, 409, and 410—do not count toward the nine required courses.)
- Satisfy the requirements for your area of concentration. The art history major offers two distinct areas of concentration:
- Concentration in the history of European, American, or African art. For this concentration, the nine upper-level courses must include at least one course in each of the four historical periods–classical, medieval, Renaissance/Baroque, and modern–and at least one course in the areas of either African or Asian art.
- Concentration in the history of Asian art. For this concentration, the nine upper-level courses must include five Asian art history courses–one of which must be a seminar–and at least one course in the European, American, or African traditions.
Additional recommendations. All art history majors are strongly urged to take at least one course in archaeology as part of the major. Students who concentrate in the history of Asian art are strongly urged to take at least one course outside the department dealing with the history or culture of premodern Asia.
One or two of the required nine upper-level courses may be relevant courses taught at Wesleyan outside the art history program in such departments as History, Religion, Classics, or Anthropology. These courses must be preapproved by your major advisor.
All study abroad must be preapproved by the Office of International Studies (to receive Wesleyan credit) and by the student’s major advisor (to receive credit toward the major requirements). Study at other educational institutions in the United States must also be preapproved by the student’s major advisor. In both cases, transfer of major credit will be awarded only if the student submits a course description and /or syllabus in advance of taking the course.
The Honors Program in art history is designed to meet the needs of students who wish to pursue a long-term, scholarly research project in an area of particular interest. The research project takes the form of a yearlong senior thesis. Candidates for honors are required to earn a minimum GPA of B+ for their major course work and to be compliant with the University’s general education expectations (through Stage II). The senior thesis does not replace the two required seminar courses. Students wishing to consider an honors project must discuss their research interests with a member of the art history faculty and secure the professor’s agreement to serve as tutor for the project by the last day of classes of the student’s junior year. After consulting with the tutor, the student is expected to carry out preliminary research during the course of the summer and is required to submit a detailed proposal and preliminary bibliography for the project by the first day of classes of the fall term of the senior year. No one who fails to meet these minimum requirements will be allowed to pursue honors. The senior thesis courses for honors in the major are ARHA409 (fall) and ARHA410 (spring).
Senior theses must conform to the University’s general requirements and deadlines for honors in the senior year, as administered through the Honors Coordinator. Each year’s honors candidates will present 20-minute public talks based on their theses. These talks will normally be held in April of the senior year and will be developed in consultation with the students’ faculty tutors. For more information and an application form, see the document “Honors in Art History: Regulations and Procedures,” available in the department office.
A student who has completed an Advanced Placement Art History course or its equivalent while in secondary school and who has achieved a grade of 5 in the art history AP examination will be granted one AP course credit, but only after completing an intermediate-level course in art history at Wesleyan and receiving a grade of B+ or higher. Credit is not awarded for a score of less than 5. AP credit may not be counted toward the completion of major requirements.
Because English represents a minority language in art history, majors are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language. Proficiency is defined as a minimum of two full years of study at the college level, or the equivalent, as measured by a placement test administered by the language department in question. German, French, and Italian are normally considered the most valuable for study in the discipline. Students concentrating in the history of Asian art may use a relevant Asian language to satisfy the language requirement.
Alumni Prize in Art History: Awarded to a senior who has demonstrated special aptitude in the history of art and who has made a substantive contribution to the major.
Beulah Friedman Prize: This prize recognizes work of outstanding achievement by a student in the history of art. The prize is awarded to seniors.
John T. Paoletti Travel Research Fellowships in Art History: Funds are available to support student research and travel in the summer following the junior year that will result in a senior thesis project. Paoletti Research Travel Fellowships are intended for advanced students who have demonstrated a commitment to art historical study and a strong aptitude for writing and research.
A minimum of 5 courses within the major must be taken at Wesleyan. All study abroad must be preapproved by the Office of International Studies (to receive Wesleyan credit) and by the student’s major advisor (to receive credit toward the major requirements). Study at other educational institutions in the United States must also be preapproved by the student’s major advisor. In both cases, transfer of major credit will be awarded only if the student submits a course description and /or syllabus in advance of taking the course.
Students interested in pursuing museum internships may apply for education-in-the-field credit. To be approved, the internship must involve work that is the equivalent in intellectual content and rigor to a Wesleyan art history course, as demonstrated in substantive research and writing. Students are expected to provide a description of the project(s) they will be working on and the name of their supervisor who will coordinate the project with an on-campus advisor. Students also must provide examples of the work they did when they return to campus before credit is given. Note, too, that the University charges additional tuition for education-in-the field credits taken in the summer or while on an authorized leave of absence during the academic year.