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ARTHIST 4E03 Art/Visual Culture 1400-1750 (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Angela Sheng


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 425

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23156


Office Hours: Wednesdays, 1:30- 2:30 pm or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This seminar aims to familiarize students with critical readings on aspects of art and visual culture from 1400 to 1750 CE, mostly in China, from an interdisciplinary approach grounded in interculturality and shifting space into the era of Early Modern Globalization. This seminar will begin by exploring the concepts of Interculturality and Early Modern Globalization. Based on a few key exhibition catalogues, this seminar will explore the aesthetic and symbolic exchanges between China and other cultures in both the East and West.

By the end of the seminar, students should have acquired methodologies to assess works produced during this time period in cultural contexts and apply the methodologies to better understand works in both local and global contexts of other time periods and of other cultures.

Students should also have acquired the skills to collaborate and undertake independent research (using secondary sources), organize and present their findings in both written and verbal form.

Given the ever-increasing importance of China on the world stage now, this course will give students insights into how the Chinese views of the world are deeply rooted in earlier exchanges.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

There is not one single text that should be purchased as such. Catalogues and books that students will need to complete their assignments with are placed on reserve at Mills. The most frequently used text is Empire of Great Brightness (see below), which students can purchase new or second-hand online.

To save money, students are strongly advised to consult these reserved books and scan or photocopy sections per reading list in advance of each class.

Bailey, Gauvin Alexander. 1999. Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America, 1542-1774. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. N 7972 .B35 1999

Brook, Timothy. 2008. Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World. New York: Bloomsbury Press. CB 401 .B76 2008

Clunas, Criag. 1997. Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China. Princeton University Press. N 7343.5 .C6 1997B

Clunas, Craig. 2007. Empire of Great Brightness, Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China, 1368-1644 (University of Hawai’i Press). DS 753.2 .C58 2007

Sullivan, Michael. 1989. The Meeting of Eastern and Western art (University of California Press). N 7429 .S8

Additional required readings will be available on reserve at Mills Library or accessed online through JSTOR.

Highly recommended:

Barnet, Sylvan. 2015. A Short Guide to Writing About Art (Pearson Education).


Method of Assessment:

NOTE: students will have received at least 10% of the grade by November 9th, 2018.

Paper and Presentation 60%

  1. Topic, images, statement of interest, and preliminary bibliography, and a summary on Chinese painting methods based on assigned reading, due September 26, 10% (details to be discussed in first class on September 5, 2018)
  2. Outline with added bibliography, presented and due October 17, 10%
  3. Presentation, December 5, 20%
  4. Final Paper, due December 7, 2015, 20%

Class Participation 40%

  1. Critical summaries of weekly readings, 30%
  2. In-class discussion, 10%

    All written work is to be typed in font-size 12, double-spaced with a header that includes the student’s family name, number, and pagination.


    For all citations in the written reports, please consult Chicago Manual of Style

    Mills ONLINE Z253 .C53

    Summaries in point form but include text page numbers.

    To get A+ requires correct spelling and grammar on all written work.

    Grading Scale:

    A+ 90-100 B+  77-79        C+  67-69        D+       57-59

    A   85-89   B    73-76         C    63-66        D         53-56

    A-  80-84   B-   70-72        C-   60-62       D-       50-52

                                                                       F           0-49

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

No extensions without a timely medical certificate.


This course requires all students to participate in each and every seminar. If a student is suddenly taken ill or by a crisis, the student must notify the instructor by email as soon as possible, including the reading notes in point form, and request another student to present on his/her behalf.

The penalty for not presenting in one class is reduction from the 40% class participation: 4% of the final grade per class presentation.

The penalty for handing in an assignment late is subject to a discussion with the instructor.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Detailed reading list will be posted on Avenue.


September 5    Introduction: Interculturality and Early Modernity

Students sign up for topics to lead discussions.


September 12  Arts in China in 1400


September 19 Time, Space and Agency in Ming China


September 26 Cultures of Direction and Movement


October 3        Cultures of Text/ China and Europe


(October 10     TERM BREAK, NO CLASS)


October 17      The 17th Century and the Dawn of the Global World


October 24      Europe and China      


October 31      Image, Category and Knowledge


November 7    Pleasure, Play and Excess


November 14  Cultures of Violence


November 21  Ageing and Death


November 28  Afterlives




December 7     FINAL PAPER DUE, submit hard copy to SOTA Office, TSH414.



Other Course Information:

Reference materials will be on reserve at Mills. A detailed list will be posted on Avenue to Learn.

Depending on the progress of the class, topics and dates are subject to change and if so, the changes will be announced in class and on Avenue to Learn. Students are encouraged to contact the instructor as soon as they feel there is a problem with regard to understanding the material and working on the assignments.