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Please see PennIntouch for VLST course offerings during the Spring 2016 Semester. 

We are busy working to connect this page to our database of course offerings in the very near future. 




Attention: VLST 101 and 103 are offered this semester and those interested in the Visual Studies major or newly declared are highly recommended to take these as VLST 102 is the only Stage 1 Core Course (C) offered in Fall 2015.


VLST 101. Eye, Mind, and Image.  

001 LEC TR 10:30-12:00noon | Hatfield/Leja. 

Recitation Required.

201 REC F 10-11am

202 REC F 11-12noon 

203 REC F 12-1pm 

204 REC F 1-2pm

205 REC F 1-2pm

206 REC F 2-3pm


May be counted toward the Hum/SocSci or NatSci/Math Sectors. Also fulfills General Education in Sectors IV (Humanities and Social Sciences) and VII (Natural Science and Mathematics) for Class of 2010 and beyond. 


Visual Studies 101 provides an introduction to a variety of approaches to understanding the nature of seeing, with attention to its physiological, environmental and cultural bases. The course compares and contrasts how artists, art historians, philosophers, and scientists consider the same broad set of issues. It is typically co-taught by two faculty whose expertise represents two of these different approaches, and whose lectures make explicit connections between different styles of intellectual endeavor. In this sense, the course is a microcosm of the visual studies major. 

The topics include - The eye, light and visual system, including both our modern understanding and a discussion of how this understanding developed over time. - The eye and culture, with particular emphasis on artistic depictions and concepts of the role of vision in society. - How perceptual abilities are measured in the lab, and the relationship between seeing and measurement and science. Perception and depiction of scenes, including depth, color, and motion. - How culture endows visual attributes (e.g. color) with meaning. - Depicting the body; seeing the self. - Visual memory and visual cognition. - Philosophy of seeing and science. What does it mean to see? How do we know what we see? Is seeing believing? 


VLST 103. 3 Dimensions: Time and Space.  

001 STU MW 10:00-1:00pm | Freedman/Neighbor 

Counts toward Stage 1 or 2 of the VLST major requirements. 


This course will cover the basic concepts of three dimensional design and sculpture such as volume and mass, scale, materiality, form and meaning, context, organic vs. geometric, etc. Students will also be introduced to more contemporary areas of artmaking such as conceptual art, installation, and video and other time based arts. Projects will use both traditional sculptural materials as well as some "non-art" materials. 




For Visual Studies majors or those considering a Visual Studies major, please use either the VLST or non-VLST (PSYC, PHIL, FNAR) number to enroll. Both will be counted the same. 


VLST 301. What is Visual Studies?  

301 SEM R 1:30-4:30pm | Berkowitz.

Prerequisite(s): VLST 101 or Instructor Permission. For VLST Majors, Junior year.


Visual Studies 301 is a seminar-format course that challenges students to develop independent ideas about how the eye, the mind and the image that is created therein, all work together to inform our conception of the world at large. Rather than present a unified viewpoint, the course asks the question, "What is visual studies?" by examining parallel and sometimes antagonistic approaches to the ways that human beings understand sight and the concept of visuality. Over the course of the semester, students will discuss and write about various approaches to vision, examining this contested field through the lenses of several disciplines -- including psychology, philosophy, and art history. By parsing and assimilating diverse ideas, students will decide for themselves what are the most pertinent and relevant approaches to the various avenues of research that present themselves in the emerging interdisciplinary field of Visual Studies. 


Sector A:


VLST 223/PHIL 223. Philosophy and Visual Perception: Hallucinations, Illusions, and Knowledge. 

401 SEM MW 2:00-3:30pm | Connolly 

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector A) major requirements.


It seems, at first glance, that vision puts us into direct contact with reality. At the same time, we know that at least some of our visual experiences are illusory or hallucinatory. Such cases are in fact quite widespread in our ordinary lives (as we will see in this course). In these cases, however, vision almost always fails to match reality. Given this, how can we trust vision? Does it give us direct contact to reality, or are our visual experiences instead more like a “veil” between us and the real world? In this course we will explore different philosophical theories of perception that try to make sense of what vision is in a way that also accounts for illusions and hallucinations. To better understand and evaluate these theories, we will spend some time exploring different kinds of illusions and hallucinations in detail. Towards the end of the course, we will turn to successful cases of vision. In particular we will focus on cases of visual expertise, where experts train their visual systems in ways that better yield knowledge in a particular domain. Some readings for the course will be posted on Canvas, while others will be drawn from the required course reader, Philosophy of Perception: A Contemporary Introduction, by William Fish.


VLST 212/PSYC 311. Research Experience in Perception. 

401 SEM TR 10:30-12:00am | Rust. 

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector A) major requirements.


In this research course, students will begin by first replicating earlier experiments to measure human visual memory capacity. After several class discussions to discuss ideas, each student will design and conduct their own experiment to further investigate visual and/or familiarity memory.


Sector B:  


VLST 303. The Rise of Image Culture. 

301 SEM W 2-5pm | Jung

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector B) major requirements.


Images are ubiquitous in the cultural life of the 21st century, yet only two centries ago they were rare. When and how did pictures come to permeate daily life? How has ordinary experience--psychological, social, cultural, intellectual--changed as a result? This seminar addresses these questions through close reading of influential historical and theoretical writings about the rise of image culture and its effects, including Benjamin, Debord, McLahan, Mitchell.


ARTH 102. Renaissance to Contemporary Art. 

401 LEC TR 12-1:30pm | Dombrowski/Kim. 

Recitation Required.

402 REC T 9:30-10:30am406 REC F 11-12noon

403 REC T 10:30-11:30am407 REC F 12-1pm

404 REC R 2-3pm408 REC T 10:30-11:30am

405 REC R 3-4pm409 REC F 1-2pm

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector B) major requirements.


This course is an introduction to the visual arts including painting, sculpture, print culture, and new media such as photography, film, performance and installation art in Europe and the United States from 1400 to the present. It offers a broad historical overview of the key movements and the artists of the period, as well as an investigation into the crucial themes and contexts that mark visual art production after the middle ages. Such themes include the secularization of art; the (gendered) role of the artist in society; the sites of art production and consumption such as the artist's studio, the royal courts and the art exhibition; the materials of art; the import of technology and science to art's making, content and distribution; the rise of art criticism; and the socio-political contexts of patronage and audience; among others.


VLST 236/ARTH 294. Art Now. 

401 LEC MW 10-11am | Silverman. 

Recitation Required.  

402 REC R 11-12noon

403 REC R 12-1pm

404 REC F 11-12noon

405 REC F 12-1pm

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector B) major requirements.


One of the most striking features of today's art world is the conspicuous place occupied in it by the photographic image. Large-scale color photographs and time-based installations and projections are everywhere. Looking back, we can see that much of the art making of the past 60 years has also been defined by this medium, regardless of the form it takes. Photographic images have inspired countless paintings, appeared in combines and installations, morphed into sculptures, drawings and performances, and served both as the object and the vehicle of institutional critique. They are also an increasingly important exhibition site: where most of us go to see earthworks, happenings and body-art. This course is a three-part exploration of our photographic present.




VLST 250/FNAR 250. Introduction to Printmaking. 

401 STU TR 1:30-4:30pm | Blumthal

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector C) major requirements.


The course offers an introduction to several forms of printmaking including: intaglio, screen printing, relief, and monoprinting. Through in-class demonstrations students are introduced to various approaches to making and printing in each medium. The course enhances a student's capacity for developing images through two-dimensional design and conceptual processes. Technical and conceptual skills are developed through discussions and critiques.


VLST 251/FNAR 271. Introduction to Photography. 

401 STU M 5-8pm | Rodewald

403 STU R 1:30-4:30pm | Martinez 

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector C) major requirements.


This course is an introduction to the basic processes and techniques of black & white photography. Students will learn how to expose and process 35mm film, SLR camera operation, darkroom procedures & printing, basic lighting and controlled applications. It begins with an emphasis on understanding and mastering technical procedures and evolves into an investigation of the creative and expressive possibilities of making images. This is a project-based course, where students will begin to develop their personal vision, their understanding of aesthetic issues and photographic history. Assignments, ideas and important examples of contemporary art will be presented via a series of slide lectures, critiques and discussion. No previous experience necessary. 35mm SLR cameras will be available throughout the semester for reservation and checkout from the photography equipment room.


VLST 252/FNAR 145. Sculpture Practices. 

401 STU W 2-5pm | Bendtsen

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector C) major requirements. 


As an introduction to traditional and contemporary three-dimensional practice, this course is concerned with the concepts and methodologies surrounding three-dimensional art making in our time. Students experiment with a variety of modes of production, and develop some of the fundamental techniques used in sculpture. In addition to these investigations, assignments relative to the history and social impact of these practices are reinforced through readings and group discussion. Processes covered include use of the Fab Lab, wood construction, clay, paper, mixed media, and more.


VLST 253/ FNAR 123. Drawing I 

401 STU MW 10-1pm | Neff

402 STU TR 9-12noon | Murphy

403 STU TR 1:30-4:30pm | Murphy

404 STU MW 2-5pm | Hornick

405 STU M 5-8:00pm | Blumthal

406 STU MW 5-8pm | Staff

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector C) major requirements. 


This course is designed to develop visual awareness and perceptual acuity through the process of drawing. Students learn to sharpen perceptual skills through observational drawing, and to explore the expressive potential of drawing. A variety of problems and media will be presented in order to familiarize students with various methods of working and ways of communicating ideas visually. Subject matter will include object study, still life, interior and exterior space, self-portrait and the figure. Different techniques and materials (charcoal, graphite, ink, collage) are explored in order to understand the relationship between means, material and concept. Critical thinking skills are developed through frequent class critiques and through the presentation of and research into historical and contemporary precedent in drawing.


VLST 260/FNAR 150. Photography Practices 

401 STU R 9-12noon | Wahl

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector C) major requirements. 


This course is an introduction to the basic principles, strategies and processes of photographic practice. It is designed to broaden the student's aesthetic explorations and to help the student develop a visual language based on cross-disciplinary artistic practice. Through a series of projects and exercises students will be exposed to a range of camera formats, techniques and encouraged to experiment with the multiple modes and roles of photography - both analogue and digital. Attention will also be given to developing an understanding of critical aesthetic and historical issues in photography. Students will examine a range of historical and contemporary photowork as an essential part of understanding the possibilities of image making.


VLST 261/FNAR 061. Video I

401 SEM M 1-4pm | Novack

402 SEM W 10-1pm | Van Cleve

404 SEM T 1:30-4:30pm | Hayes

405 SEM W 1:30-4:30pm | Howzell

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector C) major requirements.


This course provides students with the introductory skills and concepts related to producing short works that explore the language of the moving image. Students will learn the basics of cinematography and editing through a series of assignments designed to facilitate the use of the medium for artistic inquiry, cultural expression and narrative storytelling, through both individual and group projects. 


VLST 264/FNAR 264. Art, Design and Digital Culture 

401 STU MW 10:00-1:00pm | Reifsnyder

402 STU MW 4-7pm | Rivkin

403 STU TR 5-8pm | Fledderman

404 STU MW 7-10pm | Rivkin

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector C) major requirements.


This course is an introduction to the fundamental perception, representation, aesthetics, and design that shape today's visual culture. It addresses the way artists and designers create images; design with analog and digital tools; communicate, exchange, and express meaning over broad range of media; and find their voices within the fabric of contemporary art, design, and visual culture. Emphasis is placed on building an extended form of visual literacy by studying and making images using a variety of representation techniques; learning to organize and structure two-dimensional and three-dimensional space, and designing with time-based and procedural media. Students learn to develop an individual style of idea-generation, experimentation, iteration, and critique as part of their creative and critical responses to visual culture. 


VLST 265/FNAR 340. Digital Photography 

401 STU M 10-1pm | Bryant

402 STU M 1-4pm | Neighbor

403 STU T 5-8pm | Rodewald

404 STU T 10-1pm | Martinez

405 STU W 10-1pm | Ward

406 STU W 2-5pm | Diamond

407 STU T 2-5pm | Martinez

408 STU W 5-8pm | Diamond

409 STU R 1-4pm | Wahl

410 STU F 1-4pm | Ward

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2 or 3, Sector C) major requirements.


This class offers an in-depth technical and conceptual foundation in digital imagery and the opportunity to explore the creative, expressive possibilities of photography. Students will become proficient with the basic use of the camera, techniques of digital capture, color management and color correction. They will also develop competency in scanning, retouching, printing and a variety of manipulation techniques in Photoshop. Through weekly lectures and critiques, students will become familiar with some of the most critical issues of representation, consider examples from photo history, analyze the impact of new technologies and social media. With an emphasis on structured shooting assignments, students are encouraged to experiment, expand their visual vocabulary while refining their technical skills. No previous experience is necessary. Although it is beneficial for students to have their own Digital SLR camera, registered students may reserve and checkout Digital SLR cameras and other high-end equipment from the department. 


ARCH102. Introduction to Design 

001 LEC R 9-10:30am | Staff

Recitation Required.  

201 REC TR 9:00-10:30am203 REC TR 3-4:30pm

202 REC TR 10:30-12noon204 REC TR 4:30-6pm

This course may be applied to Visual Studies (Stage 2, Sector C) major requirements for students in the ArchPT track only. 


An exploration of the design process utilizing drawing and model-making techniques. Skills of representation and fabrication are introduced in the context of the development of each student's capacity to observe, interpret, and translate design concepts into physical form. The course includes a weekly lecture and a biweekly studio component.




Stage 3 course selections in your sector of concentration should be made in consultation with your Sector Adviser and approved by the Visual Studies Program Director. These course selections are meant to create specialized depth in the chosen area of concentration to complement the breadth offered by the core curriculum. Many of the courses offered but not completed in Stage 2 may be applied to Stage 3, but many courses without VLST cross-listings are also options. 


Sector A: Courses in Philosophy, Psychology, and Cognitive Science that have a significant portion of the course related to perception


Sector B: Courses in Cinema Studies, History of Art and Visual Culture (perhaps even in Communications)


Sector C: Courses in Fine Arts and Architecture offered through the School of Design and other design courses



VLST 395. Senior Project. (E) 

301 SEM T 3-4:30pm | Freedman/Verstegen. 

Prerequisite(s): Permission of Instructor Required. 


VLST 399. Independent Study



VLST 599. Independent Study