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Art and Power I: Artistic Propaganda




Admission Requirements

This is a methodology course for the Political Arts Major and thus must be taken by students wishing to graduate with that major in 2015 or 2016. It can also be taken towards fulfilling the Global Citizenship component of the curriculum or as an elective course in the Human Interaction Major. There are no prerequisites for this course.


This first methodology course aims to lead students to understand various approaches to assess and research cultural practices and their critical and historical reception. We’ll do this by exploring two radically different historical and critical texts on the same subject: totalitarian art. The differences in precondition, and context between these texts, deliver their widely diverging critical appraisal of the same historical phenomenon. At the same time students will gain knowledge of some of the most radical cultural policies of the twentieth century, especially of Socialist Realism, as practiced in Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Course Objectives

By the end of our exploration, we should expect to achieve: *Profound knowledge of various methods for researching and assessing cultural practices. *A profound knowledge of systems of artistic propaganda *A serious understanding of Totalitarian Art, especially in Stalin’s Russia *A critical capacity for analysing various scholarly approaches to the historical phenomenon of Totalitarian Art

Mode of Instruction

There will be two approximately 2-hour sessions per regular week, organised into a balance of seminar instruction, discussions, student-presentations, and guest lectures.

A blackboard site will support our in-class discussion. Do check our course site regularly for up-to-date reading assignments, multi-media material, and announcements. For further details of how the course will proceed, see sections below on “Assessment” and “Weekly overview”.


To be confirmed in course syllabus:

  • Seminar participation: 20%
    Continuous assessment of your individual engagement with the course material and with the thoughts of your peers throughout the course.

  • Reflection papers: 30%
    Regular assessment of the progress of your understanding of the course objectives, through five short reflections of 500 – 600 words spread over the material and activities covered in Weeks 2 – 6. You will be graded on this cumulative portfolio of 2500 – 3000 words over this period.

  • Take Home Exam: 20%, deadline week 4

  • Final Research Essay, 30%, deadline: week 8


Igor Golomstock, Totalitarian Art, New York: Overlook Duckworth 2011 (the earlier 1990 edition is also ok).

Boris Groys, The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond. transl. [from the Russ.] by Charles Rougle, Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1992

RECOMMENDED READING: Martin Hammersley, Methodology: Who Needs It?: Sage, 2011

All other literature will be made available through Blackboard

Contact Information

Preparation for first session

Read the first two chapters of Golomstock’s book. You will be asked to summarize and analyze a designated part of these first two chapters and present this in a 10 min session in the seminar. Please check Blackboard at least two weeks before the start of the seminar, to know what part is designated to you.