Undergraduate Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives for Undergraduates

Art History combines the study of art with the study of culture. Our curriculum emphasizes four main objectives of learning: understanding of core content and history of the discipline; broad familiarity with diverse subfields within the discipline; opportunities to apply classroom learning in real-life settings; and deeper thinking and research in one specific area of study. Undergraduates who pursue a degree in art history will be able:

  1. to demonstrate a familiarity with a wide range of artistic objects from both the Western and non-Western traditions.
  2. to analyze the formal qualities of a work of art and situate it in a variety of historical and social contexts.
  3. to develop persuasive arguments about works of art based on historical and formal evidence.
  4. to assess the importance of scholarly interpretations of art objects based on an understanding of both the specific histories of interpretation of that object and the broader methodological trends employed within the discipline.
  5. to cultivate, through exposure to a range of artistic objects and cultural traditions, a greater appreciation for and tolerance of diversity in today’s world.

Overview of the Undergraduate Program 

The major requirements in Art History are organized into three levels of courses, each designed to encompass major artistic traditions in history and around the world. In all three levels, students have the flexibility in designing their own program of study. For the Lower Division Curriculum, for example, they choose two courses from a set of six that comprise the general surveys on Western Art, Arts of Asia, and Arts of the Americas. One of these must be either Foundations of  Western Art  or Art and Society: Renaissance to Modern. For the Distribution Requirement, they take one course in each four out of five areas of study: Non-European Traditions, Modern and Contemporary Art, Greek and Roman Art and Archaeology, Renaissance and Baroque Art, and Medieval Art. A similar setup applies to the requirements in the Upper Division Curriculum. As the titles of these areas of study attest, the department encourages the majors to explore topics within the key epochs in the history of Euro-American art and within Non-European traditions in Asia and the Americans. In addition to learning the basic information about these traditions, the majors are also exposed to key issues and debates within the respective fields through their readings, writing assignments and in lectures. The developing awareness of the discipline’s history is further reinforced through the undergraduate proseminar (AHIS 494), a required course for all majors in which foundational texts in art history constitute the main subject of inquiry.

Studying Art History at USC 

Many Art History courses in both Lower Division and Distribution Requirement Levels promote a hands-on approach to the study of art and visual culture. Students are asked to write papers on objects in local art collections or use local archives for their research projects. In addition, the Undergraduate Apprenticeship program is a unique feature in the Art History major that allows the students to apply classroom learning in internships at local institutions. Every major is encouraged to find an opportunity on his or her own at an art museum, gallery, or research institute in the greater Los Angeles area, at which he or she could work in exchange for up to two academic units. As many of our majors and minors intend to pursue a future career in the arts, the apprenticeship offers the students a hands-on opportunity to test the water and explore their future plans.

The Art history undergraduate curriculum is designed to give majors enough flexibility to develop their own area of study. In addition to taking additional courses in any given area for the Distribution Requirement, students are also encouraged to carry out directed research projects under the supervision of one faculty member. This can be arranged to coincide with a trip overseas or as a part of a pre-approved Study Abroad program in which the student has the opportunity to study artifacts and monuments in-situ. By working closely with a faculty member in this way, students are well-prepared to become an independent researcher who can explore any given topic in a systematic, meaningful way. In fact, the students who take the initiative to carry out directed research often choose to enroll in graduate programs after college to pursue their intellectual interests.

Art History Undergraduate Student Association
The Art History Undergraduate Student Associationis the official organization of Art History majors and minors at USC, but it is open to any student with an interest in the arts. AHSA organizes visits to local museums and galleries, academic events, and informal luncheons with members of the Art History faculty.