american art

from the colonial period to world war two


Your grade will be computed using the following components (no extra credit):  

exam 1 30%; exam 2 30%; two in-class presentations 5% each

museum paper 1 10%; museum paper 2 15%; attendance and participation 5%

Grading Rubric

For essays in papers and responses to exam questions, here is a general guide to what constitutes an A, B, C, D, and F, with + and - (plus and minus) used for more nuanced evaluation as appropriate.  

An 'A' paper or essay must be excellent, meaning that it does not just competently fulfill the assignment or answer the question: it must also be well-written, clearly organized, perceptive, thoughtful, and demonstrate complete mastery of the relevant material taught in class -- and ideally moments of significant insight beyond what was taught in class.

A 'B' paper or essay is good, meaning that it fulfills the assignment and demonstrates a solid knowledge of the relevant material taught in class, but it may fail to achieve the thoroughness and clarity of an A paper; or it may be excellent in part but fail to address some relevant aspect of the question or artwork(s) under consideration.

A 'C' paper or essay is OK.  It basically fulfills the assignment and demonstrates some relevant course-acquired knowledge, but it will have some significant problems, such as insufficient analysis of the work(s) in question, omissions or misunderstandings of important concepts, incomplete development of ideas, and/or poor writing (particularly with regard to lack of thesis or poor organization) that makes the ideas expressed difficult to understand.

A 'D' paper or essay  must still address the assignment and contain at least some relevant points, but it will do so in an unsatisfactory manner; for example by being conspicuously short of the assigned length or extremely poorly written; and/or by neglecting to address major aspects of the assignment, use important course-related concepts, and/or analyze significant features the work(s) under consideration.

An 'F' paper or essay (here meaning a grade where around one-third to one-half credit is assessed, rather than a zero) is given when an attempt at a response is handed in, but there is little to no engagement with the assigned question or topic, and/or little to no use of the relevant concepts or skills taught in class.

A zero on a paper or essay is given when there is either no attempt to complete the assignment (no answer given or no paper handed in), or when that engagement clearly has no relevance to the assignment, the work(s) under consideration, or the concepts and skills taught in class.  A zero is also given for plagiarism (see below, 'Academic Misconduct'), in which case it is also reported to the Academic Misconduct Committee.


Most students find that attending class and taking good notes is crucial to performing well in the course.  To encourage you to do so, attendance and participation (see below) are worth 5% of your grade.  Exactly how I determine that portion will be somewhat flexible, but you can’t go wrong by coming to class every day, being on time, being attentive, and participating actively in discussions.  I realize that there may be a time when you cannot avoid missing class, so you may be absent one time without penalty.  Save it for when you really, really need it, though.  Purely nominal attendance (persistently coming late, leaving early, using electronic devices during class time, and so on) will result in deduction from the attendance and participation portion of your grade.

FAQs about attendance:

     If you already know the material or can learn it on your own, it is mathematically possible to pass without ever coming to class.  But it’s very unlikely, and I strongly encourage you to come regularly at least through the first exam so you can make an informed assessment of whether attendance is necessary for you.

     If you have some kind of official document that explains your absence, I’ll be glad to make a note of it.  However, professors are not allowed to ask for documentation of absences since that may violate student privacy.  In general I assume that you will not miss class without a good reason like an illness or a family emergency, and your ‘free’ absence is there to cover exactly such a circumstance.  Again, save it for when you really need it.  More than two absences will result in a zero for attendance and participation.

     If really unusual circumstances or a chronic condition forces you to miss a large number of classes, you should contact the Office of Student Affairs (located at 73 Tremont Street, 12th floor, 617.573-8230,  If necessary, they will provide an accommodation letter to all of your professors.

     If you miss a class day, you are still responsible for whatever work was due that day (see below, ‘make-up exams’ and ‘late papers’), and for staying caught up.  The best way to stay caught up is to check the internet study guide for that topic, do the assigned readings, and get notes from someone in the class.  And of course don’t hesitate to come see me as well.

     Captain Obvious reminds you that attendance and participation are only worth 5% of your grade, so you won’t necessarily pass the class just because you attend regularly:  you will also need to do passing work on the papers and exams.


At a minimum, participation means coming on time, not leaving early, and being reasonably attentive during class (i.e. no twiddling on devices, doing other classes' homework, chatting with neighbors, napping, etc).  Participation also means contributing to discussions.  That does not necessarily mean saying brilliant things:  it can just as easily mean asking questions.  Don’t hesitate to interrupt me to ask me to clarify something, repeat something, or expand on something:  I will be glad to.  Your participation will make the course a lot more interesting not only for you, but also for me and for your fellow students.

Content Advisory

This course deals with some controversial or difficult subjects, such as religion, sexuality, race, and social class, including representations of the nude body and discussion of sexual, political, socio-economic, and religious ideas and practices that some students may disagree with or be uncomfortable with.  As we examine these topics, we should all remember to be respectful of each others’ beliefs and backgrounds, and we should keep the discussion anchored in an attempt to understand the contextual meanings and purposes of the works of art that we are covering.

Electronic devices in class

All electronic devices (including laptops, tablets, cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players, any audio or video recording devices, and so on) must be turned off and put away during class time.  If you have specific need to use an electronic device in class that is documented by the Dean’s Office or the Learning Center, please come talk to me in advance.


In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education set the definition of a 'credit hour' as entailing three hours of student engagement per week.  This means that a 4-credit course such as this one should entail a minimum of 12 hours per week of engaged learning.  Since we meet for 3 hours per week in the classroom, that means that you should expect to spend spend at least 9 hours per week outside of class meeting time on this course, including time spent doing the readings, analyzing the illustrated works, preparing for class beforehand, organizing your lecture notes afterwards, going to museums, writing the papers, studying for the exams, and so on.  (Note that this 9 hour per week outside of class is an average: the exact amount of time you spend will vary, of course:  more time in the weeks before an exam or before a paper is due; less time in 'off' weeks.)

Late assignments

If you have to miss a class when an assignment is due and you don’t want it to be counted as late, email the assignment (final text, not a draft) to me the day that it is due and bring a hard copy of it to the next class meeting.  Late assignments will be docked 3% for every day they are late, until the assignment is either emailed to me or turned in.  

All assignments must be turned in as hard copy to be graded:  I will not print out your paper for you -- no exceptions (everyone thinks they are the exception).  Emailing a paper to me only stops the accumulation of the late penalty:  you still need to turn in the hard copy before I will grade it.  

If you really have to miss a day when you are due to present, please let me know before class so I can prepare to cover for you -- but please try really hard not to miss class on a day when you are due to present.

Make-up exams

Because art history exams require special equipment and a proctor to administer, make-up exams will only be given under extraordinary circumstances, and only one make-up exam will be allowed per student per semester.  And make-up exams aren’t easy:  they consist of an 8-10 page take-home essay plus identifications of works from the study guide by artist, title, style, and date.  Most people prefer the in-class exams.

How you can get in touch with me

I would love to talk to you about the course material, how to do well on the exams and papers, what career paths are available to art history majors, the current roster and prospects of the New England Revolution, how to repair a 60s-70s VW Beetle, or anything else I may know anything about. My contact info and office hours are in the footer below.  Email is usually the fastest way to get in touch with me:  I check that several times a day, but might go for days without checking my voicemail, or even weeks or months during school vacations.  If my regular office hours don’t work I’m sure we can find a time when we are both free:  don’t hesitate to ask.

How I will get in touch with you

Occasionally during the semester I may need to get in touch with you; for example, if I need to notify you that we will not be holding class for some reason.  In such cases, I will use your email account, so be sure you check that account often or have your mail from that account forwarded to an account that you do check often.

Withdrawal policy  

September 25th is the last day students can withdraw from a course without receiving a grade of W. The course will be completely removed from the student's transcript. Students may do this online via MySuffolk.

November 2nd is the last day students can withdraw from a course (a W will be entered on your transcript). After this date, students may not withdraw from courses unless they have serious extenuating circumstances and documentation. Students should contact the Student Affairs Office (located at 73 Tremont Street, 12th floor, 617.573-8230, to learn more about requesting a late course withdrawal.

University-wide course policies

In addition to those described here and on the syllabus, this course adheres to policies and procedures that apply to all Suffolk courses with regard to disability accommodation, academic misconduct, academic grievance, attendance, and credit hour compliance.  A description of these policies can be found at the link  

Academic Misconduct

Suffolk University expects all students to be responsible individuals with high standards of conduct. Students are expected to practice ethical behavior in all learning environments and scenarios, including classrooms and laboratories, internships and practica, and study groups and academic teams. Cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, use of unauthorized electronic devices, self-plagiarism, fabrication or falsification of data, and other types of academic misconduct are treated as serious offenses that initiate a formal process of inquiry, one that may lead to disciplinary sanctions. Some cases of academic misconduct may be reviewed and resolved at the academic departmental level; other more egregious forms of academic misconduct necessitate a full review by the Academic Misconduct Committee (AMC).  For more on the Academic Misconduct policy and procedure, please follow the link above.

course policies