Self-Fashioning and American Portraiture, from 1700 through the Advent of Photography


Fall 2010


4th Floor Classroom


David Jaffee,

Kevin Murphy

This seminar will consider the role of portraiture in the construction of the self from the early colonial period through the mid-nineteenth century when photography usurped, to some extent, painting as the medium of choice for representing the human figure.  We will consider a broad range of portraits, from folk painting to academic and Grand Manner efforts, in a variety of material and visual forms, but all under the rubric of self-fashioning.  The seminar will look at early photographic media—including daguerreotypes, tintypes, cartes-de-visite, and others-- that became popular methods for constructing and recording individual identities.  Diverse readings in art history, material culture, and American studies will ground the seminar discussions, as will one or more visits to New York museum collections with substantial portrait holdings.  Requirements: regular attendance, participation in seminar, two short papers, and a final project (digital exhibition option). 3 credits. (Note: The meeting time and place of the seminar will alternate between the CUNY Graduate Center and the BGC.)