Mellon MA

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Mellon MA


The Research Forum / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation MA proposes to foster integrated interdisciplinary exchange through the collaboration of scholars teaching a course closely based on their research interests. The collaboration will allow for the exposition and transmission of different methods and approaches. The Research Forum/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation MA Special Option courses are co-taught by Courtauld teachers with specially appointed Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Visiting Professors.

Traditions in scholarship are thoroughly embedded in traditions of teaching. By teaching together, the scholars involved will have occasion to closely scrutinize their own definitions as to how knowledge is structured and transmitted and to test methods of exposition against each other. Given the amount of writing demanded of Courtauld MA students and the close supervision of their projects, students will not only be exposed to new material and ideas, but will be expected to practice different forms of study and expression.

The goal of the programme is to enable a deep level of interaction. The project further enables the research of the collaborating scholars by relieving them of other teaching duties. Additionally, the appointment of a Postdoctoral Fellow as an affiliate of the course with the responsibility of assembling an annotated course bibliography or bibliographic database to be published on this website, will add both to the research profile and to the impact of the programme. The Fellow teaches one course, which represents a training opportunity for the Fellow as well as supporting the seconding of the Courtauld teacher to the Forum MA. The appointment of one or two teaching assistants in association with the course, also necessary to the seconding of the Courtauld teacher, will further expand the involvement of younger scholars in the project.

The Visiting Professors will also participate in other research seminars, and present their work in public lectures and seminars.

For more information about these courses, please see relevant links on the MA Special Options page.

Andrew W Mellon Foundation / Research Forum Mellon M.A. programme reports archive.

Previous Programmes




2014-15: Documenting Fashion: Modernity, Films and Image in America and Europe, 1920-45

Taught by Rebecca Arnold and Heather Norris Nicholson

Focusing on the role of non-fiction film and documentary photography as a source for fashion, dress and body, the Mellon MA for 2013-14 sought to reevaluate the visual history of this key period. By starting from images of the ‘everyday,’ that show dress as it was actually worn, we can begin to consider the impact of developments in film and photography on fashion. This connects with fashion’s representation in magazines, including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and the work of designers and manufacturers, such as Claire McCardell and Jaeger. The course, based on a collaboration between a fashion historian and an expert on non-fiction film, comprised a unique analysis of American and European identity during the interwar and war period.

Non-fiction film, including home movies, documentary footage and newsreels, represents a rich and exciting resource for fashion history, especially when looked at alongside contemporary photography. It reveals the relationship between sight and touch and connects to memories and sensations beyond the visual. It also exposes movement, gesture and styling and enables us to question how the availability of such imagery impacts on fashion.

The film amateur confounds traditional notions of authorship, audience and agency. A growing interest in amateur filmmaking and photography, as historical record and aesthetic practice, is reflected in both new scholarship and the work of archives. Drawing on this material, the course explored the ways in which new technologies have been used to document private and public experiences of daily life. We will consider how developments in equipment, film stock and the use of colour have all shaped filmmaking practice, in terms of access, mobility, and also notions of realism and spectacle.

Case studies were used to consider relationships between looking, seeing and being – as evidenced through the links between and developments in readymade clothes, photography and non-fiction film. We will discuss what these media forms tell us about people’s perceptions of themselves and others, and how clothing can construct and alter appearance.

The course will analyse how these images connect to body image, identity, ways of seeing, and modernity.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation MAs are innovative Options in which a visiting scholar from another discipline enters into dialogue with a member of the faculty at The Courtauld Institute of Art. They are offered for only one year. This particular Mellon MA course focussed on America and Europe as sites of rapid developments in non-fiction film, documentary photography, picture-based magazines and readymade clothes during a period of flux – 1920-1945. Extensive online resources were combined with visits to museums and archives, such as the V&A and BFI, to study key examples first hand.

Mellon MA 2012-13: Visualising Knowledge in the Early Modern Netherlands c.1550-1730

Taught by Dr Joanna Woodall and Dr Eric Jorink

The Southern Netherlands and later the Dutch Republic were not only famous for their art production, but at the centre of the fundamental reconfigurations of knowledge that took place in Europe during the early modern period. Cities such as Antwerp, Leiden and later Amsterdam were ‘hubs’ attracting merchants, printers, artists and scholars from all over Europe.  Old as well as new models for knowledge were not only debated but also made visible and even made tactile. Moreover, it was in the Dutch Republic that the revolutionary philosophy of René Descartes was conceived and first published. This course will be particularly concerned with the role of visuality and visual materials in these exciting developments.

This Mellon option for 2012-13 explored the fascinating questions of what knowledge was in the early modern period, and how its foundations were shifting. While some artists were engaged in representing the Garden of Eden, the Ark or the Temple on paper and canvas or in wood as a model of knowledge, others became fascinated by the influx of unknown information for the East and West Indies and other parts of the world. Illustrations – schemes, abstractions, or images done after life – played an increasing role in the debate about the New Philosophy. Rembrandt’s Anatomy lesson of Dr Tulp was one of the many paintings in which knowledge was questioned and constructed, as were Vermeer’s Cartographer and Astronomer. Cabinets of curiosities – by far the richest in Europe – were productive sites of knowledge, where words and things were connected, often displaying previously unknown naturalia andartificialia. Another major theme was be the changing relationship between visual materials and the authority with which they were invested. Rather than separating ‘works of art’ from ‘scientific’ illustrations and materials, the course will encompass paintings, drawings and prints by canonical artists alongside, for example, the illustrations to Descartes’ Discours, original drawings by Maria Sibylla Merian and even anatomical preparations.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation MAs are Options in which a visiting scholar from another discipline enters into dialogue with a member of the faculty at the Courtauld Institute. They are offered for only one year. Dr. Eric Jorink is an expert on Dutch scientific culture of the early modern era. He is Researcher at the Huygens Institute for Netherlands History (Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences) in The Hague and the author of Reading the Book of Nature in the Dutch Golden Age, 1575-1715 (Brill 2010).

2011-12: Art and Psychoanalysis: Fifty Years of War in the Time of Peace, 1960-2010

Taught by Prof Mignon Nixon with Prof Juliet Mitchell

This course was conceived as a dialogue between art and psychoanalysis on questions of war protest. It focuses on art produced in response to American wars in the period after the Second World War, heralded as a time of sustained peace and prosperity after two world wars fought with the declared aim “to end all war.” Often, the wars in question—in particular the Vietnam War, the first and second Gulf Wars, and the Afghanistan War—have been portrayed as military interventions intended to preserve or restore this “post-war” condition of peace. Psychoanalysis was used to reflect upon artistic resistance to “wars of peace.” Our proposition will be that artistic responses to these war situations work to expose the unspoken, or even unconscious, motivations for war in the name of peace, and to galvanize social awareness, or raise consciousness, about the underlying trends in this mode of imperial aggression.

The course began by looking briefly at the idea of “post-war” art, a category that persists in art-historical scholarship today, and at the cultural fantasies, and corresponding repressions, that shaped this period in art—for example, the liberatory rhetoric of “expressionism” and the stereotype of the “happy housewife,” later interrogated by Betty Friedan. Louise Bourgeois was a key figure for this discussion.  Another central question for this part of the course was the extent to which post-war ideals are predicated on the repression of guilt and mourning. Noting, for example, that 2010 was the first year the United States government sent an official representative to the commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, we will consider art works, some produced recently, which examine historical amnesia of this event.

The course focussed closely on art produced in opposition to the Vietnam War. Nancy Spero’s War Series (1966-1970) and Martha Rosler’s Bringing the War Home project (1967-1972) offer primary instances of anti-war work. We also looked at work that eschews violent imagery in favour of promoting peace. The performance works of Yoko Ono and Yayoi Kusama are pivotal in this regard. Among other projects to be explored in this part of the course are works by Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, May Stevens, and such groups as the Art Workers’ Coalition and Women Artists in Revolution. The role of an emergent feminism in shaping war resistance will be a significant theme.

The course also considered recent artistic interventions in war discourse, for example, Silvia Kolbowski’s After Hiroshima Mon Amour (2008) and Rosalyn Deutsche’s critical study Hiroshima After Iraq (2010). The role of women in the military, as investigated in relation to the first Gulf War by Mary Kelly (Gloria Patri, 1992) and more recently by Coco Fusco (A Room of One’s Own: Women and Power in the New America, 2006), was another point of focus. Another was the sexualisation of violence as a manifestation and weapon of war. Here we looked, in particular, at some recent work of Thomas Hirschhorn and compared his use of illicit war photography to Nancy Spero’s earlier exploration of fantasies of sexualized violence in the War Series.

The course drew extensively from Juliet Mitchell’s recent writing and ongoing research on questions of war in the context of her work on siblings (see Siblings: Sex and Violence, 2003). Professor Mitchell took part in the course throughout the year, with a particular focus on directing discussions of psychoanalytic texts and bringing psychoanalytic methodologies to bear on the material. She also took a role in advising students on their research. The course was conducted as a dialogue between disciplines. The potential of art and art history to challenge and enrich psychoanalysis was as significant as the potential of psychoanalysis to illuminate art’s critical engagements with war, considering texts in psychoanalysis from Freud to the present day (including selections from the work of Melanie Klein, Wilfred Bion, Franco Fornari, D.W. Winnicott, and Juliet Mitchell). The course readings also drew upon art-historical and critical literature, artists’ writings, and other writings on war.

2010-11: Global Conceptualism: The Last Avant-garde or Point of Origin?

Taught by Dr Sarah Wilson and Visiting Professor Boris Groys (Professor of Slavic and Russian Studies at NYU). Dr. Anthony Gardner was the 2010-2011 Research Forum/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow.

2009-10: Aestheticising Politics? The Political in Globalised Contemporary Art

Taught by Prof Julian Stallabrass with Visiting Professor Malcolm Bull (Ruskin School of Drawing, University of Oxford). Dr Stephanie Schwartz was the 2009-10 Research Forum/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow.

2008-09: The Aesthetic Body: Science, Aestheticism and the Image of the Body in British Art 1860-1900

Taught by Dr Caroline Arscott and Visiting Professor Vanessa Ryan (Brown University); and Arts in Exile in Britain 1933-1945: Politics and Cultural Identity taught by Dr. Shulamith Behr and Visiting Professor Sander Gilman (Emory University). Dr. Charles Miller was the 2008-2009 Research Forum/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow.

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