Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Art in America 1945-The Present HISTART4009

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 40
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

The purpose of this course is to trace key developments and debates in American art, ranging from the emergence of Abstract Expressionist painting as a distinctively 'American' style in the period following the end of WWII, to the 'post-medium' and globalised artistic practices that arguably characterise art today. The course covers the major art movements of the period including Pop, Minimalism, Land Art, Conceptual Art, performance and video, amongst others, and maps two particularly significant shifts which these movements effected: from consideration of the artistic object to critique of the aesthetic subject; from reflection on the individual work to critique of the institutional frames in which artworks assume value.


1 x 1hr lecture; 1 x 1hr seminar per week over 10 weeks, per semester, as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History of Art and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Successful completion of Junior Honours History of Art.

Excluded Courses





Examination (180 minutes duration) - 60%

Two Essays (3,000 words) (one in each semester) - 15% each

Seminar presentation of 10 minutes accompanied by presentation notes or PowerPoint slides - 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:

■ provide students with detailed knowledge of the major artistic practices and debates that emerged in America in the post-WWII period.

■  investigate the genealogies of these practices, and relate them to the political and theoretical commitments of their practitioners and supporters.

■ relate the various artistic practices discussed to the critique of Modernism, and to associated developments in theory.

■ familiarise students with the writings of key artists and critics, and to develop their abilities to analyse such sources.

■ develop students' abilities in dealing with critical/theoretical texts as primary source material, so that they can discuss, evaluate and use them appropriately. 

■  encourage self-reflective 'deep' learning through engagement with critical texts, participation in seminar discussions, and use of virtual learning environment web-forums.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ identify and comment on individual artists and their works

■ apply knowledge of general artistic trends to both individual works and to the characterization of the period as a whole

■ critically discuss the historical trajectory of artistic and critical Modernism in America, up to and including 'anti-modern' and 'post-modern' art.

■ draw on source texts and critically evaluating them to reach conclusions about artists and movements  

■ summarise and using key theoretical ideas (e.g. psychoanalysis) to analyse individual art works, as well as artists and art movements.

■ differentiate between Modernism, 'anti-modernism' and 'postmodernism' in art and theory, and evaluating the critique of Modernism as it developed during the period in question.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.