STS 226
The Art of Natural History Fall 2023
Division II Writing Skills
Cross-listed ARTH 229
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Class Details

The scientific revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries fundamentally changed the way the natural world was seen and celebrated, classified and organized, displayed and manipulated. New discoveries in the natural sciences and competing theories of evolution intertwined with shifting conceptions of natural history, of nature, and of humankind’s proper place within it. This course will investigate the links between art and natural science. It will seek to understand the crucial role of the visual arts and visual culture in the study and staging of natural history from the eighteenth century to the present. We will pursue the questions that preoccupied the artists themselves. How should an artist react to new ecological insights? What is the proper artistic response to newly discovered flora and fauna? What is the role of aesthetics in the communication of knowledge? How are those aesthetics connected to ethics? How might a drawing of a plant convey information that is different from that of a photograph or a glass model of a plant? How might a theatrical diorama frame a scientific idea in a way that is different from a bronze statue? Students will seek to understand the myriad connections between seeing, depicting, and knowing, to question long-held assumptions about the division between “objective” science and “subjective” art, and to recognize that art has the ability not only to interpret, disseminate, and display scientific knowledge, but to create it as well.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 8
Expected: 8
Class#: 1342
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Five 5 page essays, five 1-2 page responses to partner's essays, critical conversation.
Prerequisites: None.
Enrollment Preferences: Sophomores with an interest in art history, art studio, ecology, environmental studies, and science and technology studies, juniors with these same interests, then art history majors, and science and technology majors, in that order.
Materials/Lab Fee: $150 Lab and materials fees for all classes are covered by the Book Grant for all Williams financial aid recipients.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
STS 226 Division II ARTH 229 Division I
WS Notes: This course will require students to write a short paper or a critical response to their partner's paper each week. Students will receive critical feedback on both form and content from their professor and from their peers.
Attributes: ARTH post-1800

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