Art 1A Visual Literacy Syllabus

Instructor: Helen Taschian, Ph.D.

Quarter: Winter 2014

Lecture: Monday & Wednesday 2:00-3:15 Buchanan Hall 1930

Email: taschian@arts.ucsb.edu

Course Website: https://visualliteracytaschian.wordpress.com

Office Hours: By appointment

Course Objectives: This general education course, which is a requirement for all Art majors, provides a foundation for a broad experience and understanding of the visual arts – film, art, television, digital media, advertising, and related media issues. Through a series of interdisciplinary readings and lectures we will explore the “language of” and the “language about” contemporary and historical visual culture. Our primary task involves looking at art and film/TV, but to accomplish this we must engage a set of related cultural issues that have to do with who we are and how we process our world. The concern of this course is not focused on what you think, but on the visual and cultural processes that help influence and shape your thinking. The class is structured to increase your visual comprehension, critical thinking skills and cultural awareness. In pursuit of this goal, it is important for us to consider how the forms, meanings and styles of the visual arts are shaped by:

-Ways of seeing and the formal language for expressing visual experience.

-The vocabulary of visual communication: line, shape, color, direction, tone, scale, texture, etc.

-The shaping influence of technological, social, political and cultural contexts.

-Personal accomplishments, insights, passions and commitments of individual artists and filmmakers.

-Theoretical assumptions and deeply held beliefs and orthodoxies about art, society and life.

Course Format: Each week the lectures will address a new topic, to which the course reading is directly related. Visual materials consisting primarily of digital slides, film and video will support lectures. Also required is a weekly discussion section that is conducted by a Teaching Assistant. It is here that you will explore and flesh out the many topics from the lectures and readings.


1. Attendance is mandatory. More than 4 unexcused absences will result in failing the course.

2. Two term papers and written weekly summaries of EACH of the assigned readings are required. Specific information about assignments will be discussed in sections. In general the papers will address the primary issues in the reading as identified through lectures and discussion. You are expected to utilize the insights and perspectives gained from readings, lectures and discussions in expanding and extrapolating what it is possible to gain from looking at works of art, film, or other visual constructions.


– John Berger, Ways of Seeing

– Course Reader

– Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing About Art

Important Dates:

Monday, January 19: Holiday

Wednesday, February 4: First paper due

Monday, February 16: Holiday

Wednesday, March 11: Second paper due

Regarding This Course: This is a labor-intensive class that requires more attendance and probably more reading than your other classes. Expect to read for two to eight hours each week; please complete the week’s reading before the Tuesday lecture for which it is assigned. The course involves cumulative learning, in that each week’s subject matter assumes familiarity with previous material. Keeping up with the reading is, therefore, of high priority; you will be expected in your papers to quote or paraphrase from readings, as well as demonstrate a familiarity with the concepts expressed in them.

This course satisfies a University Writing Requirement–which means that you are being held to a very high standard. In order to pass this class you must write proficiently at the university level. For those of you who will require more help preparing and writing papers- be aware that there are resources available to help you on campus. Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) has writing tutorials and workshops available on a drop-in basis, as well as by appointment.

For more information:
Student Resource Building Room SRB 3210

(805) 893-3269

Grading will be based on:

– 40% for the first paper

– 40% for the second paper

– 20% for weekly writing assignments

Grading Policy:

All of the term papers are due at the beginning of lecture on the due date. If you come to class late that day, your assignment will be considered late. If you cannot be in class that day, you must get the assignment to your TA ahead of time or send it with a friend. Having last-minute computer or printer problems is not a valid excuse for late work.

Late Papers: No late papers will be accepted. If you have a legitimate emergency then discuss it with the professor.

Weekly Writing Assignments:
Weekly writing assignments from the readings are due at the beginning of your section each week.

** If you are an Art Major you MUST take this class for a letter grade. If you are thinking of becoming an Art Major you will need to take this class for a letter grade as well.
Academic Integrity: Students in this class are expected to complete ALL of the assignments and requirements with academic integrity. Plagiarism and cheating violate university regulations and are reportable offenses that may result in Academic Suspension or Dismissal from UCSB, but will definitely result in dismissal or failure in this course.

Plagiarism is defined by the University as an academic offense in which a student uses another person’s work and submits it with the intent that it should be taken as his or her own work. Plagiarism would consist of any of the following:

1) Quoting any part of a printed or electronic source without enclosing the quotation in quotation marks and providing the reference for the source.

2) Paraphrasing any part of a printed or electronic source without acknowledging the source.

3) Presenting the point of view stated in a printed or electronic source without acknowledging your reliance on the source.

4) Copying phrases and sentences from a printed or electronic source that is paraphrased without enclosing the cited text directly in quotation marks.

5) Copying work submitted by another student.

6) Submitting work written by someone else as if it is your own.

Unintentional plagiarism can occur when writing up an essay from notes or even memory, by reproducing sentences, phrases, or a general line of discussion or point of view from the sources you have studied as if they are your own work, though these passages are in fact borrowed from other sources. To avoid suspicion of plagiarism under these circumstances, it is advisable to take care when taking notes to enclose any text copied verbatim from a source in quotations marks (making a note of the page number).

**Papers submitted for other classes MAY NOT be submitted for Art 1A: Visual Literacy. This form of academic misconduct, as well as plagiarism, is a very serious transgression that will result in failing the course and appearing before the Dean and the Judicial Affairs Hearing Committee (which most often results in expulsion).

You can review the UCSB campus-wide policy on academic integrity at the following website: http://judicialaffairs.sa.ucsb.edu/AcademicIntegrity.aspx


Classroom Policies:
In addition to meeting UCSB’s Academic Integrity standards, I expect students to treat everyone in the classroom- the instructor, teaching assistants, guests, and fellow students- with common courtesy and respect. At times we will probably be discussing issues, and viewing materials, that generate extreme, even passionate, responses. We will also be discussing readings that you may find particularly difficult, confusing, frustrating, or otherwise challenging. It is important to keep an open mind, and to persevere through the readings that you deem particularly complicated.


**********Please turn off your cell phones during all class sessions**********


If you have any difficulties or issues, please communicate them to me, or your TA as soon as possible so that your grades won’t be adversely affected. If you have planned vacations, away games, and the like that conflict with the many commitments required of this class–then this class is not for you. It is offered every quarter so you will have many more opportunities to take it. Finally, we all keep weekly office hours and are readily available for clarification of course material or helping with your coursework.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s