Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1833-1836, New York Historical Society.
James Panero tells us that Yale imported a Cambridge bolshie to “decolonize” the History of Art Department.
Are we in our own revolutionary moment? Many of our leading institutions clearly believe so. Yale University has been working overtime to prove it is on the right side of history. â€˜Problematicâ€™ colleges have been renamed. â€˜Offensiveâ€™ stained-glass windows have been knocked out. Only the leadership of an Ivy League school could spread such a poisonous rash. Heading the charge against the Dead White Male has been a progressive Yale bureaucracy that is, for the most part, pale and stale.
Now the task of dismantling Yaleâ€™s famous art history survey course has fallen to a scholar I respect, Tim Barringer. British-born, Barringer is the Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University and has been a leading curator at the Metropolitan Museum. He even mounted the Metâ€™s exceptional 2018 exhibition on Thomas Cole.
Following a 2017 mandate to â€˜decolonizeâ€™ Yaleâ€™s Department of English, Barringer is giving over the keys of Yaleâ€™s famous art survey course to the identity vandals. According to the Yale Daily News, instead of one class that will tell the story of art from â€˜Renaissance to the Presentâ€™, new courses will, Barringer says, be devised to consider art in relation to a five-step history lesson, â€˜questions of gender, class and raceâ€™, with further discussion of artâ€™s â€˜involvement with Western capitalismâ€™. Of course, â€˜climate changeâ€™ will also be a â€˜key themeâ€™.
Art doesnâ€™t fare well in revolutionary times. Likewise, revolutionary sentiments are often revealed in the treatment of art. If only Professor Barringer had looked more carefully at another five-step history lesson, Thomas Coleâ€™s â€˜Course of Empireâ€™ tableau (1833-36), he might have seen how civilizations burn down from decadence as well as assault.
That whirring sound you hear in the background is grand old Yale Art History professors, men like Sumner Crosby who taught the Gothic Cathedral course and Charles Seymour who taught the Italian Renaissance Art course, who fished for salmon together every summer on the Upsalquitch, spinning in their graves at 78 RPM.
A good old fashioned book burning! What could go wrong?
I wish I could find the name of the textbook for that course so I could read it. I searched through various Yale sites but could not find it. The greatest victory would be for thousands of people to read the text that Yale banned.
They probably used Janson’s History of Art, but really the course would have been primarily based on a slide collection projected as Professor Scully talked.
Come to think of it, I have a good suggestion. Buy the DVDs and watch Kenneth Clark’s Civilization.
Get back to me when somebody flosses Barringer with a Sawzall. That’s a whirring sound I can like.
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