ART 009.305:  WRITING ABOUT ASIAN ART	Spring 1995

Professor Michael W. Meister

WATU fellow and TA:  Ms Anna Sloan

	This course is a laboratory course in writing, with written 
exercises every week.  We will ask you to share these exercises with 
other students for comment and criticism and in some cases to rewrite and 
rework an exercise as a second assignment.  We ask you to save all of 
your written work in a portfolio.  You may also wish to keep a written 
"journal" as part of this portfolio as you look at art, read, or work on 
assignments.  Writing (like exercise) improves the more you do it.

	The subject matter represented in this course, "Asian art," is 
meant both to inform you and to give you pleasure.  The subject of this 
course, however, is "writing about" (both art and Asia).  To write well, 
reading is a major component - both to read well, to read good stuff, and 
to read often.  We have ordered two survey books on Indian and Chinese 
art and one one short study on "looking" at sacred art in India as 
reference for you in your reading, writing, and thinking.  These are 
available at the Penn Book Center:

	Roy Craven, A Concise History of Indian Art;	
	Michael Sullivan, The Arts of China;
	Dianna Eck, Dar an, Seeing the Divine in India.

I also would recommend, when you get over to the Philadelphia Museum of 
Art, that you buy a copy of an excellent catalogue of an Indian painting 
exhibition that is currently on sale in their bookstore for a very low price:  

	Stella Kramrisch, Painted Delight.

There will be a "reading pack" of articles for your use.


	WATU recommends that you write journal entries on your reading;  that is, 
consecutive but personal sentences on your response to what you've read 
(not a book review).  This is a good exercise in writing (like arobics or 
learning to ride) and what you write should stay in your portfolio (or 
you can share it with other students on the listserver).


	There are major collections in the Philadelphia area representing 
Asia's great civilisations for you to visit and to draw upon in your 
writing.  To experience art as well as to write and learn about it is 
part of your learning.  We will be visiting some of these collections, 
starting with the University Museum.  


I.  ART 009:  WRITING ABOUT ASIAN ART	             19 Jan. 95

	Looking at an object and describing it takes concentration and a 
careful choice of words.  The first task is to accurately represent what 
is there.  In the University Museum today we will ask you to look at a 
work of Asian art and to begin to take notes for a description of this 
object.  Please complete this description (with further visits to the 
Museum if you wish to revisit the object) over the week-end to hand in on 

 	Please word-process your written work.  It both makes it easier 
for us to read and much easier for you to make further revisions.  We 
will talk about the process of description, and look at some good 
examples, next week.

II.  ART 009:  WRITING ABOUT ASIAN ART	             24 Jan. 95


After today's class discussion, please re-visit the object in the 
University Museum you wrote about for today.  Please experiment with 
writing a two-page "pre-iconographic" description of the same object, 
focusing on what you see.  

III. ART 009:  WRITING ABOUT ART	            31 Jan. 95

Writing assignment:  6 pages, due next Tuesday.

	Take your response to an object in the University Museum's 
rotunda and your "pre-iconographic description" and edit them into a 
final description of the object that begins to investigate the 
"iconology" and historical setting for the object.  For this you will 
have to look up material in Michael Sullivan's text or in other sources 
you find in the library.  Please give your sources as a bibliography at 
the end of your paper. 
	Your response now should consist of three elements, which you may 
choose to weave together or to keep separate  (this is the way I have 
described these three components in previous years):

I.	Describe what is there and what you see (i.e., material, size, 
color, condition, type of figure, pose, ornaments, etc., as if you were 
making an inventory for the museum).  This should avoid value-laden words 
(ugly, beautiful, erotic) or interpretation (tree-sprite, Venus, 
Christian) but can suggest qualities in the work (subtle curve, convex 
II.	Respond to the object (here you should try to qualify your sense 
of what the sculpture itself communicates to you through sculptural or 
artistic means rather than subject-matter).
III.	Find one or more sources to tell you what the subject-matter is 
about;  when and where the object was made;  etc.  Tell me what sources 
you've been able to find, what they tell you about your image, and how 
they help you to understand the image, its making, and use. 

Reading assignment (for discussion next week):

Read John Rosenfield's "expository" review of Buddhist art in India and 
compare it to his "scholarly" essay on dated images from Sarnath (both of 
these are on your supplementary reading list and on reserve in the Fine 
Arts library).

IV.  ART 009:  WRITING ABOUT ART	         23 Feb. 95

Writing assignment:   Voice


Take the descriptive passage the class collectively has written from the 
listserver and edit and expand it into a short essay on this head and on 
what you remember of what I have told you about India, temples, and the 
site of Kiradu.  Try to give this essay your own "voice" (i.e. point of 
view, tone, position).

Advance Reading:

1.  Your next assignment will concern an analysis of the structure of my 
article on "The Pearl Roundel in Chinese Textile Design."  Anna will be 
talking to you about this next week.

2.  An assignment following the Spring break will concern the two 
Chapters in Roger Fry's Last Lectures on "Indian Art" and "Chinese 
Art."  (It would also be useful if you looked up Roger Fry to know just a 
little about who he was.)