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The Visual Arts in American Culture, 1830-1945

We are no longer admitting high school students to the 2018 Summer Session. Visiting undergraduate students are welcome to apply.

In 1995, bell hooks described visual representation as “a crucial locus of struggle for any exploited and oppressed people asserting subjectivity and decolonization of the mind.” This course charts a history of such assertions in an American context, focusing on the period from the Jacksonian era to the end of World War II. It addresses a range of artistic objects, including films, paintings, performance, photographs, and sculptures, some motivated by political commitment and others registering the contested social conditions of their day. By developing skills of close looking and broad reading, we will explore the complexity of individual works as well as asking how artists and activists have responded to social and cultural problems from racism to economic imperialism. What critiques have artists proffered? What counter-narratives have they produced? Course themes include slavery and liberation, fights for rights, labor activism, visual testimony, violence and nonviolence, community, collaboration, and creative resistance. Significant attention will be given to works produced by African- American, Asian-American, and Native-American artists.

Course Code

AMER 15510


ARTH 15510




High School Students
UChicago Undergraduates
Visiting Undergraduates


American Studies
Art History

Class Day(s)

Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri

Class Start Time


Class End Time


Primary Instructor

Luke Fidler


Session II

Start Date

End Date


  • Students who apply will be admitted using rolling admission and require a $50 application fee. 
  • The Summer Session application deadline is May 1, 2018. Students may apply after this deadline, but will be required to pay an additional $100 rush processing fee.
  • International students who will require a visa to attend, applications will be considered no later than April 9 in order to allow enough time to complete the visa application process.
  • Rolling admissions: courses fill quickly, so submit your complete application as soon as possible.

Additional Details

  • Enrollment limit is 15.
  • Orientation for high school students is July 7-8.

Cost & Aid

Tuition is $4,400 per course. (Full-time registration is two courses taken during the same session.)
Additional fees apply; housing and dining costs not included.

Complete Cost & Aid Information (including housing and other fees) for high school students can be found here.
Complete Cost & Aid Information (including housing and other fees) for undergraduates can be found here.